On Monday (10th Sept) Members of Rossport Solidarity Camp and Shell to Sea, occupied the steps of Knockranny hotel, to show their outrage with Fine Gael TD’s for turning a blind eye to the plight of a small rural community at the hands of Shell’s tyrants.
Monday saw a group of protesters- equipped with banners- braving the early morning drizzle at the gates of Knockranny Hotel Westport, where Fine Gael planned to have a party ‘Think-in’ later on that day.
Half an hour before the party arrived, the group of protesters had confused the security by charging over a grass bank some distance from the main gates (which were guarded by Gardai) and marching triumphantly up the steps, past the gawking media and into the main lounge of the hotel, banging pots and pans with a potato masher. The commotion attracted a large number of cops who charged down the main staircase and escorted them out.
Throughout the next hour, TD’s arrived, all being greeted by the banging of the potato masher, defiant banners and a line of Gardai to usher them shamefully into the luxury hotel.
In an interesting move, RTE reporter Fergal Keane, (not the Fergal Keane who reported on Rwanda) in an angry outburst - shouted at protesters after being asked why RTE had ignored the ongoing struggle in Erris. Later he became red-faced and subdued when he had to admit that the last time he reported on Shell to Sea or Corrib was 5 years ago.
After all Fine Gaelers had locked themselves successfully into their mansion, protesters left….not so quietly.
Meanwhile yesterday 9 campaigners appeared at Belmullet District court yesterday regarding their protests against Shell. One of the 9, pleaded guilty for a lock-on and had to make a donation to court poor box to avoid a conviction. All other 8 were adjourned with most appearing again on the 10 October for mention. Two cases are due for hearing on the 10th Oct.
The afternoon session of the court sitting hear a case where Niall Harnett attempted to prosecute 2 Gardaí for obstructing him from leaving Rossport Solidarity Camp and one of the Gardaí for kicking his dog.
For a lot of earlier part of the year Gardaí had a policy of arbitrarily stopping people from leaving the Rossport Solidarity Camp field. See you examples here
Niall Harnett failed in his case with Judge Patrick Clyne basically fully backing up the Gardaí and saying that they have to power to prevent as well as allow people going about their business. Judge Clyne also chose to believe the Garda on his denial that he had kicked Mr Harnett's dog. The Gardaí mostly argued that they had stopped Mr Harnett for his own safety as there was a Shell convoy coming at the time.