Erris: Community in Struggle against Shell - 2009


What has happened in Erris over the past two weeks is unprecedented in the harassment by security forces (both private and state) and the fight back by the community is astounding and inspirational. Sean Mallory having spent time in mayo recently outlines the main events over the past two weeks.

A day of Action has been called by Mayo Shell to Sea. The community after putting up fierce resistance to Shell's attempts to restart work are now asking you to join them in a day of protest. The protest assembles Glengad 18-00hrs on Saturday May 9th for more information see ( 22nd April
Shell attempted to restart works on their compound in Glengad. This involved erected a 2.5 metre high steel palisade fencing around a site of several acres where the pipe will come on land. The compound is the main onshore base for pipe laying work in Broadhaven Bay. This pipe laying work was suspended last year partially due to protest. The work year of these works re limited - April to September due to adverse weather conditions. The site as of Wednesday was a mounds of soil covered in netting surrounded by a barb wire fence over a metre high.

At 6-30 a.m. a Shell compound disturbed the relative peace in Mayo that had lasted for most of the Winter and a work crew quickly started about reconstructing the compound. As anyone who has ever spent time in a rural area knows these events don't go unnoticed and shortly a community activist had blocked the site gates with her car. Shortly afterwards the Solidarity camp van increased the blockade. A couple of hours later the car was towed and the picket was broken by an assembled group of An Garda Siochana.

Undeterred, the campaign sprung into action and by ten o clock the site was almost stopped work as Willie Corduff and Gerry Burke occupied the underside of an articulated lorry inside the compound. A member of the solidarity camp occupied a highmac. Work was eventually brought to a halt as fencing material ran out. Gerry Burke left but Willie Corduff stayed whilst the camp member was hauled off the high mac at about 4-30p.m. The Gardai had arrived in the afternoon and after failing to pull Willie Corduff out they violently assaulted him. They gashed his lower left left leg with a stone whilst another Garda attempted to remove him by pulling him by the testicles. Unbelievably Willie remained in position under the truck resolving to stay all night. At this point things began to turn more sinister. the Gardai approached Willie saying they were leaving and there was nothing more they could do. No one realised what this threat actually meant until the early hours of the next morning.

That community gathered in the evening in a show of solidarity with Willie. As darkness fell the metre high fence was removed along the southern perimeter of the site. Shortly afterwards apparently much of the palisade fencing was removed courtesy of a machine Shell had left in the compound. At this point the security guards left Willie about midnight apparently and did not return.

Thursday 23rd April
In the early morning many people were away Willie was left with his brother in law in the immediate vicinity. There were about ten others 200 meters away. As there was no security around Willie emerged from the truck to stretch his legs. Suddenly 7-10 men in balaclavas seriously assaulted him and his brother in law. Willie was hospitalised. Gardai later went on to deny anything happened to Willie. Simultaneously however they admitting that Shell's security had removed him from the site but omitted to say this was in an ambulance as Willie was taken to hospital. He had been beaten around the head with a baton and repeatedly kneed in the chest by three or four men. Collusion between the Gardai and Shell was blatant. They sent one car despite Shell ludicrously claiming there had been a paramilitary style raid on the compound. Where we the Gardai to investigate this "serious" incident. At this point the warning to Willie earlier in the evening when they left the area. Shortly after the Garda faile dto respond to the attack Willie was attacked.

Liamy McNally, a presenter on Mid-West FM reported that Eamon Ryan had selectively used the law to claim Shell did not need planning permission. Whilst he was right that they did not need permission for the pipe Ryan omitted to say that ancillary works such as the compound and the valve station to be erected there did. Shell have no panning permission. McNally repeated this in an open letter to Eamon Ryan on Monday the 27th of April see

Friday 24th April
Gardai conducted house-to-house enquiries about the "raid" but asked no questions about Willie being attacked. Most community members said they were saying nothing until they investigated Willie's assault. The community was very riled up in a mix of fear and anger. The state and even former ally - the so- called green party had completely turned their back. They simply did not care. A meeting was called for Friday evening. 100 people representing communities up to 15-12 miles away attended. Willie Corduff attended - fresh out of hospital and urged people to continue the struggle. After much debate the community agreed to remove Shell netting(used to protect the sea ward side of the compound on Sunday (26th April) and remove gates of new compound (the one disabled on Wednesday) on Friday 1st May.

The issue of the visit of Ministers Eamon Ryan and Eamon O Cuiv to the area on Mayday was also addressed. They were attending a forum for development of Northwest Mayo. this was an attempt to pit the Erris communities against the project against "progressive forces for area" such as local business people. The meeting resolved that the meeting with the ministers on Friday would be boycotted. Alternatively both would be invited to meet the community in the parish hall in the morning before removing the fence in the evening of May 1st. The overall feeling in meeting is pro-direct action and Shell must be defeated after what happened to Willie because the security firm will be hear to stay if Shell win.

Sunday 26th April
100 people assembled in Glengad to remove the netting on the seaward side of the compound. This was removed as was the fencing and all netting inside the compound too. The security guards fled as the crowd of around and old made their way to the compound. A force of about 20 Gardai stayed at the main gate of the compound nearly nearly 1km away. All the netting was removed cut up and dumped at the front gate of the site.(

Tuesday 28th April
The sinister nature of the IRMS (Integrated risk management services) emergedIrish Examiner. IRMS are the corporate secuirty firm Shell had hired. IRMS had used several members of a fascist organisation- the Szekler Legion in Mayo as security. These included. Tibor Revesz - the groups leader. Other members worked in Mayo included Magyarosi Arpak and Elot Toazo. Whilst Arpak was killed with Michael Dwyer (another former security guard) in Bolivia Toazo was arrested in Santa Cruz as well. They were all accused of attempting to assassinate Evo Morales. Also killed was Eduardo Flores - honorary member of the Szekler Legion. (for more info on IRMS- Bolivia and the Mike Dwyer killing see ( The Szekler legion even produced badges celebrating their role in Mayo (see below).

Thursday-30th April
The ministers agreed to meet the community but on Thursday evening rather than Friday morning. This shows the power of action. The state completely undermined their own forum by meeting the community on their terms. The meeting however resolved little
Willie Corduff blamed Eamon Ryan
“I blame the Government and especially you, Eamon Ryan, who told me the project was wrong before you got into government. What has changed since then?” (Irish Times May 2nd). Eamon O Cuiv parallelled the situation to the troubles in the North. Whilst O Cuiv may have exaggerated the situation slightly it seems that the state is finally waking up to the seriousness of the situation in Mayo.

Friday 1st May
As planned the community assembled in numbers. The police and private security however outnumbered the seventy people ( impressive considering it was work hours) so little happened. Again though the Community was undeterred

Sunday 3rd May
The community returned to the compound in large numbers this time with ropes to remove the gates. Despite the security guards eventually cutting the ropes people were again buoyed by the resistance and learned a lot about Shell's weakness whilst illustrating their strengths. see (

Now the community has asked for a supporters to come join them on Saturday May-9th evening at 6pm to stand with them when they try and resist the forces against them Shell backed up by mercenaries as the Irish state at this point seems to be disengaging.The Irish authorities have completely failed to try and break the community despite three years of harassment courts, fines, prison, and beatings.
Stand with them!