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Over €14.5m spent in policing protests against Corrib gas pipeline

The figures for the last five years have been disclosed by the Minister for Justice this week.

Gardaí at a Shell to Sea protest in 2009.
Gardaí at a Shell to Sea protest in 2009.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE GARDAÍ HAVE spent over €14.5 million on the policing operation at the controversial Shell refinery project in Mayo over the last five years, it has emerged.

The figures do not include the basic salaries for Gardaí on duty at the protest site in north Mayo which means the actual cost of policing the protests is higher.

Campaigners from the Shell to Sea organisation have been protesting against the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline for the past seven years.

The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that the €14,566,262 in additional costs incurred by the Gardaí between December 2006 and December of last year was “deeply regrettable” and described the protests as “scandalous”.

The details come from an answer to a parliamentary question tabled by Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibin.

The €14.5 million figure is broken down into overtime and allowances, travel and subsistence, employers PRSI, and miscellaneous expenses incurred by the Gardaí over the past five years in dealing with protesters.

The figures show that €913,729 was spent in additional costs last year. This was up from €620,326 spent in 2010 but down significantly on the 2009 figure of €3.5 million.

In 2007, nearly €5 million in additional costs were incurred by Gardaí including €2.7 million on overtime and allowances and nearly €2 million on travel and subsistence.

The protests have been notable for the sizeable Garda presence with numerous allegations from protesters that they have been assaulted including one by a Socialist Party MEP last August.

This table given in the answer by the Minister for Justice provides detail of the costs incurred:

“It is scandalous that some protesters behave in a self indulgent way that has no regard for the rights of others,” Shatter said.

“In turn, this requires the expenditure of a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money which could be devoted to far better purposes if it was not for the actions of many of those involved in the protests.”

The protests centre on the Corrib gas project which entails the extraction of natural gas off the northwest coast of Ireland by the oil company Shell.

The construction of the gas pipeline through the area at Bellinaboy in north Mayo has drawn protest from the Shell to Sea group which argues that the pipeline poses a risk to local residents.

A spokesperson for the Shell to Sea campaign told TheJournal.ie: “Again the Minister is doing what his predeccessor has done in blaming the protesters for what’s happening.

“The fact is the behaviour of the police runs contrary to the national interest,” he claimed while going on to say that there what was happening was at Bellinaboy was “blatant economic treason.”

An Garda Siochána said it would not be appropriate to comment on remarks made by the Minister for Justice.

Shatter added that it was not possible to project what future costs would be incurred by the policing operations at the Shell refinery as the level of protest activity fluctuates.

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Hugh O'Connell

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