Shell to Sea: The Struggle Continues

Shell to Sea: A Mayo Community Continues to Confront Shell’s Demands, writes Shell to Sea activist Stewart Reddin.

The environmental catastrophe and the tragic deaths of 11 oil rig workers caused by the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico has illuminated the blatant disregard oil corporations have for the protection of both workers and the environment. Cutting corners on safety to maximise profits is not unique to BP of course. Royal Dutch Shell has a similar shameful record. However, notwithstanding the Gulf of Mexico disaster, the political elite in Ireland is determined to allow Shell’s writ to run in Erris, Co. Mayo.

The decision by Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, to grant Shell permission to erect two drilling platforms and drill 80 boreholes in the Special Protected Area of Sruth Fada Conn estuary indicates the lengths the state is prepared to go to facilitate the multinational giant.

The company has submitted a new proposal to An Bord Pleanála to bore a tunnel under the estuary through which it is planned to run the high pressure, raw gas pipeline from the Corrib field to the refinery at Bellanaboy. This follows a successful appeal by the local community last November, when An Bord Pleanála rejected Shell’s proposal to run the pipeline over land at Rossport, on the basis that it would pose an ‘unacceptable risk’ to health and safety. This decision was a clear vindication of the community’s decade-long campaign.

However, the campaign to send Shell to sea continues and the recent launch of a community campaign to ‘Beat the Boreholes’ indicates that resistance to Shell’s plans remains as determined as ever. The purpose of the campaign is to delay, frustrate and ultimately stop Shell drilling boreholes in the estuary.

To date, activists from the Rossport Solidarity Camp have already succeeded in delaying work on a number of occasions by wading out to the drilling platforms at low tide. However, the campaign to Beat the Boreholes is not restricted to water-based actions and the community is seeking support from around the country in its efforts to protect the estuary from destruction by Shell.

It should also be remembered that Shell and other oil companies such as the Tony O’Reilly-owned Providence Oil, which last April announced the discovery of an estimated 870 million barrels of oil in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, have complete control of the state’s oil and gas resources. Government assertions that there is no alternative to cutbacks in public services ring hollow when contrasted with the wealth in national resources, over €500 billion, that has been handed over to oil companies.

July also saw the release from Castlerea prison of local fisherman and Shell to Sea campaigner Pat O’Donnell, who was incarcerated for over five months on trumped up charges. Pat received a warm welcome from the local community and vowed to continue his opposition to Shell. Fellow Shell to Sea campaigner Niall Harnett was released from Castlerea prison in mid-August.

Those interested in visiting Erris can contact the Rossport Solidarity Camp.


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