I said I'd keep people updated on the Shell to Sea campaign and the situation here in Ireland. Things are starting to heat up again, so I figured this is a good time for an e-mail.
As I've probably already told you, I'm here in County Mayo, Ireland visiting family and working with the Shell to Sea campaign. My great-grandparents came from a village called Glenamoy in 1916, and it has been really great spending time here getting to know these distant relatives and being regarded as a sort-of an inside outsider. Shell to Sea is one of several local groups trying to stop Shell, Statoil and Marathon from building a high-pressure, raw gas pipeline and natural gas refinery here. This beautiful, remote area is one of the few Irish-speaking regions of the country, where people have been farming and fishing for over 5,000 years.
Here's Shell's plan:
Build a natural gas refinery a few miles onshore, at Ballinaboy. Buy up a lot of land around the refinery site, just in case we find more gas and some oil – maybe someday we can pump that in and refine it there, too. Build a high-pressure, raw gas pipeline to the refinery. It is too dangerous and expensive to refine the gas at sea – we'd have to pay to protect our workers if we did that! We'll just send the gas in the pipeline past some rural Irish villages instead. It is their government's responsibility to make sure those people are safe, not ours. And, we'll drill a well out at sea and make a whole lot of money from pumping out that natural gas. Good thing European consumers are still burning fossil fuels without considering things like climate change and peak oil! Oh, and good thing the Irish government gave us a sweet tax deal and is letting us sell the gas back to them at full market rate.
Here's the people's side:
The refinery site at Ballinaboy is about 80% complete. The local people non-violently resisted the construction of that refinery – in the courts, on the streets, from jail, on the construction site itself – from the time Shell started building it in 2004 until 2008, when the Irish government sent in hundreds of police officers to force the project through. Even though the refinery is mostly completed, the opinion here is pretty firm – that refinery will never be operational. Ballinaboy is the wrong place, this is the wrong project. They will not refine gas there, they will not refine oil there, and they better stop disturbing our community, polluting our water and our dark, rural, nighttime sky from there. This will not go ahead.
(talk about a wrench in the works – that's just the first sentence of Shell's plan, and there's already a paragraph of opposition to it!)
So the refinery is most of the way built and the well out at sea is ready to go. Shell, Statoil and Marathon still have permission from the government to make a profit from Ireland's natural resources without giving anything back to the people and without any regard for the environment. But they have no pipeline to connect the two. They still don't even have government permission for most of the pipeline. And they definitely don't have community consent for the onshore part of the pipeline. People here say the pipeline will only come in one way – over their dead bodies.
Shell illegally started installing the security fences for their onshore construction site this week. They are planning to force this project through. On Wednesday we went down at 7am and spent the day trying to get past security to get onto the site and stop the construction. One person stopped a machine all day, until he was dragged down and taken off the site by security. Two people stopped a truck carrying fences and crawled under it so it couldn't move. They were attacked by security and police. One of them was dragged out, the other remained. He planned to stay there all night long, and all the next day and the next, until the construction stopped. In the middle of the night, he was beaten so severely he thought he would die. He was taken to the hospital, and stayed there until Friday afternoon.
The fencing that was put up the first day was torn down later that night. The police claim that a group of masked thugs attacked the security and damaged Shell property. The community is making plans to tear down the fencing again in the light of day, to show that the only masked thugs making attacks in the night around here are the security guards hired by Shell. On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of about 80 people gathered together to take down fencing and netting at the end of the security compound near the beach. We were peaceful and calm and united, and it was a very beautiful day.
Later this week, two government ministers will be in town to discuss the project. They say they are coming to reassure people of their commitment to health, safety and the environment. The Minster for Energy & Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, is a member of the Green party, and before his party entered Government, he supported the Shell to Sea campaign and was critical of the Shell project. However, since becoming a Minister he has supported Shell and their Corrib Gas Project and forgotten his previous declarations. There's a really great video about him here:
I think it would be great to put some international pressure on these Ministers before they come out here on Friday. Phone calls and e-mails, to show them that the people of Erris are not alone in opposing this project would be very helpful at this point in time. I'll send another update with contact info for them and some ideas for things to say in a few days.
If you don't want to receive e-mails like this from me, please let me know. Please forward this on to anyone else who might be interested.
From Glengad, Erris, County Mayo, Ireland