6 October 2005 Edition
"Proud to be Irish"
Shell-to-Sea campaign: Rossport 5 released
RÓISÍN de ROSSA
The Rossport 5 were released from jail on Friday 30 September after 94 days. The following day saw thousands of the men's supporters from all over Ireland throng the centre of Dublin city to welcome them to freedom. The release followed Shell's lifting of the injunction against the five Mayo men. However, the men's focus and those of campaigners across the country remained the same — the fight must continue.
"We're here because of the people of Ireland. I am proud to be Irish. It is great to get your pride back again." With these words Micheál Ó Seighin addressed the thousands of people who came to Dublin last Saturday 1 October, to welcome the Rossport 5 to freedom. Many came to congratulate the men on their victory, to be a part of it, shake their hands or just be amongst the overjoyed crowd. Everyone knew that the people of Ireland had won a great victory.
Willie Cardiff, Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin, each thanked the people and their families for their victory and then Bríd McGarry, who was also named on Shell's injunction, but who the judiciary decided in the their wisdom not to jail, spoke. She reiterated the demands of the Shell-to-Sea campaign.
The rally was also addressed by Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, as well as speakers from the Labour Party, Greens and Independents as well as journalist and activist Eamon McCann. Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan was loudly booed when he ascended the platform. His party leader and Mayo TD Enda Kenny has been criticised for his inaction and relative silence on the Rossport 5, apart from attempting to use it to attack Sinn Féin whom he has accused of "exploiting" the issue.
A big victory
Dr Owens Wiwe, whose own brother and eight other campaigners were hanged for their campaign against Shell in Ogoniland in Nigeria, came to Ireland last week to visit the Rossport 5 in jail. Addressing the crowd he said: "This is a victory. A big one."
Mark Garavan, spokesperson for the campaign explained: "Shell had said they would not lift the injunction on foot of which the five men were locked up for 94 days. Then they said they could not. And on Friday they did. Shell lifted the injunction because of public pressure. It was people power that did it."
SIPTU President Jack O'Connor said: "It was a victory for the small people. It is time all the small people stood together against the big people."
One of the demonstrators who had come to the Dublin celebration said: "Above all it was a victory that gives a feeling that we can win — even against the multinational Shell. They got a rude awakening when they discovered that they could not walk over the people, the small farmers, the teachers, the people of Mayo, of the west, the people across Ireland, who have shown their outrage at the jailing of the five men."
Who is responsible?
"Who is responsible?" asked Mark Garavan. "The government must bear its responsibility. The government is not and has never been neutral in this struggle with Shell."
"At the core," said Jack O'Connor, "is the way our national resources have been handed over to the oil companies — which has all the hallmarks of a deal between friends."
And Shell is not happy. They gave way without grace. The original injunction was interlocutory. Shell, amazingly, is still pursuing a permanent injunction against the six named people. On 25 October the five men must return to court to hear if the court will take punitive measures over their contempt of court.
The court is not suggesting that punitive measures be taken against Shell for seeking an injunction on the basis of construction work which they falsely claimed to have had permission to carry out.
The Shell-to-Sea campaign doesn't know whether Statoil intervened with Shell and the Dublin Government. A senior Statoil executive, Helga Hattlested, Executive vice-chairman of the 71% state owned Norwegian company, travelled to Dublin last week and met with Shell and with Noel Dempsey's Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
Undoubtedly the delegation from Rossport which visited Oslo the previous week enlightened the newly-elected government on a number of issues regarding what Shell, in partnership with Statoil, was up to.
What Statoil didn't know
John Monaghan, of the Shell-to-Sea campaign, who went on the delegation, reports that the oil company did not know that the upstream pipeline had by-passed planning permission or that the Rossport 5 were jailed at the behest of Statoil's partner, Shell, and not the Dublin Government.
Nor did Statoil know that dialogue with residents began with the jailing of the Rossport 5; that unstable bogland was to house the proposed pipeline; that consents for the work were never shown to the landowners; that consent to construct the onshore pipe section still did not exist; that three kilometres of pipeline, the beginning of construction work, came to the site in one piece, though Shell had no permission to start welding work, or that Statoil stations all across Ireland had been boycotted and picketed.
John also reports how Statoil boss Helge Lund, received a phone call from his mother complaining about the treatment of the Irish people, after seeing Caitlin Uí Sheighin appealing on Norwegian television. It is hard to believe that these appeals did not influence Statoil under a new government.
Just the beginning
The bonfires were lit to welcome five courageous men home to Mayo on Saturday night. The people came out in every little village to greet them. As they did so, the words of Mark Garavan rang in people's ears: "Yes it is indeed a great victory for the Rossport 5 and for the people of Ireland. The release of the Rossport 5 is not the end of the campaign but the beginning."