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19 October 2006 Edition

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Shell to Sea - Dublin activist calls for increased solidarity action

Tadhg McGrath

'This refinery will never be built'

Last week a group of Shell to Sea protestors, opposed to the Corrib gas pipeline in County Mayo, occupied the headquarters of Shell Ireland in Dublin. Some of the protestors took over the lobby of the building while others climbed onto the roof.

Shell to Sea has been leading the campaign against the controversial pipeline and the Dublin action made new headlines. Here ELLA O'DWYER speaks to Tadhg McGrath of Dublin Shell to Sea.

Why does Dublin man Tadhg McGrath concern himself with the Shell to Sea campaign, an issue affecting a community at the very opposite side of the country? "Because it's a national issue. This campaign is of grave national importance. Whatever about the health and safety factors involved - and those are very grave - there's also the issue of Ireland's natural resources being given away to a consortium of private companies with no benefit accruing to Irish citizens at all. Money that any other country would have secured through adequate licensing arrangements, through royalties and taxes, is being given away to the shareholders of Shell. This is money that could have been put into our hospitals and schools. That's enough to make anybody angry, apart from the fact that Shell wants to extract the gas in the most unsafe way imaginable."

Asked about the recent occupation and sit-in demonstration at Shell headquarters on Leeson Street, Dublin, McGrath said: "It was planned ahead, in that we talked about it quite casually over the weekend and on Tuesday night we finalised the plan. It was done purely to draw attention to what's going on in Mayo. We fully intend to do other actions like that."

And as to how the Gardaí in Dublin conducted themselves at the protest, he says: "We actually said to the media that we wished the protests in Mayo were policed as well as the protest in Dublin was. The Gardaí were polite. They listened to our concerns. In Mayo the Gardaí are brought in from outside. To avoid arrests or bringing people to court, the Gardaí in Mayo manhandle the protestors out of the way. One man went to the Garda station to pick up his son who had been arrested, so they arrested him as well. They took a video film off another man."

On the level of public support for the solidarity actions, McGrath says: "We got an awful lot of support last Wednesday, with people blowing their car horns. That was virtually every car. We had no negative response at all. We gave away around 700 leaflets and if people didn't support us they wouldn't take the leaflets."

Tadhg McGrath has no confidence in Shell's competence when it comes to running a safe gas refinery.

"The window that looks onto the roof at the Shell headquarters in Leeson Street wouldn't shut, so the security guards had to stand there holding it shut in case we'd try to get in. We had no intention of going in - but what struck us was the thought that if the Shell company can't make a window that shuts, you wouldn't put much faith in their ability to build a refinery that won't leak or pollute."

On the importance of sustaining demonstrations of solidarity with the community in North Mayo, including direct action against the Corrib project, McGrath says: "It's important that people make the connection in the public mind between Shell and the Irish Government through direct action."

He speaks of the Shell to Sea campaign's intention to carry out further actions, such as protesting at the Statoil head office in the International Financial Services Centre. He is also calling on people to boycott and picket Shell and Statoil stations.

"When people tell you that the garages have changed hands and are now owned by an Irish company, make the point that they are still selling Shell petrol."

On local support in the Rossport area for the campaign, he says: "They're a hundred per cent behind it. There's 2,000 people living in the parish of Kilcommon, the area covering the whole region. To get 100 of these people out every morning at 6am - that's man, woman and child - shows the support locally."

McGrath urges anyone who can to go down to Rossport in support of the campaign.

"There's a day of action coming up in Bellanaboy on Friday 20 October and we urge as many people as possible to travel down, the night before if possible."

Asked if he believed the campaign would succeed, he said: "This refinery will never be built. How long will it take them to realise that you can't do something like that against the community's will? When the people are against it, it's not going to happen."

For further information on the 20 October day of action, contact 0871323369.

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