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18 January 2007 Edition

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Shell's project in Ireland - 'The Mother of all rip-offs'

VINCENT McGRATH

VINCENT McGRATH

VINCENT McGRATH of the Rossport Five talks to ELLA O’DWYER about current developments in the Shell to Sea campaign

More than 100 Shell to Sea campaigners picketed the head office of Údarás na Gaeltachta in Furbo, outside Spiddal, in County Galway, last week to protest against the authority’s decision to give premises in North Mayo to Shell and gardaí deployed to protect the oil multinational against civil disobedience.

The premises is a 500-square metre factory in Belmullet for use by Shell (Exploration & Production) Ireland. Shell to Sea campaigners are accusing the Údarás of dismissing the health and safety implications for people living in the area worried by the Corrib gas project.

Last October, Údarás allowed Shell to open an office in part of the factory to handle administrative work. The lease is for seven years and the company has spent €1 million on conversion costs. Supporters of the Shell to Sea campaign argue that this decision means that the Údarás is facilitating a multinational oil company in a project that is endangering the lives of people living in the Gaeltacht.

After Friday’s protest, Vincent McGrath of the Rossport Five said:

“One of the arguments being bandied around is that the move will bring employment to the region. There will be no additional jobs. What’s going to happen is that the Shell jobs and employees already in existence will be transferred to the Gaeltacht, meaning that, among other things, English speakers will be moved into the area. Shell is simply moving its headquarters.

“Because the Údarás meeting was in camera we have no way of knowing which way each individual voted. There should be transparency on this. We voted the Údarás members into their role. The way in which the government, the Garda and the authorities in general have been facilitating Shell is unprecedented. Shell is being subsidised all the way. They must be laughing their heads off.”

About 120 people attended last Friday’s protest in Galway and the daily protests in Ballinaboy continue. “We got a good turn out today in Galway and there was huge support from Gaeltacht areas,” Vincent said.

Was there any trouble? “No. The only trouble we’ve ever experienced was from the Garda – state violence basically.

“They initially tried to quash our campaign by inflicting prison sentences and then they adopted physical force methods but the protesters are still standing. We haven’t given into fear.”

Campaigners will be launching an information drive in the near future, Vincent McGrath says.

“People need to be aware of what’s being done with the country’s natural resources. The whole Shell project is the mother of all rip-offs and people should know this.”

Commenting on the decision to allocate the premises in Mayo to Shell, Sinn Féin’s representative on the Údarás Gráinne Mhic Ghéidigh said: “While the Údarás meeting on 15 December last was held in camera and I therefore cannot comment on the detail of the discussions, I can nevertheless give my own personal opinion on the issue. Big companies like Shell have no concern for the best interests of local communities, the Irish language, the Irish people or the country overall.

“Any decision – whether to allow or deny Shell authority to open offices on premises owned by the Údarás should at least have been postponed until the local community and the Shell to Sea campaigners were properly consulted. While some members of the Údarás evidently believed that Shell’s presence in the Gaeltacht region might bring employment into the area, you have to ask yourself at what cost. In the short term there might be some measure of increased employment but, in my view Shell’s presence in the area will bring no real benefit. There will be nothing but division amongst the community with some people adamantly against Shell’s presence and others with the opinion that there might be additional jobs. And in my experience such division can take generations to mend.

“Shell have no interest or concern for even the most basic features that make for healthy community life. The issue was never about jobs but about the health, safety and security of the community. Jobs are important but not at any cost and I’m not one for taking the food out of anyone’s mouth but the issues really are about the rights and welfare of the people of Mayo.”

 

Shell to Sea campaigners picketing the head office of Údarás na Gaeltachta in Furbo, Spiddal, Galway 

 

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