25 September 2008 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Shell to Sea hunger strike ends as Shell ship limps to Scotland

DETERMINED: Maura Harrington ends her hunger strike

DETERMINED: Maura Harrington ends her hunger strike

RETIRED school teacher Maura Harrington’s hunger strike ended last Friday, as the giant Shell pipe-laying ship, The Solitaire, finally left Irish waters and limped to Scotland for repair. Despite the best efforts of two Naval Service warships, hundreds of gardaí, a compliant court service, and a mostly hostile media and political establishment, Shell did not manage to lay even one metre of the offshore pipeline.
The company is refusing to comment on the debacle, so An Phoblacht spoke to two people who were central to the protests against Shell in Mayo to reflect on the past few weeks and say what they think the future holds.
Terence Conway, from Inver in Kilcommon, helped crew the trawlers which blocked The Solitaire’s path and also visited Donegal to try and speak to the captain of the ship while it was in Killybegs (with no success).
Terence acted as a spokesman for the campaign for the media and was also among those detained by the gardaí at a protest at the Shell office in Belmullet.
“The experience of the last few weeks has shown that the only way Shell can push this project through is by force. They will only get in by force because we don’t have the resources to stop them. But this campaign is about the truth and the truth is a strong force in itself.
“As regards what might happen in the future, it’s very hard to call it, but at present there is a breathing space for politicians to engage with the community. The people of this area have had eight years of this conflict with no sign of serious engagement. It remains to be seen if I’m fooling myself, but I’m hopeful that something can be done to sort out the issues of the campaign. I think if politicians are willing to deal with the community in a fair and open minded way then we can find a resolution.”

Maura Harrington spent 11 days on hunger strike in her car parked at the Shell compound at Glengad. Protests were held in solidarity in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Belfast, Derry, London, The Hague, and even Switzerland, where the owners of The Solitaire are based. Four people were arrested in Dublin on various charges, and ten more were arrested at protests in Mayo, including Maura’s 18-year-old son, Iollan.
“If Shell have any sense they will accept that Glengad is no longer an option,” she says. “They had their chance in 2002, when they took over Enterprise Oil, they had their chance but they didn’t even think about how the project was configured. It should have been clear to any company with a titter of wit to realise that the project wasn’t right. But instead of looking at it again they sought political support from the Irish Government to push the scheme through.”
After eight years of going through every available channel to try and stop the project, she took the momentous step to go on hunger strike when The Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay.
“I think what my protest did was make people ask themselves – what is a 55-year-old woman doing, going on hunger strike down there? My protest, and all the energy that went in to publicising it, brought the issue back before the people, and it was the people who made a difference in the end.
“I want to say a heartfelt thanks to all those who supported us, contacting Shell and Minister Eamon Ryan, protesting, writing letters, giving out leaflets, and spreading the news in other ways.
“Shell threw everything at us, and we had to throw everything we had back at them, and in the end we won.”

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

Powered by Phoenix Media Group