From Socialist Voice, August 2005

The Rossport Five need our support!

Five men, mainly small farmers, went to jail in late June because they refused to obey a High Court injunction won by Shell Oil.
    Shell, along with Marathon Oil and the Norwegian state oil company Statoil, are attempting to build a pipeline from the Corrib gas field across their land, which they—together with large numbers of the local community—object to on safety grounds, and with good reason for doing so.
    Shell attempted to use the courts to bully the local community and to allow them to push on with a pipeline that they have no permission to build in the first place. In late July the company appeared to admit that the construction and installation of the pipeline was illegal, because it has not got permission from the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. The minister has stated that the companies have breached the terms under which they were given permission to go ahead. This is all diplomatic speak. In early August the same minister gave Shell permission to begin construction on the underwater section of the pipeline, from the gas field to the shore.
    Clearly, Fianna Fáil, along with Fine Gael, are caught on the horns of a dilemma. They have been bought and paid for by the transnational corporations; but the local community won’t play ball and stubbornly refuse to buckle under and bend the knee to Shell. Five men refuse point blank to back down and allow Shell to ride rough-shod over their community.
    The government cannot balance the public interest with the interests of the oil companies by opposing or trying to change the terms and conditions under which they operate here in Ireland. It would not look good to their political masters in Washington and Brussels but would appear to be an “anti-business” act. On the other hand, this has always been bedrock Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael territory. The brother of the present leader of Fine Gael is chairperson of Mayo County Council. At the last council meeting he ruled out of order a resolution supporting the Five and calling for their release—despite the fact that the resolution was properly constituted and conformed to standing orders. Fine Gael’s hopes of forming the next government will take a big hit in County Mayo!
    What Shell and the other oil companies want to do is land the gas directly on land and bring it across country in a pipeline to storage facilities and their refinery. This is an extremely dangerous operation, as the gas would be coming out of the gas field at very high pressure and most certainly would pose grave dangers; but it is the cheapest option for Shell. It is estimated that Shell would save €360 million in capital costs; and landing the gas directly on land from the gas field would reduce their operating costs by as much as 40 per cent per year.
    The whole planning process was faulty from the start, with the Bord Pleanála inspector responsible for viewing Shell’s planning application stating that “the choice of preferred option is primarily based upon the cost difference between it and other offshore options rather than on environmental or technical constraints.” So the option chosen was the one that suited Shell and the other oil companies—not one that would provide the best benefit to the local community or the environment.
    In a further twist of the screw, the state forestry agency, Coillte, sold 400 acres of state forest land to the consortium of Shell, Marathon and Statoil for the site of the refinery.
    Shell got a High Court injunction against the five men by providing misleading information to the court in the first place. So how can these five men be in breach of the law if the information presented against them was false? As John Rogers, senior counsel and former Attorney-General, stated in the High Court, “this brought the law into disrepute.” He went further to state that Shell was in breach of its own undertaking and asked the judge, “Did this not require some explanation to the court?”
    We can only agree with and support the statement read by Dr Mark Garavan, speaking on behalf of the five men after the High Court hearing, that “the freedom the Rossport Five require is the freedom and obligation all citizens have: the freedom to use all peaceful means to protect themselves and their neighbours . . . We cannot agree to a proposal that proposes to ban us from continuing to protect our lives by opposing the Shell works . . . This does not involve an apology. It involves giving an undertaking not to protest against Shell’s activities on the ground in Mayo, and this is something the men cannot do.”

What you can do

We need to build the broadest public campaign in support of these five courageous men, both here at home and internationally.
  • Place a “Drive by Shell” picket on the nearest Shell or Statoil station, asking people to pass on and to get their petrol at another station. You don’t need big numbers: get your neighbours out.
  • Raise the issue at your union meeting and get your union to make sure that union cars are not filled at Shell or Statoil stations.
  • Get your union branch or trades council to begin campaigning for a boycott of Shell stations and for them to call on their affiliates to support the boycott and support the Rossport Five.
  • E-mail all your relatives and friends and get them not to buy Shell or Statoil.

    The CPI has written to other communist parties around the world asking them to support the case of the Rossport Five and to take solidarity action in support of their campaign.

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