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Irish Times: Artistes in Shell protest

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent, Irish Times
Published: Aug 01, 2007

Two prominent poets and a musician participating in the Feile Iorrais arts festival in north Mayo this week have refused to accept any payment linked to Shell E&P Ireland sponsorship of the event.

Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins, Donegal poet Cathal O Searcaigh and musician Andy Irvine, formerly of folk group Planxty, have said they are very disappointed at not having been informed beforehand of the sponsorship deal, in the light of Shell’s role as developer of the Corrib gas project.

Shell E&P Ireland is contributing 2,000 towards the 10-day festival, which opened last Friday on the Mullet peninsula. The multinational’s support is listed on the festival website, but not in the programme or in local advertising.

Musician and member of the Rossport five Vincent McGrath said last week he was not expecting artistes to pull out at short notice, as they would not have been aware of the financial link and could be tied to contractual arrangements.

However, Ms Higgins, who is due to read at the festival on Saturday, has asked the organisers to return her fee to Shell. In a letter she said she was “disturbed” that Feile Iorrais was accepting sponsorship from Shell, given that the company had “created such divisions in the community through their commitment to bring raw gas at high pressure through parts of north Mayo, endangering the health and safety of families in the community”.

Musician Andy Irvine, who performed last Sunday, said he would be donating a substantial part of his fee to the Shell to Sea campaign. “In that way, I feel that Shell’s money will be going towards the local people who oppose this project.”

Mr O Searcaigh said he did not want to jeopardise a festival that did so much for the Irish language. As a former writer-in-residence in Mayo, he was well aware of the concerns about the Corrib gas project. He is to return a percentage of his fee to Shell’s headquarters in Dublin.

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