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IRISH TIMES: CORRIB GAS CONTROVERSY AND SHELL TO SEA

Thursday 29th November 2007

Letters to the Editor

Madam, – Your reprinting (“Shell To Sea Protests Too Much”) of Fr Kevin Hegarty’s Mayo News column of November 20th, without  acknowledgment, is also interesting in its timing, especially as your recent poll result showed an 84 per cent vote in support of Shell To Sea’s arguments. Perhaps it is Fr Hegarty himself who is protesting too much?

The Government’s first duty is to protect its citizens. This duty has consistently been breached, thoughtlessly and casually, during the current Corrib Gas controversy. Expert advice has been set aside; five men have been unjustly jailed, a community has been divided, a beautiful landscape defaced and the security forces of the State undemocratically employed in the protection of a profit-led corporation whose activities will provide 15 years of gas, at no discernible profit to the State, for Irish citizens in counties well beyond Mayo’s borders.

The recent decision of the EPA (with its 90 conditions) will allow poisonous emissions to be released into the atmosphere and into the groundwater. This decision will, hopefully, shortly be challenged and rejected by the courts; if not by those in Ireland, then in Europe where there appears to be a greater concern for such citizens’ rights.

What began as the actions of Rossport people to defend their lands and homes and families from a palpable danger to health and safety (which neither Shell nor Mayo County Council nor church authorities nor the State thought worth bothering about) has, understandably, developed into a debate over the purpose and use of our natural resources, the threat to ways of life, to traditional values, to language, to the environment and the rights of future generations – against the power of multinational profit to dictate national policy.

Short-term jobs and the myth of progress are set against legitimate civic and human rights. There has never been a blanket rejection of the use of the gas for the betterment of life. There were and are other routes, other options.
Shell’s “legal approval for most facets of the project” suggests that, in Fr Hegarty’s mind, the issues are settled. This matter is far from over, I believe. And as for multiple spokespersons and “outsiders” taking part, Rossport is an international as well as a national and local issue. It is rich for Fr Hegarty to take issue with Mary Corduff’s right to a decisive opinion when his own opinions are far from tentative.
No wonder Shell is trying to mend its hand with various inducements and sponsorships and scholarships. By the time this affair is settled, it may regret the financial losses suffered by its refusal to undertake the cleaning of its raw gas at sea.
Fr Hegarty is naive on the topic of peaceful resistance. The power of a state to frustrate and abuse its citizens’ legitimate entitlements through full-time, permanent, pensionable, official and bureaucratic means is daily practised and well known in every aspect of Irish life.

Considering the provocation, most would accept that the Shell to Sea campaign has shown remarkable forbearance. When asked by the British squaddie why the Irish forces in the Rising did not play fair, Sean O’Casey’s Fluther Good replied: “A few hundhred scrawls o’ chaps with a couple o’ guns an’ Rosary beads, again a hundhred thousand thrained men with horse, fut an’ artillery. . . an’ he wants us to fight fair! D’ye want us to come out in our skins an’ throw stones?”

Fr Hegarty might consider taking his own advice and evaluating his own activities now. Energetic and vocal support for an independent forum from such a columnist as he might go a long way in the right direction.

As one with some experience, in the lengthy and controversial Mullaghmore campaign, of the depressing and exhausting force of the State’s wilful obduracy, I salute the endurance and prophetic role of Shell to Sea on behalf of us all. – Yours, etc,

LELIA DOOLAN, Kilcolgan, Co Galway.
__________

A chara, – Much of Fr Kevin Hegarty’s article (Nov 27th) could be read as an acknowledgement of the necessity for the Shell to Sea campaign and also of its achievements.

It is good that the campaign can have different spokespersons. This, and its regular open meetings, show that it is a democratic campaign, far more so than Fianna Fáil whose bungling – to put it charitably – led to much of the present conflict.

I think Fr Hegarty is very naive to believe that multinationals will never again behave in such a cavalier fashion as Shell. He also fools himself if he won’t believe that some gardaí used very excessive force against protesters – again to put it charitably.

In a footnote to the article you state that since his transfer to Mayo, Fr Hegarty has edited the magazine Céide. This magazine has been defunct for a number of years. What makes me uneasy about Fr Hegarty’s article is the sense of aggrieved bitterness which seems to underlie it. This is far removed from the tone and philosophy of Céide as I remember it and will do nothing to heal the divisions in Erris. That is what I would expect of a former editor of Céide. – Is mise,

SEÁN Ó RIAIN, Gairdíní Bhaile na Lobhar, Co Átha Cliath.

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