Article from the October 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
Unions must back people of Rossport
By Michael Murphy
THE RELEASE of the Rossport 5 is a huge blow to Shell and the government and their plans to refine the gas from the Corrib gasfield onshore.
After spending 94 days in prison, the campaign waged by the five men and their families and supporters throughout the country pressurised the government to intervene to force Shell to lift their High Court injunction. This injunction had been granted to Shell to prevent protests against the construction of their gas pipeline. The courageous stand taken by the five men and their community has been an inspiration for working class people.
I was privileged to be part of a Socialist Party delegation including Joe Higgins TD, Cllr. Mick Barry, and CPSU worker director and Socialist Party member Terry Kelleher which visited Rossport at the end of September. We met many determined local people protesting at the site of the pipeline and also met the wives and families of the Rossport 5.
That visit brought home how important this issue is for the people of north Mayo. The pipeline, if built, would run only metres from their homes and farms posing a huge safety risk. Our visit also gave us an insight into the incredible support throughout Mayo for the campaign. Houses are painted with slogans supporting the Rossport 5; fields throughout the locality are filled with banners castigating the government, Shell and Statoil. There is a real sense of a community that has risen up against the oil multinationals.
This level of opposition is crucial for the battle that lies ahead. Shell remains determined to force through the pipeline. Minister Noel Dempsey is in the process of appointing a mediator to oversee talks between the community and Shell, and Avantica (who have links to Shell) are carrying out a safety review. It is not clear when Shell intend to resume work on the pipeline but what is clear is that the people of Mayo are prepared to militantly resist its construction.
If Shell restart work on the pipeline in early 2006, it is vital that the community is prepared. Their record particularly in countries in Nigeria illustrates their ruthlessness in the face of opposition. They will likely have the backing of the government and the State in the form of the courts and the police to assist them in their dirty work.
In this eventuality it will take the mobilisation of significant numbers of people to support the residents' fight. David Begg, ICTU general secretary and Jack O' Connor SIPTU president who spoke at the Dublin demonstration on 1 October, need to go beyond just speechifying. The trade union leaders should be campaigning amongst their members for support for the people of Rossport including building support for the idea of strike action if anymore protestors are imprisoned. Also they should ensure that trade union members black the construction project and participate in the protests to physically stop its construction.
The Fianna Fail party is up to its neck in this scandal. Whilst in government, the criminal Ray Burke handed over the country's natural gas reserves to these multinationals for free and Bertie Ahern cut their taxes! The Socialist Party believes that the Corrib gasfield contract should be torn up and the gas reserves brought back into public ownership to be run by a state exploration company to provide cheap gas for Irish consumers and to use the vast profits for our public services.
4,000 march with Rossport 5
By Brian Cahill
THE ROSSPORT five were freed a day earlier, but campaigners pressed ahead with a major protest against Shell on Saturday 1 October. 4,000 people took to the streets to demand an end to the multinational company's plans to build a high pressure pipeline for unrefined gas in Mayo.
The five men, finally free after more than three months in prison, received a rapturous welcome from the crowd of supporters. They spoke of their time in jail but emphasised that the fight against Shell must go on. The platform was packed with speakers from the political parties and the trade unions, some more welcome than others.
Bernard Durkan TD, speaking on behalf of Fine Gael, was drowned out by boos from the crowd. When he was later called back to speak for a second time, he was again drowned out. By contrast, Joe Higgins TD of the Socialist Party was met with huge cheers when he demanded that the words of support given by trade union leaders be turned into real action should any more protesters be jailed. When he brought up the Irish Ferries dispute and called for the full might of the trade union movement to be used in support of the ferry workers the cheers became even louder.
Dr. Owens Wiwa, brother of executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, gave the issue an international context by detailing the savage treatment endured by the Ogoni people in Nigeria at the hands of greedy oil companies. Although his speech wasn't particularly radical, it helped bring home both the international nature of capitalist exploitation and the lengths to which the multinationals will go to secure their profits.
The mood of the protesters was celebratory but there was a keen awareness that this struggle is only in its early stages. Sarah from Mayo speaking to the Socialist said "It's great that the men are out but they are still planning on building their pipeline and they are still getting the gas for nothing. We have to keep fighting."