From the village of Rossport, on the west coast of Ireland, the movement resisting Shell’s attempts to build a gas pipeline through the community is calling for international solidarity. The struggle is entering its most critical stage to date – this summer, years after the project was due to get underway, Shell will finally attempt to bring the pipeline onshore. The operation will be supported by a huge deployment of force, both from the state and Shell’s security guards. They will face unprecedented opposition from local people who have not given their consent to the project, but stopping the pipeline and the threats it poses will not be easy, and support is needed.
Similar to the Niger Delta, a major source of concern about Shell’s operations in Rossport is the environmental impacts of its plans. In response to the spirited opposition that has been going for years, Shell proposed a new pipeline route in 2006, but there are major problems with the new route. According to a report by Dutch organisation SOMO, the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, the pipeline would pass houses, bogs and farmland and go through an area prone to landslides. The possibility of landslides, coupled with the instability of peat in some areas the pipeline is expected to pass, significantly exacerbate the chances of pipe failure. The fact that the gas doesn’t smell, making a leak harder to detect, only makes this more dangerous. In addition to concerns about the pipeline route, the refinery which the pipeline would connect to threatens the only source of potable water for 10,000 people.
Concerns are not limited to environment, however. In the words of local historian and campaigner Vincent McGrath,
“We are fighting for many things here: our health, environment and happiness. But we are also fighting for the right to live our lives as we have for generations before Shell came along.”
Furthermore, as the struggle has developed, however, a new source of concern has emerged – alleged repression from the Irish state and Shell’s private security entourage. A number of people from the local community have already been imprisoned for standing up to Shell. Recently, one of these, farmer Willy Corduff, was severely beaten by a group of men in balaclavas following a protest on the Shell site, raising the allegations that Shell’s private security were involved. According to Maura Harrington, a former head-teacher and leading member of the local campaign, Shell-to-Sea, ‘We desperately need accredited observers here to offer some form of protection.’
So, what can we do? All support is welcome – you can send messages, funds, or, best of all, send yourselves. In the words of the Rossport Solidarity Camp:
“The reason why Shell and the State are throwing a world of force against us is because we scare them. And rightly so… If we all make the effort to get to Mayo at this time we can make the critical mass of people to break them. So come on, let’s come together now, all of us, and make the breakthrough.”