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Resistance in Rossport


For nine years now, the people of Rossport in County Mayo, together with the support of people from throughout Ireland and overseas, have struggled to defend their land and Ireland’s natural resources against the greed of multinational companies.

The battle is far from over, with Shell continuing its brutal assault on the environment and the people of Ireland’s right to control the resources of this island. In recent weeks, local campaigner Willie Corduff was savagely assaulted by the Shell’s hirelings, Maura Harrington was rearrested and taken again to Mountjoy, while Gardaí are imported from throughout the Twenty-Six Counties to defend Shell and Statoil’s theft of gas reserves whose value has been estimated to lie in trillions of Euro.

Dusk over Rossport Solidarity Camp

It is in this climate that activists and supporters of the Shell to Sea Campaign were invited to Rossport Solidarity Camp for a weekend celebrating the steadfast resistance of local campaigners and to prepare for a further struggle to protect Ireland’s environment and natural resources from the ravages of transnational capital.

As tents were raised in the last weekend in May, it became clear that many had heeded this call. While this was happening, workshops were held dealing with the nature and scope of direct action techniques. It was clear to all who attended that the violence with which Shell expropriates Ireland’s natural resources would inevitably be turned on those who opposed the destruction of their environment and their rights.

The tents having been pitched and the camp organised along voluntary and ecological lines and prepared for the arrival of activists from throughout the country, everybody came together to walk along the rocky Glengad beach to the compound from where Shell intends to siphon off the gas from the sea.

Going for a walk along the beach

Many were horrified by the sight of a manmade fence reaching into the Atlantic in a seeming attempt to deprive even the ocean of its natural form and beauty. ‘Security Guards’ (or ‘thugs’ if you have any direct experience of them) patrol the area inside the compound, many with their faces covered by netting, lest anybody recognise them to be the heavies for Shell’s organised theft and destruction.

As the campers and activists roamed further along the 14ft high fencing that surrounds the compound they came to an open field that obscured the ocean from view and, instead of the natural force of the Atlantic they were faced with the artificial force of the state – Garda Síochána in riot gear lined up, joking, relaxed, contemplating the money they would receive in return for their services protecting a building without planning permission from the people of Ireland demanding what is theirs.

At this sight, several local people began to question the Gardaí about the death of a local teenager who was killed in a traffic accident which involved local officers. Many believe that the true facts of the matter have not emerged due to a Garda cover up. As the swinish laughter subsided, they were met with chants of “Gardaí Shell”. They were silent now. Their thoughts of money were drowned out by the truth being chanted by a mass of people united not in personal interest but by the common good.

Shell's hooded heavies

Slowly, all the people drifted back to the camp contemplating what they had seen and wondering what would happen the following day, leaving the security guards and Gardaí to justify to themselves their actions for another day.

On getting back to the camp, the activists were greeted with a swarm of midges in the setting sun. Relief soon came, however, as the bar opened and David Rovics from north America entertained all, including many locals and the parish priest, with his rousing renditions of traditional folk songs and scathing satires on US foreign policy.

Workshop on the Great Gas Giveaway

Sunday morning came and the workshops continued with discussions focused on dealing with police repression, as well some focusing directly on the activities of Shell in both a national and global context.

By the late afternoon, it was clear that a concrete protest was going to take place as the intention was made clear that an attempt was to be made to gain access to the compound. At around 5pm everybody made their way along the road before cutting down through a field toward the Shell compound.

Approaching the compound

When the bulk of people reached the compound, a smaller number were already there. In seconds a blanket was thrown over the pointed fence and some activists disappeared into a cloud of security. Within moments, the focus had then shifted to another end of the compound as the activists tried to prevent the Gardaí from splitting their number.

Photographs were enthusiastically taken by both the Gardaí and the security guards from inside the compound. They then advanced, forcing the collapse of a barbed wire fence, leaving several protestors and at least one Garda on the ground.

Gardaí out in force

Word then came that a further line of police were approaching from the other side of the compound. The demonstrators immediately formed a line to prevent their advance.

It soon became evident that the attempt at a mass breach of the compound area had failed in this instance. Many were, however, still enraged at the predictable behaviour of the Gardaí, both their defence of Shell Oil’s interests and their harassment of the protestors, who were attempting to assert their national rights and those of the local community.

In the aftermath, several arrests followed, numbering eight people in total.

The spirit on the way back to the camp was mixed. Many were dejected at the failure to put an end to Shell interference at Rossport, others contemplated the fate of the arrestees, others still thought about the next time. The next time will it in fact be possible to put Shell to Sea? One thing can then be certain: this stage of the struggle is not yet over, indeed it may only be beginning.



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