Erris explodes, distraction, fear, exhaustion and the circles of life

The view of the bay from the camp at sunsetAs you may have noticed it has been a full month since I last blogged, the largest gap I think in some while. There are multiple reasons for this but chief amongst them has been the enormous amount of energy that I have put into writing about the struggle against Shell in Erris, I'll be reposting some of the material I have written and recorded to this archive over the next few days.

Other reasons are both pleasant (a 10 day holiday with friends in Trieste, Italy and Pula, Croatia) and less so (an email that sent me into a protracted tail spin).  But for the most part it was a complete obsession with researching the connection between the killing of Michael Dwyer in a special forces raid in Bolivia back in April and the fact that he had worked as security in the Shell compound in Erris.  My obsessions tend to put me in difficult places but I can seldom resist the risk of pursuing them where ever they lead, quite often somewhere different to what I might have expected.  I've crossed oceans for them and this was not the first that ended in a substantial bit of writing, over ten years back I penned 'What is it that is different about the Zapatistas?' in the aftermath of one such trip.

This time around the end product is the article 'The Shadow over Erris: Shell, IRMS and Bolivia' which looks at the connections between Shell, an Irish Blackwater style security company and events in Bolivia and Erris. It's up on at the moment, I'll republish it here and link to it from this blog when I have a few moments. Normally when I write and publish something I don't get all that much in the way of feedback. It was a very genuine pleasure with this piece which represented a hell of a lot of work and which by the time of publication I had been so close to for so long that I was no longer that confident in to receive a lot of positive feedback. Both online and in real life I've have had lots of people thank me for writing this including some of people at the centre of the struggle in Erris who have made substantial sacrifices in that struggle. The other reaction I've got from friends, comrades and family is that I should watch my back, a concern that in this context is the most sincere form of flattery as the purpose of the writing was to expose just how sinister some of the forces working against us are.

Within a couple of days of publication others had turned it into a PDF pamphlet and used part of the text for the soundtrack of a video about events in Erris. Another video of Margaretta D'Arcy confronting about 30 cops on the cliff between the Solidarity camp and the beach has her, at around five minutes in, demanding to know if they have read the article on indymedia. The cops start shuffling off or turning their backs as she continues to berate them about events in Bolivia. I’ve embedded that video at the end of this blog post. It is overly long but amusing all the same, the Gardai are clearly uncertain how to deal with this small old women with the white hair politely giving them abuse.

At the weekend I made the trip down to Erris for a national Shell to Sea meeting but also because I wanted to see the armada deployed against us in Broadhaven bay and thumb my nose at IRMS. I will however admit to be careful not to end up walking on my own past the Shell compound when it came time to return from the pub to the camp late on Saturday night down the dark county roads.  I've posted a less rambly report of the meeting and the atmosphere to indymedia, I reserve the right to ramble off on all sorts of tangents on my blog post, that is what is blog is for.

There is one of those circles / tangents at this point in the story. The comrade who was with me on the walk back from the pub was recently returned from Mexico and as it happened we spent the much of the walk back talking about the Zapatista's. He was of the opinion that the movement has much degenerated under the constant pressures of the last decade, that it has now become quite authoritarian in character with little time for dissent. Much of my earlier writing was based around the then 100% Zapatista community of 'Diez de Abril', now he thought maybe only 30% of its population were still with the Zapatista's. An illustration that the deployment of fear as a weapon (and the fear in the mountains and jungle of southern Mexico is a magnitude greater than that being deployed in Erris) leads to other things than simple defeat, it fractures community and can lead to the radical minority entrenching themselves in their own certainties.

There were however he said many other positive initiatives underway elsewhere in Mexico. The conversation on the road back from the pub had in turn been triggered by an event in the pub. A local fisherman had approached us to warn us that someone who appeared to be listening in to our conversation had a family member working for Shell. The listener in question rapidly cleared off and our new friend started producing local S2S newsletters from his bag. With wild long white hair under a baseball cap and weather beaten features he looked every bit the local fisherman he was but in chatting we realised he knew a good deal about events in Mexico and the Zapatista movement. This forms another circle, one of my memories of my trips to Chiapas was discovering that many of the indigenous revolutionaries I talked to had traveled and worked not only in urban areas of Mexico but also in the USA. In a rural setting, either in Ireland or Mexico, the concept of 'local' can carry the assumptions of a restricted range of experiences and knowledge that when tested often has no basis in reality.

One of the joy’s of this sort of struggle and traveling to gatherings such as these are the points of reconnection with those you know from struggles of previous years and decades. One person there I knew from my first trip to Chiapas back in 1996 and the anti World Bank riots in Prague in September 2000. Many of the others I knew from the struggle against the refueling of US warplanes at Shannon during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Alongside this I met a couple of dozen people for the first time, but people I am confident I will reconnect with in the struggles in the decades ahead. There was a point of exhaustion at dusk the first day when I was slumped by the turf fire, staring out at the security boats staring in from the bay and became briefly overcome by the scale of the forces that faced us and the almost pathetic number and resources on our side of the equation. I wondered what I was doing there. And then I looked at the people around me and remembered what made struggle worthwhile at a level quite separate from the individual victories and defeats and that feeling of exhaustion lifted and was blown away, out over the watching ships and their bored crews in the bay.



Ramor contacted me to point

Ramor contacted me to point out I'd got my wires crossed re Diez de Abril (the danger of blogging). Apparently the actual situation is a continuation of what has been happening for the last few years with the community remaining Zapatista but large numbers of families abandoning it in part due to the encroachment of nearby paramilitary communities.  So the number of families has dropped to 40% of peak.  He may well post a more detailed comment on this later but just though I'd jump in to get a basic correction in first.


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