Picketing the Green Party conference

The Green Party has been the junior partner in governement here in Ireland for the last couple of years.  Previously they had supported the struggle against the Shell project in Erris but once in power one of their ministers, Eamonn Ryan, has been in charge of imposing it!  At the weekend they had a special conference in Dublin to decide how they were voting on Lisbon 2 and Dublin Shell to Sea turned up to picket it and highlight the great oil and gas giveaway.

The Green Party had obviously told the cops to have a low key presence so there were no visible secret police (which of course doesn't mean they were not there) and only four uniformed ones.  It was on in the Hilton hotel which is on one of the canals, down a dead end, so it's a very quiet road. So apart from 20 of so Shell to Sea campaigners with our new banners there wasn't much traffic.

A few party members came over to argue the toss with us, all selling the party line that none of the other political parties would offer a better deal in power.  With that I'd have to agree but those countries which have recently seen a renegoitation or nationalisation of energy supplies have done so through a mass movement that often bring someone to power on its back but its the movement that carries the struggle through.  Their other line was that at least Eamonn had upped the tax on profits from 25% to 40%.  This is still one of the lowest rates in the world and because the corporations are first allowed to deduct costs will mean an actual rate that is only a fraction of that figure.  It also only applies to new projects, Shell gets the Corrib field at the old  'super giveaway' rather then the shiny new 'giveaway' rate.

After a while a few of us decided to try our luck at going into the hotel through a side entrance.  I got stuck with a couple of the others in a discussion in the bar with one of the more radical greens but then followed one of the others through who was leafletting the crowd at the conference who were on a break in the foyer.  We spotted minister Eamonn Ryan and I turned on the camera while he went over to hand him a leaflet.  In that sort of situation you really want him to stalk off or go into a rant but Eamonn was actually pretty smart and instead asked the guy with the leaflet if he wanted to go into the bar to talk about it.  And so it ended up with a little group of anarchists arguing with the minister implementing the Shell project about the in's and out's of Energy policy, and what the probably reserves of Oil & Gas off the west coast might actually be.  It's one measure of how small Ireland is that this didn't seem all that weird at the time, its also a measure of how the government don't believe their own media hype about violent extremists that justified the 'need' to deploy hundreds of cops and the Irish Navy.

Back outside unexpected re-enforcements arrived in the shape of a barge on the canal with a band and couple of dozen partiers. The barge had been hired to promote a small music festival called the Knockin Stockin and on spotting our picket the organisers decided to bring the barge up the canal to offer their support.  So they docked opposite the hotel, hung some of the banners off the side and struck up a chant of 'Shell to Sea'.  This random occurance is a sign of both how well known the struggle is and how popular it remains despite the huge propaganda offensive.  Sheer distance and fear of the increasingly out of control 'policing' may keep the numbers who travel to protests down but spontaneous manifestations of support like this do help keep the spirits up.

The Green Party decided to call for a Yes vote for Lisbon 2.  And Eamonn Ryan will continue to impose the Shell project and no doubt send hundreds of cops down to arrest or batter us when the on shore work begins in a few months.  In the meantime though the crisis deepens and the need to stop Shell getting the billions worth of oil & gas gets more and more accute, an argument Shell to Sea will be putting more and more into circulation in the months before the on shore segment starts.

In other news, my Shadow over Erris article has been attracting quite a lot of mainstream media attention, much of it less than honest.  I'll try and blog some of this in the next couple of days but in the meantime you can read some additional commentary at the indymedia version of the article above.

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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