The June bank holiday weekend saw hundreds traveling to Erris for the Party Against the Pioe festival organised by the Rossport Solidarity Camp. The festival was held beside the Shell construction compound at Aghoose, where the tunnel for the last stage of their controversial experimental raw gas pipeline is to be started. This compound has been the site of many protests, including one earlier in the week when security punched a female Shell to Sea campaigner in the face.
Around 60 anti-water tax campaigners placed a picket on the water metering conference at Croke Park this morning (Tue 31 May). Such a large turnout at 8.30 am must have caused concern for the attending companies who view the government plan to charge for and meter water as an easy way for them to make a fast buck. It has been announced that 600 million euro is to be spent imposing the plan. It's fast becoming clear that the introduction of water charges will face serious resistance and those attending must be aware that the previous attempt to impose a water tax was defeated by such mass resistance in the 1990's.
The May bank holiday saw the annual Rossport Solidarity Camp gathering, this year across the road from the new Shell compound at Arghoos in Erris. As has become traditional the gathering combined a direct action with workshops and socializing. On the Sunday most of those present went to the launch of fisherman's Pat O'Donnell's new boat. There was a constant Garda presence around the camp throughout the weekend but despite the destruction of some 60m of Shell's bog road no arrests were made.
An editorial in Thursday's (April 7th) Irish Times titled "Loose talk or malice?" accepted the interpretation that the Gardai recorded on the Corrib video were simply making a private joke about rape. The editorial found that unacceptable but less serious then previous "corrupt and illegal actions by a small number of its members." The attitude of the Irish Times that all that is at issue is some off colour joking has been reflected by other commentators. Some like Kevin Myers can be dismissed as pro-Shell loons but others who have taken this line seem genuine and therefore must not have given much thought to the context these remarks were made in. The context being both the circumstances these particular women found themselves in (in the power of the Garda concerned) and the general pattern of Garda repression of protest around the Corrib project.
Shell to Sea held a well attended press conference today (7 April) at which it was highlighted that the video recording of Garda discussing using rape threats as part of an interrogation was symptomatic of the policing of the entire Shell Corrib project. Local resident John Monaghan revealed that another Garda sergeant made abusive sexual remarks to him at a previous protest. ULA TD Joe Higgins added his support to the Shell to Sea demand for an independent international inquiry into both the behavior of Garda and of the controversial private security company IRMS at the Corrib protests over the last decade.
Garda in Mayo took revenge for the publication of the Corrib cops rape threat video yesterday (4th April) by attacking Shell to Sea campaigners during another protest near the site where the women were arrested. Alongside this there are clear indications of a dirty tricks campaign being waged by the Garda Press Office. The fact that Garda from the same division felt confident attacking the friends of the women only hours after the so called investigation had been announced by the Garda Press office demonstrates exactly how serious they expected such an investigation to be. These actions confirm that the rape threat as an interrogation method discussion captured on the video is not simply an issue of the Garda directly involved on the video but indicative of the brutal nature of policing in the area where individual Garda continue to expect to have a free hand in attacking campaigners.
Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you” - the words of a Garda Sgt as he discussed with at least two other Gardai how they were going to interrogate one of two female Shell to Sea campaigners they had arrested and who were being brought to Belmullet Garda station. Just second earlier while they were discussing how to interrogate the women one Garda suggested they threaten her with deportation. The Sgt responds with the addition of the rape threat which he repeats before another so far unidentified Garda chimes in with “hold it there, give me your name and address there, I’ll rape you” prompting the Sgt to repeat it one last time as “or I’ll definitely rape you.” [Listen to the 2 minute audio] [Spanish translation]
This week as Shell prepares to start construction on the final leg of their controversial Corrib gas pipeline & refinery they have faced multiple set backs. In Erris Shell were prevented accessing construction sites by a blockade of protesters on a number of days while in Dublin Shell were forced to pull out of a conference at the RDS. On top of this 22 TD's gathered under a Shell to Sea banner at the Dail demanding that the consents signed by the outgoing Fianna Fail minister on his last day in power be reversed. This public show of support for Shell to Sea by so many elected representatives is a demonstration of how strongly the public have turned against the project and the Great Oil & Gas Giveaway in general. Despite this it is now the Labour Party Minister Pat Rabbitte who is forcing the project through, who this week has refused to reverse the consents. (Photo C. William Hederman)
It has been revealed that the decade long resistance of the people of Erris to Shell's experimental gas pipeline has now wiped out Shell's projected profits from the project. Brian O’Cathain, the Managing Director of Enterprise Energy Ireland let the cat out of the bag at a debate at the IFI on the 4th December. Instead of the 650 million dollars the project was intended to cost, Shell & partners have now spent over 3 billion dollars.
On the last day of his brief spell in power the replacement Minister of Energy Pat Carey signed the consents on the final stage of Shell's experimental gas pipeline in Erris despite continued opposition from the local community and people all over the island concerned with both safety and the Great Oil & Gas Giveaway. It is increasingly clear that the haste on pushing the project thorough is because the Bellanaboy refinery is intended to take not just the relatively small deposits of the Corrib field but also the hundreds of billions of oil and gas found off the atlantic coast.