As Shell commenced work on the onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline this week, Shell to Sea activists in Erris, County Mayo issued an urgent call for support.
The call follows violent attacks by Gardaí and private security goons IRMS, led by former Free State army ranger Jim Farrell, on Shell to Sea activists, with one receiving hospital treatment for suspected broken ribs.
The initial stage of the work involves Shell fencing off a large area at Aughoose, which will be used as a compound for the construction of the 4.9km tunnel under Sruth Fada Conn estuary.
Despite the violent attacks, activists have delayed works over the last number of days. On Tuesday [March 29], an activist from the Rossport Solidarity Camp spent almost 12 hours locked on to the underside of a truck before being arrested and released without charge.
At the time of writing [Thursday], reports are coming in of activists blocking access to trucks and tractors. Despite Shell’s massive resources and continuous efforts to bully, bribe, intimidate and demonise campaigners, resistance to the project remains strong, vibrant and determined.
Despite claims of a ‘democratic revolution’ and a ‘new approach to politics’, the Fine Gael/Labour coalition has been quick to act in support of Shell and its corporate interests.
The new Twenty-Six County minister for communication, energy and natural resources Pat Rabbitte refused to revoke consents granted to Shell by his predecessor Pat Carey on the day of the recent general election. Rabbitte’s refusal to revoke the consents was quickly followed by environment minister Phil Hogan’s decision to grant Shell a foreshore licence.
Both decisions give Shell the green light to construct the 8km section of the onshore pipeline at Corrib and were made despite An Taisce and Erris residents commencing High Court proceedings seeking a judicial review of last January’s Bord Pleanála ruling.
The latest Shell proposal involves the boring of tunnel 4.9 kilometers long and 4.2 meters in diameter under Sruth Fada Conn estuary, a Special Area of Conservation. As with all construction and development works, Shell can write off the additional €100 million [£89 million] construction costs of this section of the project against tax.
Construction of the onshore section of the pipeline will take over two years to complete and will involve unprecedented levels of disruption to the lives of Erris residents, with an average of 250 daily truck journeys along narrow roads to and from construction sites at Aughoose and Glengad; the Bord na Móna site at Srahmore; the refinery at Ballinaboy and local quarries.
At Glengad, Shell intends pursuing Compulsory Acquisition Orders on private land in order to build the Landfall Valve Installation, which the multinational claims will control pressure in the pipeline as the raw unrefined gas hits land at 345 bar pressure. Back in 2005, the Rossport Five were imprisoned for over 90 days for refusing to allow Shell impose a Compulsory Acquisition Order on their land. Meanwhile, at Aughoose, Shell proposes to construct a massive compound for the tunnel boring machine.
There is €10 billion [£9 billion] worth of gas in the Corrib field, which Shell will sell to domestic users in the Twenty-Six Counties at full market price. In addition, the company can write off all construction and development costs against tax. Given the pitifully low rate of 25 per cent tax on profits and the fact that construction of the pipeline and onshore refinery will cost in the region of €3 billion [£2.6 billion], Shell will pay little or no tax on this vast wealth.
éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson extended the socialist republican party’s support and solidarity to Shell to Sea campaigners in Mayo.
“Today, it was announced that working people will once again pick up the tab for a further multi-billion euro bailout of failed private banks,” Leeson said.
“The greed and venality of bankers stands in stark contrast to Shell to Sea campaigners in north Mayo who have selflessly defended their community and our natural resources against corporate and state power.
“éirígí salutes the bravery and determination of the Shell to Sea activists who have, once again, frustrated Shell’s attempts to both expropriate Irish natural resources and force a dangerous experimental project on the residents of Erris.”
He added: “We are at a critical juncture in this struggle. Over coming weeks and months it is vital that all of those who oppose this project and the giveaway of Irish natural resources mobilise in support of the local community, who are, once again, being forced to live under siege as massive state and private security forces are mobilised in support of Shell.
“It is time to end the tyranny of the markets and reassert the power of the people.”
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