Three sentenced for Shell in Erris

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For the past eight years the people of Rossport in North West Mayo have been struggling against an at- tempt by Shell and other companies to build a dangerous and destructive gas processing terminal near to their homes and their community. This development would benefit no-one but wealthy shareholders as the Irish Government handed over the extraction rights to the oil companies in the 1980s and 1990s.

All the exploration costs going back many years as sell as the cost of building the refinery can be written off in full, that is, one hundred per cent against tax. This means that not only will people in Ireland get no benefit from the gas reserves, but that it’s not even costing Shell anything. The state has responded to the efforts of the local community by sending hundreds of Gardai to this rural region in an effort to destroy the popular resistance to the proposed gas terminal.The Gardai have conducted a campaign of harassment, intimidation, beatings and arrests directed against those who oppose the development. Recently the state, believing that the Shell to Sea campaign was weakening and isolated, has begun using the courts again to smash the campaign. Three local men were accused of trumped up charges of assaulting a Garda sergeant during a protest in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo.

Despite the contradictions in the Garda evidence Judge Mary Devins, who is married to Fianna Fail Junior minister Dr Jimmy Devins, convicted the three men and sentenced them to three months in prison and a fine of €500 each. This is simply one in a number of made up charges brought against those seen to be heavily involved in the Shell to Sea campaign. Closely following these arrests and court cases, after over eighteen months of providing a base for activists supporting the local Shell to Sea campaign, the Rossport Solidarity Camp was served notice to quit by Mayo County Council two weeks ago.

The community responded to this political policing by stepping up their campaign. The weeks that followed saw numerous occupations of the site, pickets and a non-violent blockade of the road leading to the proposed gas refinery.

The struggle in Rossport to have the refinery moved offshore hasn’tgone away and the coming months will be important in determining the future of the campaign. We need to stand by the people of Rossport as they challenge the right of the state to brutalise those who oppose the agenda of big business. The situation in Rossport concerns all of us. The natural resources of Ireland could be used to fund our ailing health service instead of lining the pockets of a few fat cats.
 


From Workers Solidarity 99, September October 2007

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