An introduction to the struggle in Rossport against the Shell pipeline


For over a year since 2005 members of the WSM and many others from the anarchist/libertarian milieu have been heavily involved in a struggle by a small community in a rural part of Ireland against the construction of a gas refinery by the consortium of Shell, Marathon and Statoil being carried out with the full support of the Irish State.

The root of the struggle is the Corrib Gas field which is located off the coast of Mayo, a impoverished rural area on the West coast of Ireland. The gas was discovered, and was thus owned by Enterprise Oil before it was bought out by a consortium of Shell, Statoil, and Marathon. According to a deal struck by the government, exploration companies are allowed exclusive exploitation rights to their findings. Not only that, but they will be able to write off their costs against taxes, meaning that the whole process is being funded by the Irish taxpayer, who will receive nothing, not even a decrease in gas prices.

To process the oil the consortium have been given permission to build a pipeline from the field straight onshore to a refinery at a location called Bellanaboy, neither of these developments have the consent of the local community who are justifiably concerned about the health and safety consequences of living next to a gas refinery. The pipeline carries gas directly from the field to the refinery, so it is unprocessed and highly pressurised. Moreover, to get to the refinery it has to pass through the land of local people, who fear that a rupture in the pipeline will destroy their homes, killing them. A rupture of this pipeline is very possible since the pipe passes over extremely unstable bogland and is in an area prone to landslides.

The terminal itself will almost certainly cause long term harm not only to its immediate neighbours, but to people elsewhere also. Gas processing is by its nature extremely harmful to the ecosystem, one estimate suggests that there will be at least 30 million cubic feet of emission per day into the air. The terminal is only two kilometers away from the water supply of the region, and these emissions will travel further afield with the prevailing wind currents. Not only that, but there will be wastewater pumped out every day into Broadhaven Bay which is a source of livelihood for many fishermen and a breeding ground for mammalian wild-life. The drainage pit for the wastewater is not built to withstand heavy rainfall, despite the fact that this part of Ireland has near constant rain. This means that wastewater containing lead, nickel, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, arsenic, mercury and the radioactive gas radon will end up in the water supply for the surrounding area.

Despite repeated attempts by local people to prevent the development through the legal system they have been ignored by a government and legislature acting as the footsoldier of big business. Last year Shell were given injunctions against local landowners which meant that these landowners could not legally prevent Shell from entering their land to construct the pipeline which will endanger them and their families. When these landowners refused to abide by these terms they were jailed. This sparked vast public outrage and finally after 92 days in prison, the men were let out, a few days before a national demonstration.

For over a year there has been constant pickets at the refinery site, to prevent any construction work from taking place. In October of this year, Shell, Statoil and Marathon made a concerted effort to break the local campaign using force. Several hundred police were moved down to this remote part of Ireland to prevent the local community from blockading trucks and workers going to the site. This operation seems so far unsuccessful, although they have broken the picket they have not broken the spirits of those who resist the development. In fact, the solidarity shown by people from all over Ireland, and the success of direct action tactics relative to legal measures has hardened the resolve of the local campaign. It will take several years of building before the refinery will be operational, and even once completed the complex will have to be secured in the long term against an unfriendly community. In this context, the task of Shell and the State seems extremely difficult, and we have every reason to hope for success.

The WSM has been active within the community and the national campaign since its beginning. For us, the basis of this campaign is direct action; a local community struggling to gain control over their own environment and the decisions that affect them. As anarchists, we believe that it is through participation in struggle that the working class will develop an understanding of capitalism and the potential to overthrow it. Thus we will always support and encourage these struggles, victory in Rossport will be a victory for people everywhere.


This is the English version of the article explaining the struggle in Rossport written for the WSM Spanish language bulletin


Liberación 1 - Boletín Internacional en Castellano del WSM -

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