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Spirit of Contradiction >>
Open Letter to the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association.
Monday July 21, 2008 07:46 by Niall Harnett - Shell to Sea. clareshelltosea at gmail dot com 086 8444966
People & Communities are never more powerful than when gathered together, in the fight, on the roads, on the land, or on the seas.
I write this letter to you the Fishermen of Erris, to your association, and to you all as individuals, and as men, in the light of Shell ‘intransigence‘, as you put it, and the arrival of Shell’s pipe-laying ship ‘the Solitaire’ off our shores.
It seems Shell have hit a right nerve with you guys and you’re very correct to be reacting with the defiance you’re adopting … again and at this time.
I’m sure you’re considering certain legal action to protect your fishing rights in Broadhaven Bay and beyond, and very good grounds indeed you have to do that, and succeed. But I wouldn’t be relying on that alone, if things don’t work out like!
If the law makers are making laws for Shell and Shell only, those ‘laws’ should be disobeyed in any case.
And we’re all well very aware of some of the bold and important stances you’ve already taken in the part you play in the hard fight against Shell and the Irish Government for the protection of Erris, it’s families, communities and it’s environment on and off shore.
It rests with the people (that's you and me friends!) to settle this question, finally.
In the summer of 2005 when Shell’s pipe-laying ship ‘the Solitaire’ was heading for Erris, your association made an announcement that you would be exercising your fishing rights in Broadhaven Bay and effectively blockading any effort of Shell’s Solitaire to lay their offshore pipeline. This, at a time when 5 local men languished in jail for their (since legitimised) stance against a Shell/State complicity. After a short summer of successful pickets of the Corrib Gas Project, both locally and nationally, your brave and timely announcement was the straw that broke the camels back, and caused Shell to announce an indefinite suspension of all work on the project at that time.
In December of the same year, in a written submission to Government, you raised ‘concerns that are of paramount importance to the livelihood and way of life of fishermen and their families. Our concerns have never been addressed by any Government agency or legislative authority‘. You said that Shell were ‘intransigent and it was evident that Shell will do what is most advantageous for Shell regardless of the consequences‘. You expressed the ‘preferred option of the E.I.F.A. to be the refining of Corrib Natural Gas on a shallow water platform somewhere about the midway point between source and landfall where the workers will face no more dangers than we do in our daily lives. It will eliminate the need for a high pressure onshore pipeline, render the emissions and their fallout relatively harmless and cut by half the distance of the outfall pipe to source for eventual rejection into the well‘.
On Monday 14th July 2008 you organised a flotilla of boats in a demonstration at Ballyglass Pier, (a base for Shell offshore operations), to articulate the fact that for the past 8 years it has been ‘Shell’s way or the Highway’ and your efforts to be reasonable with Shell have failed to realise any support from them or the government.
Fisherman Pat O’Donnell, who has earned national respect for his honesty, and who has remained steadfast in his opposition to Shell, despite severe backlash from the State which has been aimed at him personally in order to disable him, said again last Monday that he will block the Solitaire in order to protect his fishing rights, where Shell and the government are failing in their responsibilities to protect him and his fellow fishermen and families. That’s a serious statement. And another bold move with the Solitaire on it’s way.
‘Go hard or go home’ is an expression that comes to mind with regard to Pat, and he’s not for shirking. Fair play Chief.
In these moments of ‘coming together’ there’s a certain clarity of purpose that comes to mind along with a sense of strength and power, the power of community etc. A confidence and a sense of right. Don’t you know it?
I’ve read that in ‘biological terms‘, a ‘community’ is described as a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment. I like that definition very much myself.
What kind of organism are Shell? What kind of organism is our government?
Alien organisms I’d say. Bacteria perhaps? Viruses maybe?
Harmful definitely. And only time will tell the full extent of that harm, and that damage … if we give in.
What harm already? Social division big-time now. State & Garda violence. Environmental Damage. Economic treason, the theft of our natural resources, the great gas giveaway. The robbery of the century as Terence ‘the Redoubtable’ Conway puts it.
Ken Saro-Wiwa and his people declared Shell ‘persona non-grata’ in Ogoni. They said No to Shell.
We didn’t say No to Shell altogether. We said Shell to Sea. We offered a compromise.
Shell to Sea is the compromise. Build your refinery at sea on an offshore shallow water platform, as recommended by Kevin Moore, Senior Inspector of An Bord Pleanala, and we’ll accommodate you.
Shell to Sea is the compromise.
And it’s enough of a compromise. Plenty for sure for Shell in any case, that’s for sure.
But No, Shell pushed for all that they want. No compromise on their part. None.
And our government rolled over and over, and rolls over still. What a disgrace?!
But what kind of people are we? What kind are you fishermen?
Are we gonna roll over? Are you?
I suggest not my friends, and why not? Because it’s the right thing to do.
If the State can re-arrange the laws, manage the law and re-write the rules of law to suit Shell, is that just? Is it fair? Or is the State abusing the law to construct an injustice? Yes.
So where the State has the utmost obligation to act justly, especially towards it’s citizens and communities, and is in fact conspiring with an ‘alien organism’ to outlaw and criminalise the just and legitimate popular opposition to the harmful threat of this foreign party (Shell), and effectively colluding in causing harm to it’s citizens, what should we do? Lie down? Or Stand Up to this Injustice? Obey? Or Disobey?
What does that word mean?
It means what it meant to Mahatma Gandhi when he and his people suffered beatings, jailings and killings for their civil and peaceful disobedience to the ‘colonial powers’. They were required by law to carry ‘identity passes’. Gandhi organised public bonfires to burn those passes and took the first blows himself from the police.
It means what it meant to black America and Rosa Parks when she would not obey racist laws and refused to give her seat to a white woman on the bus. She initiated a huge movement against racial segregation by her simple act of defiance to an unjust law.
Nelson Mandela and his comrades toughed it out in a brutally cruel prison regime on Robben Island, for years, in their fight against apartheid. And incidentally, they have chosen to forgive their captors, and the crimes white man, in the interests of a ‘New South Africa’.
“It’s time you recognized that you are masters in someone else’s home”, Gandhi told the British. “And it’s time for you to leave”.
It’s time for Shell to get out of Erris, out of Bellanaboy, Glengad and Rossport. Out of Broadhaven Bay.
We’ve offered them a compromise. Put your refinery at sea.
Ghandi said that matters had gone beyond legislation, beyond the law.
Laws are fallible, man-made and all too often unjust. The Law is an Ass when it comes to the Gas.
Justice is the same yesterday, today and forever. So we’ll just stick to that, whatever the law says.
Civil Disobedience can be defined as the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power (Shell) without resorting to physical violence. Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws.
People have been doing it for centuries, and rightly so, to protect what’s right and to reject what’s wrong. If the law and the agents of law want to come against that, that’s their problem. And we can make it their problem now because we’ve learned how to, over the last few years. Mark my words.
Shell to Sea. No less.
To settle for anything less is to compromise beyond compromise into a disabling and weak position. There is little relief there.
Staying focused on the original goal, a goal that brought so many people together in community, strength and vision, will get results.
Shell to Sea.
Regroup. Refocus. Result.
No more compromise. Original compromise stands. Shell to Sea.
"It is the people whose right it is to decide all questions of national policy according to the requirements of the common good."
Article 6 of the Irish Constitution.
"It rests with the people finally to settle every question regarding the policies of the Nation, in accordance with what is necessary for the welfare of the people."
Article 6 of the Irish Constitution, literal translation from the original Irish text - Bunreacht Na hÉireann.
Anyone whose heard the Shell to Sea argument knows it’s right. There is no argument against the Shell to Sea position. That’s why the government won’t debate the issues. They know they’ll lose. But still they persist in pumping for Shell and have pushed the Corrib Gas Project on … by force.
I’ll ask the question again.
Lie down or Stand up. Obey or Disobey?
A little flak from the Irish State is a small price to pay compared to the Shell noose that hung Saro-Wiwa. He knew he was gonna die and was prepared to pay that price for his community. He was a normal guy like you and me. We’ve all got guts like Saro-Wiwa, if we just make the effort.
Keep that Solitaire out of Broadhaven Bay please lads.
You mind the seas and we’ll mind the land. Ignore that refinery at Bellanaboy. It’s just a mirage.
A white elephant in the bog without a pipeline. Let’s keep that pipeline OUT.
You know it makes sense.
And just to finish with an important …
Reminder: There are no benefits to the people of Ireland from Shell’s exploitation of the government’s giveaway of the billions and billions (and counting) of euros worth of natural gas and oil off our shores. According to Mike Cunningham, a former director of Statoil Exploration (Ireland), ‘No other country in the world has given such favourable terms as Ireland.’ In other places in Europe the state take can be 55% or even 79% of an oil/gas field. In Ireland it’s … eh … wait for it … 0%.
It’d be a good joke if it wasn’t so deadly fuckin’ serious!
Don’t you agree?
When wrong becomes right, it’s our duty to fight.