50 days and counting into his Shell-imposed imprisonment, Shell to Sea shows support for their hero and friend
After a week when nearly all the court cases against Shell to Sea campaigners were defeated, withdrawn or thrown out, over a hundred opponents of the Great Oil & Gas Robbery from all around the country gathered outside the gates of Castlerea Prison this Saturday afternoon to protest the continuing imprisonment of their good friend and Shell to Sea colleague Pat O'Donnell.
As the bright Spring afternoon in Castlerea turned to early evening, Pat's supporters gathered at the entrance to the prison with an array of very colourful banners. The court victories of the previous week contributed to the optimistic spirit that animated the growing crowd. Many motorists on their weekend business beeped their support for the protest as they passed the prison gates. After nearly an hour of friendly chat, catching up with news and waiting for latecomers, the event proper got underway soon after 4p.m.
A quartet of traditional musicians from the Chief's native Erris began with a short set of reels. Among them was Vincent McGrath, himself formerly a hostage held by Shell (one of the Rossport Five), like Pat is now. Then Maura Harrington (who also has been jailed for Shell – several times in fact) gave a short speech which recalled the key issues at stake for Erris and Ireland (and the world) during this campaign. The people then formed up into a line with their placards, flags and banners, and they marched to the prison walls and re-formed just outside the entrance way, in front of the sentry room's windows.
The crowd spent over half an hour at the prison entry, displaying their banners and chanting their slogans of support for Pat. Maura Harrington spoke again, this time highlighting Pat's conditions of imprisonment and the toll his being in jail is exacting on his family. While the staff at the prison have been quite considerate of Pat, he has been refused transfer to Loughan House, where a more open regime applies. Visiting Pat at Castlerea Prison has been difficult for his family, particularly for his youngest daughter. Maura reminded people too that Pat's jailing keeps him away from the sea and Broadhaven Bay, his place of work since his youth, and that for his defence of his native seas Pat has been jailed by Shell's government and slandered by Shell's judges and had his normal enjoyment of convivial family life interrupted.
After some more chanting and banner displaying at the entranceway, the protestors re-formed into marching order and returned to the outer gates of the prison, ending the protest just after half past five. The people took some time to head away, preferring for a time to chat some more but also to take down the bright tableau of posters and banners in support of Pat that adorned the prison gates for two hours or more on a sunny bright spring afternoon.
Letters, cards and other tokens of solidarity with Pat O'Donnell can be sent to him at the address below: