March 7th at the Galway Rowing Club.
A Teach-in/Entertainment organised by Galway Shell to Sea, on the theme of “the resources of Ireland belong to the people of Ireland.”
The storms, the lashing rain, the high winds of March 7th, seemed to reflect the maelstrom of corruption and the abysmal failure of our successive governments leading us all to bankruptcy. However, in spite of the weather, there was an excellent attendance with lots of new faces – families and children in good numbers – by no means your typical ‘converted’ audience – and all to find out what has happened to our resources. It was a light as well as an intense day, with a strong contingent from Rossport, children (out of range of the serious speeches) happily drawing or playing the snakes and ladders game, and wonderful gifts of food from participants. The Rowing Club is a first-class venue for such occasions with a kitchen opening out of the foyer so that people could freely move in and out making their own cups of tea. With an abundance of food and continual tea an event day can scarcely go wrong.
We had a comprehensive exhibition of maps of the world’s resources (made available free for educational purposes by LeTene Maps), information from the Norwegian embassy, and photo-posters from the amazing London-based Art Not Oil, a mission statement outlining the horrors of the oil companies’ exploitation and the hypocrisy of allowing these companies to sponsor the arts. We ran a continuous loop on a TV monitor showing the battles at Rossport – a non-stop reminder of the destructive power of Big Oil. There were maps and information sheets of countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico and even Russia, which have successfully renegotiated the oilmongers’ contracts – if it has been possible for the, why not for Ireland? Why must we regard as inevitable the miserable and despicable story of how our country gave everything away?
We heard scrupulous and detailed analyses of this giveaway from Padraic Campbell, himself an oil-rig worker, who explained the full nature of our resources and the lies and distortions of how the companies got control. Frank Connolly put that corruption in context, systematically taking us through the decades and elucidating the devious paths by which Fianna Fail (determined to stay in power and to protect their party funds at all costs) laid a foundation of sell-out with no heed to the future of man, woman, child, beast or environment. Who after listening to this appalling story, and seeing with our own eyes the process in Nigeria leading to the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa in the film “Let Not Shell Kill Again,”.can complacently observe Shell’s arrogant insistence on once more bringing its pipes into Glengad, with the renewed help, no doubt of the Irish Navy and very likely the Army this time round, if Eoghan Harris’s speech in the Seanad is anything to go by – “It is time,” he ejaculated, “that we toughened up and took as a role model the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lt-Gen Dermot Early, who told his men some days ago that they would do their duty in the event of public unrest and public striking. We should do the same.”
The Women’s International Day section was strongly emotional as women from Erris narrated how they gradually became aware of the horrors that were coming down on their community. Two grandmothers from another part of the country told their story of how they answered the call to the Bellanaboy demonstrations: they said that breaking into the half-built terminal was the best day of their lives. The session was wound up with the heroic presence of Padraic McCana, the poet from Castlebar, tall and blond, looking like an ancient Fianna warrior, evoked the old bardic tradition, and gave forth his high oratorical call for resistance. The indomitable Maura Harrington had the last word of the evening with the battle cry, “Hold Glengad! If Shell can be prevented from bringing in the gas at Glengad, it will be the beginning of the crumpling of the power of the Multinationals and their cosy sweetheart deals with the Government.”
Photos by Tommy Donnellan