We are currently in prison for refusing to allow Shell and their Irish government partners to build a pipeline close to our family homes. Our crime was to refuse access to our lands. We have refused access because of the certainty that, if this pipeline as currently proposed ruptures, we, our families and neighbours will die.
What would you do if a court ordered you to accept the installation of a potentially lethal pipeline which no state agency has or will take responsibility for?
We are currently in prison for an indefinite time until we accept such a pipeline, which we cannot and will not. Would the people of Mayo or Dublin accept a potentially lethal pipeline through the main street in Castlebar or Stephen’s Green in Dublin? A pipeline which has a rupture kill zone of several hundred metres? We think not.
Our imprisonment was only made possible by the granting of a compulsory order for our lands to Shell by Frank Fahey TD while minister for marine and natural resources. Without that order, we would be free men today at home with our families. Instead we are confined in prison cells.
Initially we were jubilant and excited for Mayo and the country when we heard of the Corrib gas find. When we learned that the route would traverse Rossport, we became concerned and, as we looked closer and sought advice, we became alarmed. As Irish citizens and mainly traditional second and third-generation Fine Gael and Fianna Fail voters, we instinctively sought reassurance and support from state agencies and our local politicians and as farmers from the IFA [Irish Farmers’ Association]. We were initially fobbed off, then ignored and finally marginalised. As our awareness of the lethal danger to our families grew, our concerns turned into resistance.
We owe much in particular to the incredible continued support of Jerry Cowley TD and Michael Ring TD and the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail grass roots in Mayo. By comparison, we have been shocked by the abandonment in our time of crisis by the Fine Gael leader and local TD Enda Kenny, who we now regard as irrelevant in this crisis as a leader. We would also like to acknowledge the massive support we have received from both ordinary Irish citizens and various groupings including ICSA [Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association], ICMSA [Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association], National Women’s Council, SWP [Socialist Workers Party], the Greens, Sinn Féin and Labour along with Louth and Galway county councils, Udaras na Gaeltachta and many other local authorities and organisations.
To date, the dealings of the Irish government in this project have seen our land rights given to a private company, our families’ and neighbours’ very lives endangered and the natural resource of the Irish people given away. This is to such an extent that the Norwegian people, through their state oil company Statoil holding 38 per cent of the Corrib field, will receive more from this project than the Irish people who have a zero per cent holding. In addition, the government has provided 400 acres [162 hectares] of Coillte land and committed the Irish people to finance a gas pipe from Mayo to Galway to facilitate the outward transport of gas to the UK and Europe. The national interest is a myth that has been fabricated by the Irish government and their partner Shell. The minister Noel Dempsey and his department are not and have never been innocent bystanders in this crisis but have played a full role alongside Shell in its creation.
Despite all of this, we, in good faith, acknowledge the attempts of Shell and their government partners to create a period of calm by halting all work on the project in north Mayo and by their call for dialogue. We wish to immediately accept this offer and enter into talks to resolve the impasse. To that end, we ask Shell and their government partners to immediately stand down their injunction at this time so that we can leave prison to attend these talks.
We have been betrayed by our government, marginalised by sections of the media and ignored by the “alternative” government. Instead, it has been the people of Ireland who have sustained us during this time of crisis and personal trauma and who have rallied and continue to rally to our aid. Thank you. All we demand is for our families and neighbours to be safe in their own homes -- no more, no less.
Micheal O Seighin
Cloverhill Prison, Dublin