History of the Rossport Solidarity Camp


The state and Shell attacks Shell to Sea

Since the Monday the 2nd of October our campaign in Mayo has come under a ferocious state attack. One hundred and fifty Gardai are stationed in the area (which incidentally has the lowest crime rate in the country).

The police attack begins October the 3rd
On Tuesday the 3rd of October 2006 our 18-month blockade of the shell construction sites was violently broken by the police. At 3.30 am there was a large amount of police activity with roadblocks were set up. At about six o clock the guards forced the security guards through injuring a local woman. A sit down protest then followed to try and block the shell workers entry. At 6.30 a.m. protestors were violently dragged away from the blockade - with one man receiving a broken finger. The police have adopted a no arrest policy (http://www.indymedia.ie/article/80229) – they admitted as much in their magazine so they are using unusual levels of aggression in an attempt to smash the campaign, this has failed.

The community hit back on Monday October the 9th
A crowd of around two hundred people turned out to stop the movement of workers and materials to the Bellinaboy site. A series of sit down protests were staged along the “Shell highway” (the haulage route for the site), which saw police reaction get progressively rougher as the day went on.

Protesters gathered from half six at the junction of the “Shell highway” and the Bellinaboy road with the intention of stopping work. As eight am approached the word went out that the convoy of workers was making its way up the Shell highway. Campaigners marched up the Shell highway, where a bus of Gardai was waiting. There was a mood of defiance amongst the crowd as attempts by Sgt. Gannon to berate them were drowned out by louder shouts of “Shell to Sea”. After it became apparent that campaigners were determined to hold their ground Gardai began to forcibly drag people out of the way of the vehicles. Gardai lifted some people from the left hand side of the road and deposited them on top of those still sitting, causing a dangerous pile up. After clearing one side of the road Gardai formed a cordon pushing the remaining seated protesters back and allowing the convoy of half full minibuses ferrying Shell’s hired labour past. The protests delayed work until 10 o clock

Solidarity days

October 20th
The first was on October the 20th where supporters came from all over the country to support the community. The day began the same as usual except the protest numbers were larger by several hundred. The crowd started to move up the road before the convoy arrived. As the convoy arrived people slowly started to blockade and soon the road was full of people snaking in and out between the convoy. The police adopted rough tactics pushing and shoving people into drains and ditches. This continued on for four hours when the protest eventually petered out but the convoys were delayed for hours.

This is one camper’s view of the day

The morning started at 6 o'clock when people gathered at a t-junction near the refinery site which shell use to access the refinery site. There was a slow march up towards the refinery site, which over time turned into a blockade with people walking very slowly in front of vehicles and then the guards having to pull people away. This pretty well as a blockade. When we reached the refinery site which was about a kilometer and a half away from our start point we stopped. People kind of re-grouped, we then marched back down the road and went further past the t-junction for about 2 kilometers, constantly blocking the trucks on the way out of the refinery site to do the pickup and the trucks coming back in. Then we turned around after going down those 2 kilometers and walked back up again and did this.

At this stage the police who had gotten very, very aggressive were throwing an awful lot of punches, punched a woman in the stomach, punched other people in the face, kicked people, quite violent, cornered us in. And then some of the local community led some of the people who had come down on a [??mission??] through the bog and back out onto the road again and they continued the blockade again. The blockade kind of dissipated around 12 o'clock.

Quite an enjoyable day was had by all and quite effective. Like, the blockade is I suppose, ... or I suppose more accurately the disruption continued to 12 o'clock today. Everyone was quite empowered by the whole process. People really felt empowered by the fact that all these people had come from all across the country: Dublin, Cork, Galway, Clare, Belfast, [noise of passing car] Donegal. It was a great show of solidarity today, there was about 300, 400 people on the demonstration.”
Audio transcript of this interview available at http://radio.indymedia.org/uploads/natdayaction20oct.mp3

The second day of action: November 10th
This date became a day of infamy not only in Nigeria but also in Erris as the police viciously attacked the demonstration hospitilising four people one quite seriously.
Friday, November 10th was the eleventh anniversary of the state murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni activists in Nigeria, at the behest of Shell. The day was chosen by the Shell to Sea campaign to highlight this horrific act and show solidarity with the Niger delta.

The protestors witnessed a quantum leap in Gardai violence against legitimate protest in Rossport. The gardai were caught on camera baton-charging the protestors and throwing one protestor over a fence into a deep ditch. Several injuries were reported and several people were hospitalised. One man was followed into a field by three gardai, pulled to the ground and savagely beaten in front of a dozen witnesses. The state and Shell have embarked on a course of thuggery and intimidation and are clearly set on smashing the protests. More info at
(www.indymedia.ie/article/79648)

Since November the tenth a continuous protest has existed at the proposed Refinery site. Any attempts to blockade are met with heavy-handed police tactics. On January 19th the police attacked the picket again seriously injuring two local fishermen who were subsequently hospitalised.

The police have constantly tried to violently beat the protest and the community into submission but this has failed. We have witnessed several community campaigners and campers being hospitalised but

 

Solidarity Gathering, June 2005
Rossport Solidarity Camp was established in the middle of June 2005, at the request of residents of Rossport, in north-west Mayo, Ireland, opposing the construction of a high pressure gas pipeline and inland gas refinery in their area. It was born out of a solidarity gathering held in Rossport on the first weekend in June that year. That weekend over two hundred people, from every corner of the island and beyond, gathered in Rossport to learn about the issues surrounding the Corrib gas project at first hand.

The Lorry Action
Those involved in organising the gathering kept in contact with people in the area and we got the call to return to Rossport on June 18th, after residents had begun a particular action. This action related to the virtual absence of a traffic management plan for Rossport, despite the fact that Shell aimed to put 60 to 70 trucks a day on a narrow country lane. Basically if you are driving up that wee road, going from your house into town to do the shopping or pick up the kids from the train station, and you meet a lorry carrying pipeline to build a unprecedented high-pressure pipeline next to your house, then you have to turn around and leave the road, that road being too narrow for both cars and the Shell lorries. This despite the fact you have right of way.

One day a Rossport resident met a Shell lorry on the narrow road and instead of reversing to let the lorry pass simply parked on the side of the road halting the lorry, which was too wide to pass the car, but allowing ordinary traffic to pass. Other residents parked their cars along the road and thus began a 12 day, 24 hours a day, vigil by the roadside holding the Shell lorry hostage.

At this stage there were only 3 or 4 “campers”, who were actually staying in a house and assisting with the lorry vigil. Some days before this Shell made an attempt to access the farmlands adjoining peoples’ houses, having been refused, on the basis, later shown to be correct, that they didn’t have ministerial permission. They then sought the imprisonment of five men from among those who refused them entry, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath and Michael O’Seighin. On the 28th June the five men were summoned to the high court and subsequently imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to abide by the court injunction barring them from interfering with Shell workers laying the pipe on their land.

The Camp is set up, June 2005
After the jailing of the five men it was feared that Shell may attempt to lay the pipe in their absence. Campers and residents began to picket the Shell compound site in Rossport. During this time campers moved out of the house in which they had been staying and began to set up a camp. In a short space of time, and in a fairly ad-hoc, spontaneous and improvised manner, the camp was assembled. Cooking equipment and experience came from the Bitchin’ Kitchen Collective, who were to be at festivals and protests around Europe, but fortunately didn’t get much further than a field in Mayo, a marquee was donated by Dissent, one of the groups organising the G-8 protests in Scotland, some tents were borrowed from here and there, some bodies came from NUI Galway Ecology Society, some from environmentalist group Gluaiseacht. All this was put together early in July, on Philip McGrath’s small farm and right on the supposed pipeline route. A further camp, or more of an off-host from the main camp, was set up on the other side of the estuary from Rossport, in Glengad, where the supposed land fall for the off-shore pipeline is to be.

From the end of June 2005 the main activity of the camp was picketing the construction compound in Rossport in conjunction with Rossport residents. This was done from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, with two people on three-hour shifts keeping watch. For two months there was also a constant gárda presence at the compound sites. In early July Shell, unable to continue work due to the constant pickets, announced a suspension of work on the pretext of calling for a ‘period of calm’.

Solidarity Week & the Grassroots Gathering, August 2005
At the end of August Rossport Solidarity Camp organised the solidarity week culminating in the Tenth Grassroots Gathering. A lot of people from England travelled over to join the camp at this time. The solidarity week featured a social night for campers and residents, workshops, a Rossport Five street theatre in Castlebar, and a blockade of a Statoil depot in Ballina.

At the Tenth Grassroots Gathering there were speakers from, or speaking about, Derrybrien Development Society, the Woodland League, Galway for a Safe Environment, Gorleben anti-nuclear protest camp, anti-pylon groups from Roscommon and Donegal and the campaign against Merrill Dow in Cork in the late 80’s. There were also skills share workshops. Over one hundred people attended the Gathering that weekend, with Rossport Solidarity Camp briefly blossoming into three camps on the pipeline route.


Winter; preparing for Rossport Solidarity Camp ‘06
The camp disbanded at the end of the construction season in October both because Shell had ceased work and because conditions on the campsite became too wet as autumn advanced. People involved in the camp did not want to leave the area and so a house was rented not far from Rossport where we set up an office with Internet and phone access. Throughout the winter months we prepared for the coming summer’s camp which we wanted to be bigger and better than summer ’05 .

Camp participants spoke at meetings around Ireland and we organised specific ‘building the camp’ meetings in Dublin and Galway to get more people involved. Two participants in the camp went on speaking tour of England before Christmas, speaking at social centres and various other venues in London, Brighton, Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Lancaster, and Oxford. A further speaking tour of Scotland and England happened in February and we spoke in locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as visiting several protest camps; Faslane near Glasgow, Bilston near Edinburgh, Nine Ladies near Sheffield and Camp Bling in Southend-on-Sea. In January a camper attended the World Social Forum in Venezuela on behalf of the Shell to Sea campaign.

As well as promoting the camp through talks and meetings we also worked on how we would organise and run the camp in regard to issues such as our approach to the media, decision making structures, dealing with sexual harassment etc. A skill share weekend was held at Halloween with workshops on permaculture, alternative energy, campaign tactics, media and safer spaces (dealing with issues of sexual harassment within ‘activist’ circles).

On the 17th and 18th of February actions of solidarity were held across Ireland and the UK as well as in Holland and Sweden aimed at highlighting the reopening of the camp and marking the beginning of a new season of resistance against Shell and the state.

The Camp reopens, February 2006
Rossport Solidarity Camp re-opened on the 25th of February 2006. Whereas in 2005 the camp was located on the route of the pipeline in Rossport, it was decided that this year’s camp would be located on the landfall of the pipeline, on the beach at Glengad. On the weekend of the 25th over thirty Shell to Sea supporters from across the country assisted campers and Rossport residents in the construction of the camp. A marquee and several benders (structures made from bent hazel poles) were constructed that weekend and in the subsequent weeks we have built more benders, compost toilets, food composting facilities, a grey water system, pathways, and a kitchen.

So far we have had visitors from England, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and the United States. On the weekend of the 10th of March 50 students from N.U.I.M and U.C.D. as well as campaigners from Dublin Shell to Sea visited Rossport Solidarity Camp to learn more about the issues and to contribute to the building of the camp.

Rossport Solidarity Camp Gathering, June 2006
On the bank holiday weekend 2nd to 5th of June we marked the first anniversary of our involvement in the resistance to Shell in Mayo with another gathering on the camp. Reports are here: http://indymedia.ie/article/76731 http://indymedia.ie/article/76711 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/06/343030.html http://indymedia.ie/article/76500 http://www.indymedia.ie/article/76466

 


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