The journalists and politicians who attended the conference were met by activists demanding the nationalisation of the Corrib gas field and an end to Shell’s brutal assaults on the Erris community.
Shell’s hastily convened spin operation was called in the wake of the hijacking and sinking of a Mayo fisherman’s boat by a number of unidentified masked men. The hurried nature of the event suggested that their PR machine was attempting to upstage a press conference to be held the following day by the fisherman in question, Pat O’Donnell, during which he was due to give further details of the attack.
O’Donnell has been prominent in the last number of years in opposing Shell’s project in Erris and has rejected any overtures at coming to an accommodation with the company. The sinking of his boat follows the recent assault on fellow local and anti-Shell activist Willie Corduff, also by a group of masked men.
Speaking at the event, éirígí spokesperson Daithí Mac An Mhaistír said: “Shell’s press conference was merely an attempt to spin its way out of culpability in the recent attacks against the people of north-west Mayo and justify the attempted exploitation of the natural resources in Corrib.
“These attacks, including the hijacking and sinking of Pat O’Donnell’s boat, constitute an attack on the rights of Irish citizens.
“The attacks are, of course, typical of Shell’s internationally renowned modus operandi of bullying, intimidation and human rights abuses. A casual glance at Shell’s recent history provides plenty of evidence. Only last week, Shell was forced to pay $15 million compensation to the Ogoni people of Nigeria for their collusion with the military regime in human rights abuses.
“The Ogoni community’s success in demonstrating Shell’s complicity in torture and murder carried out by a military junta should provide a wake up call to those in Ireland who have chosen to ignore the company’s destructive and increasingly sinister activities in Mayo.
“At the heart of Shell’s behaviour lies their greed. The Corrib gas field contains billions of euro worth of natural gas. In Shell’s estimation, intimidation, assault and hijackings are a legitimate means of accessing these resources.
“The Dublin government has an obligation to protect the economic interests of the Irish people by nationalising the Corrib gas field, ensuring the retention of billions of euro in the public coffers. They also have a duty to protect Irish citizens against attack by hired thugs.
“After all, the resources that lie buried in Corrib belong to the people of Ireland, not a private company.”
And in a another development yet another discovery of hydrocarbon natural resources has been made off the west coast of Ireland.
On Tuesday, June 9, Serica Energy, a British-owned company, announced the discovery of oil off the Mayo coastline.
The find, located approximately 40km south of the Corrib gas field, is the latest in a series of such discoveries off the west coast. In recent years, both foreign and indigenous corporations have been granted drilling licences to explore Ireland’s coastlines for natural resources, with many of them proving successful. There is estimated to be hundreds of billions of euro worth of oil and gas in Irish territorial waters.
However, due to the slavish actions of the Twenty-Six County government, the people of Ireland will fail to benefit from these natural resources in any substantial way. Under the current deal, the Irish people receive no royalties and no percentage share from any oil and gas harvested. So poor is the current deal that even a reduction in the retail price of any oil and gas discovered or guarantees on employment opportunities do not exist.
The most recent discovery will prove no different. The profits from whatever oil is extracted from the find will merely swell the coffers of Serica Energy, while the Irish people will be forced to buy back the oil at full cost price.
In a statement typical of the fawning attitude that the Dublin government has adopted towards the multinational energy companies, minister of state Conor Lenihan managed to mention that he hoped the find would “lead to further commercial activity within the licensed area involved”.
éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said: “The discovery of yet another potential source of energy off the Irish coastline should come as good news. The financial potential that this find, and others like it hold, is massive, with potential profits in the tens of billions. Sadly, however, these profits will not benefit the Irish people. Instead, they will simply add to the bank balances of the multinationals.
“The response of the Twenty-Six County government to this discovery has been pathetic. The best response that Conor Lenihan can summon is a statement which amounts to cheerleading for the further private exploitation of Irish natural resources.
“Ireland’s natural resources don’t belong to Serica, Shell, Providence Resources or any other private company, foreign or indigenous – they belong to the people of Ireland. This fact has been conveniently forgotten by the politicians whose goal in life seems to be to curry favour with the business class.
“éirígí repeats its call for the establishment of a state-owned national exploration company, whose task it would be to discover and harvest the natural resources of Ireland for the benefit of the people of Ireland.”