The main sponsors of this years tournament are none other than multi-national giants Shell. This is a company with an appalling human rights and environmental record worldwide, including just down the road from Béal an Mhuirthead where the tournaments finals are scheduled to take place.
It is an attempt to dilute opposition to their theft of our natural resources and their plans to force an unsafe pipeline carrying raw unrefined gas through a small rural community on the Erris peninsula. It is nothing more than another cynical attempt to portray themselves somehow as a generous and benevolent contributor to local events and causes and to the west of Ireland in general.
The reality is the complete opposite. Since Shell commenced their project in Mayo ten years ago, the local community have had their human rights trampled over by Shell. In this, they have been supported unconditionally by the political establishment and by all arms of the state, including the Navy, Air Corps, Gardai and judiciary, at massive cost, all at the tax-payers expense.
People have endured intimidation and assault at the hands of Shell's security and the Gardai, resulting in serious injuries and hospitalisation in many instances. Many more have suffered arbitary arrest and jailing at the behest of Shell, for simply trying to protect the environment and the health and safety of their families and the community at large.
The Rossport five were imprisoned for 94 days in 2005 for opposing the Dublin government decision to grant Shell permission to place their pipeline through their land without their consent. Maura Harrington has been jailed on a number of occasions as a result of her involvement in protests opposing Shell.
Regularly activists engaged in peaceful protests would be arrested, and either subsequently released without charge, or charged with minor and petty public order offences. The object being to disrupt protests being carried out at key times of the project and to divert protesters attention and resources away from campaign, tying them up with court cases. As subsequent court cases have shown (see here for previous article on this) people have regularly, and in large numbers, been illegally arrested and detained.
At the moment, two other prominent Shell to Sea campaigners and human rights activists Pat 'the Chief' O'Donnell and Niall Harnett are currently being held in Castlerea prison in County Roscommon. Like the Rossport five and Maura Harrington before them, Niall and Pat's only crime has been to stand up for their community and to refuse to be bribed, intimidated or beaten into submission.
Pat and his family have suffered enormously as a result of his refusal to accept financial compensation from Shell and to continue to insist on his right to fish in Broadhaven bay. Because of this both Shell and the Gardai have viewed him as a threat to their plans and have singled him out for special attention.
As a result, along with his son, he has suffered intense harassment, being repeatedly arrested while fishing for their living. He has had his boat impounded by the state and in June 2009, his boat was boarded late at night by men in wetsuits who held Pat and his fellow crew member at gunpoint while they sank his boat, leaving them just minutes to launch their lifeboat and get to safety. No-one has ever been arrested in relation to this incident.
And lest anyone be fooled into believing the myth of Shell's 'generosity', lets put it in its proper context. Shell has an annual turnover of more than £316 billion sterling. Their profits last year exceeded a staggering £35 billion sterlng, which translates into almost £100 million sterling profit every single day of last year.
Their sponsorship of Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta, a drop in their ocean and a tiny fraction of the wealth of the Corrib gas which they are attempting to take from the Irish people, is basically hush money. Shell want, by splashing around some of their ill gotten gains, to buy peoples' and organisations' silence, so they will ignore Shell's appalling human rights and environmental record. Such is the extent of these abuses worldwide that Amnesty International have been scathing in their criticism of Shell.
Various other Human Rights observers and organisations have also condemned Shell's and the Gardai's abuses in Mayo. Amongst those who have investigated and reported on these abuses has been the Global Community Monitor, a San Francisco based human rights group which visited Mayo in 2007. They highlighted numerous instances of people being “pushed and beaten by Gardai without provocation” and of Gardai delaying and denying medical treatment. They said the Gardai behaviour was “endangering the safety of people participating in non-violent protests as well as consistently infringing on their civil rights.”
More recently, Front Line issued their 'Breakdown In Trust: A Report on the Corrib Gas Dispute'. They too highlighted similar issues relating to the policing of this dispute and allegations of abuses by the Gardai and Shell security. These include both the seizure and the sinking of Pat O'Donnell's boat and the vicious assault that led to the hospitalisation of Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport five.
On top of their involvement in assaulting and illegally detaining demonstrators, Shells security firm, the notorious Irish Risk Management Services (I-RMS), have also engaged in surveillance of local residents opposed to the pipeline. They have videoed and photographed people on their own property and in their homes. They have acted similarly with people walking and swimming at Glengad beach, including filming children and others undressing on the beach.
Amongst those whom I-RMS have recruited into their ranks and deployed against the residents of north Mayo were members of the Hungarian right-wing fascist organisation, the Szekler Legion.
Tibor Revesz, a commander in the Szekler Legion and owner of its websites, was just one of that organisation's members that was an employee of I-RMS at Glengad. Working alongside him was Tipperary native Micheal Dwyer. Dwyer became involved with Revesz and others including the notorious Eduardo Rosza Flores, a suspected war crimal from the Balkans Civil war.
They were secretly filmed training and plotting to carry out terrorist attacks to destabilise and overthrow the democratically elected government of Bolivia on behalf of the rich white elite in the Santa Cruz region of the country. Indeed, the previous year, Revesz website made an appeal for volunteers to engage insuch an insurgency campaign in Santa Cruz. Dwyer and Flores were killed during a police raid on the hotel where they were staying. A number of others were arrested for their part in the plot while Revesz remains at large, but wanted for questioning by the Bolivian authorities.
These are the sort of right wing thugs with fascist sympathies and a propensity for violence that the local community in Mayo have had to endure. These are the people keeping residents under surveillance in their homes and as they go about their business, threatening them, intimidating them and assaulting them at Shell's behest and with the active assistance of the Gardai.
Some will say that those opposed to Shell should not bring politics into sports. They haven't. The reality is that it is Shell who have brought politics into this event by their attempt to enlist the GAA as part of their propaganda campaign. For its part, the GAA should never have accepted Shell as a sponsor. The theft of our natural resources, hundreds of billions of euros that could be used to reverse pay & welfare cuts, create jobs, eradicate poverty and properly fund our decimated health and education services, and the human rights abuses being committed by Shell and the state in Mayo and worldwide, cannot just be ignored in the name of sport.
There comes a time when organisations, sporting or otherwise, need to stop turning a blind eye to injustice. They need to stand up for what is right, for the welfare of their communities and for the people on this island as a whole. The GAA, at local, county and national level, as a matter of urgency now need to make their way to to the north Mayo area and listen to the people living there under Shell law. It is not too late for them to act in the interest of the people on the Erris peninsula, to act in the long term interests of the GAA and tell Shell they dont want to be tainted by accepting their dirty money, money obtained by corporate greed and environmental and human rights abuses.