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Over the weekend a workshop was held in Glenamoy Community Centre in Erris at which local resident Betty Schult shared what is like to live in a community under the occupation of an oil company. It is clear from Betty's words that Shell is already having an adverse effect on the health of the local population even before the gas begins to flow. From the experience of the Ogoni people in Nigeria we know things could get a whole lot worse when oil and gas begins to flow.

 

 

(Text of Talk)

 

Occupation

When I mentioned to neighbours, friends, family  the talk Joe asked me to give today, what came across all the time is a strong sense of isolation, of feeling cut off, not being understood and of being ignored.
That’s why the very first thing  I want to say is Thank You to  everyone in AFRI for always  finding ways to ease this feeling, by opening doors, speaking out, staying in touch.
I want to thank  Nnimmo, Oisin  and Richard  very very much for coming all the way to Glenamoy and for bringing with you your experience and your friendship.  Joe mentioned the word tapestry, and I can imagine that today will be a colourful and unusual piece of tapestry because we will hear your stories and they will be part of ours.
I also want to thank the Rossport Solidarity Camp in this context. Very few communities can count on something that all of you bring to us consistently and genuinely: Solidarity.

Joe asked me to talk about occupation here in Kilcommon and in the greater area, in Erris.
The strand I will add to today’s tapestry consists of many fibres. Fibres of different lengths,  different colour, and different texture.  I will read out quotes from my neighbours, family and friends about their experiences, thoughts and emotions over the past 10 years.

 

Occupation

 

It’s always there- It occupies all senses:

 

Loss of freedom, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary judgments, arbitrary abuse.

 

Loss of trust

 

This brutal change of our lives has been forced on all of us.   Nobody can escape the reality of what happens when a multinational company succeeds in manipulating a government, when greed and recklessness seem to rule.

But:

Occupation is never permanent.

To live under siege might feel like a nightmare that is smothering us.

But it is not.

It seems like a thick layer of oppression was spread out over the community.

But underneath this layer there is life:

Resourcefulness. Words, music and colour. Laughter and loyalty and friendship

Resistance!

There is strength and an awareness which creates resilience and change. We feel a real urge for change and a spirit of renewal that not just sustains us but that we can share with others.  Sometimes we feel weak and tired and muddled. But really, we are not. We are strong and determined and clear!

Occupation can never last.