Observer article reveals extent of Shell's controversial handouts.















Anti-pipeline protesters Willie and Mary Corduff at the quay at Rossport. Willie spent some time in jail in 2005 for his protest activities. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Observer



For 10 years, the Shell oil and gas behemoth has endeavoured to bring ashore a pipeline from the Atlantic into the heart-stopping beauty of Ireland's County Mayo seaboard. And for 10 years, local people whose ancestors farmed the land and fished the ocean have been determined to stop it.

The struggle has become an epic clash between the Goliath that is Shell, backed by the Irish police, and a group assembled around the umbrella protest group Shell to Sea, whose founder, retired primary schoolteacher Maura Harrington, says that, "thanks in no small measure to the Shell to Sea campaign, the project is 10 years behind schedule and its budget has trebled".

An internationally award-winning film, The Pipe, directed by Risteard O'Domhnaill, has vividly charted the confrontation on the little rural strands; farmers and fishermen beaten and jailed; riot police and balaclava-clad guards mobilised across little lanes winding through bog to the brine.

The latest video from Sruwaddacon Bay in Mayo where Shell are boring the final stages of the controversial gas pipeline shows sink holes opening up in the bay. These dangerous fissures are a hazard to locals and tourists who walk the bay at low tide, yet neither Shell nor Mayo County Council have taken any remedial action. It has been left to local residents to erect warning signs to prevent an accident from happening. The video below featuring Terence Conway, the local Shell to Sea spokesman, shows the extent of the damage.



That such damage is beginning to occur even before a drop of oil or gas has arrived is an ominous sign. A recent UNEP report found that the pollution levels left behind in the wake of Shell's activities in Ogoniland in Nigeria have left local people drinking from wells with over 500 times the recommended level of Benzene, a known carcinogen. This lack of care and concern for the environment and the health and welfare of local people seems to be shared by the government. Answering a question put to him about the sink holes in Sruwaddacon Bay Minister Rabitte admitted that the issue had him "nodding off".


At a recent Friends of the Earth event in Liberty Hall Theater, Dublin Pat 'The Chief' O'Donnell spoke about his experiences with Shell in Mayo. His experience comes out of a community which goes back hundreds of years in the area and is deeply rooted to the environment in which they live. They feel more keenly than anyone the dangers of allowing Shell into the country and into their environment. The experience of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta in Nigeria shows these fears are not unfounded.

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.


Below are two videos of an interview with Bjørnar Nicolaisen, who is secretary in the Norwegian Fisherman's Union Andoey Fiskarlag, on the effects of Oil and Gas exploration on the fishing industry in Norway. After 'Seismic Shoots', he says, which is a particular method of exploring for oil and gas, the fishing catch reduced by 60%. Also he mentions that, similar to Mayo where the oil companies have made cash donations to local fisherman, the result has been a split within the fishing community between those who take the oil money and those who don't. What the interview demonstrates, yet again, is how the true cost of oil exploration is borne by local communities.


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