17 Feb 2010

David Rovics reports from Mayo on oil, corruption and repression

In a country with the kind of tumultuous history that Ireland has it's not surprising that a man being arrested and jailed for seven months would escape the notice of the media, at least outside of Ireland. What should hopefully pique some interest is that this is a man with a long history of being bullied, intimidated, arrested and treated roughly by the authorities for his nonviolent resistance against Shell Oil's construction of a gas pipeline, and now the judge is calling him a bully and jailing him for seven months on the extremely dubious charge of intimidating an officer.

To be sure, this is not Nigeria, where Shell regularly massacres those opposed to the oil drilling which is destroying the environment and the livelihoods of so much of the population. Shell doesn't run Ireland in the way it controls Nigeria. But at the same time, much like my own country, the Irish government has proven itself to be far from free of corruption.

When I arrived in Dublin last June, on the other side of the country from where Pat O'Donnell's family has fished the bay for the past five generations, the Shell to Sea campaign was a subject that came up regularly in conversation. There was, and is, a buzz around it because, especially for those of us the authorities like to denounce as “professional activists,” the Shell to Sea campaign in County Mayo is inspiring as an example of an effort that has brought together people from all walks of life. To be sure, there are many scruffy young activists involved of all sorts, from Dublin, Cork and Galway, with and without dreadlocks, along with scruffy environmentalists from England, France and elsewhere. But the backbone of the campaign are local school teachers and fishermen.

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