No more heroes anymore?

At the time of writing the Rossport 5 are approaching 90 days in jail for refusing to comply with a High Court order to allow Shell to access their property in order to lay a high pressure gas pipeline.

This is truly remarkable.

In an era of speculators, chancers, spivs and materialism gone mad, here we have people standing by their principles. So much so that a lot people reckon that there must be a catch. Dark mutterings of a pay off.

The reality is that these men are not looking for increased compensation for inconvenience caused by Shell’s project – they simply want Shell to take their project elsewhere and keep their compensation.

The issue is complex but here’s my summary.

Shell want to build a refinery on land to refine the gas coming from the Corrib Gas Field out at sea. This is unusual as most gas is refined at sea.

The refinery is sited a few miles inland so that a high pressure gas pipeline must be laid from the sea shore to the refinery.

We already have gas pipelines in Ireland. Their maximum pressure is 70 bar. The proposed pipeline at Rossport will have a maximum pressure of 345 bar. Basically, the Rossport 5 don’t want to live near such a pipeline.

But Shell have the law on their side. They went through the whole planning process and have the approval of Mayo County Council, An Bord Pleanala and the State. They were entitled to enter the lands in question and when the men refused to allow access Shell went to court.

That’s it, roughly.

Now, the men won’t purge their contempt as they say that such a move would allow Shell on to their land. Shell refuses to withdraw its court action as that would affect the legality of their project.

What you have here is a multinational company who have completely underestimated the resolve of their enemies. While Shell’s executives will sleep in some far off place, the people of Rossport will be sleeping on a high pressure gas line.

People have a right to live in peace. Is this such a vital piece of infrastructure that people can be walked over to get it finished? It’s not. We could buy our gas from the British or the Russians. We might as well – the Corrib gas doesn’t belong to us anyway. It belongs to Shell and their friends. We gave it to them.

Shell’s attitude throughout this whole saga is that they can face down the men. If the company can take this approach here, imagine what its attitude might to the locals in some third world jungle.

But the Rossport 5 have already forced Shell to retreat. The press releases on the Shell website are a catalogue of back-offs as their project has come under increased scrutiny.

These men are heroes. It is important for all of us that they win. If you would like to support them there is a national demonstration on Saturday October 1 starting at Parnell Square at 2pm. And mind where you buy your fuel.