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“A fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve.”

By: 
Tanya Jones - GreenLassie.com

“A fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve.”

Celebrating with a beloved family?  Making plans to bring about a better world?  Kissing a stranger in Trafalgar Square?  Playing the new board games you got for Christmas?  Getting smashed with a couple of mates?

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No, none of these.  According to John Egan, a director of Shell E&P Ireland, his New Year was made by watching the intense flaring of the first gas to be commercially produced at the company’s Corrib plant.  After a fifteen-year-long hardworking and heartbreaking campaign by local people against this destructive and entirely unnecessary development, final operating consent was granted by the Irish government on 29th December.  It was a sad day for all of us who have watched and supported the Shell to Sea campaign and for everyone, across the world, who wants to see a clean, safe and democratic future.

But it was most bitter of all for the people who live around Ballinaboy in County Mayo, who saw, within three days of the consent, more of Shell’s assurances being broken.  As the Irish Times reports:

‘Residents in the areas around Ballinaboy have witnessed flaring since November 2014, during testing of the system with gas from the existing network.

However, Aughoose farmer Gerry Bourke, who lives about a mile from the Ballinaboy plant, said that there was “nothing normal” about Thursday night’s flaring, and said it was far more intensive and extensive than previously witnessed.

He said it “lit up the sky” and was accompanied by a “low loud rumble like a supersonic boom”.

Diane Taylor, who lives in Glengad, said she would not normally have had a view of the test flaring at the Ballinaboy stack from her home, but witnessed the New Year’s Eve incident which she described as “frightening”.

“The sky over Broadhaven Bay was pure orange, and it seemed as if thick smoke was billowing over the hill behind me,” she said. “It looked like the hill over by Pollathomas was on fire.

“It was about 8.15pm, and I opened the door and could smell smoke which would burn your nose, so I came right back inside,” Ms Taylor said. She estimated it lasted for about a half hour to 45 minutes.

Ms Taylor and neighbours subscribe to a text alert system, which Shell has invited residents to register for.

The company issued an alert on Wednesday which stated that “the valves which control the well out at the Corrib field have now been opened up” and “as part of normal start-up activities, please expect some flaring over the next 48 hours”.

Mr Bourke said he had also received this text, but it gave no indication of the extent.

“If this is normal, as Shell is saying, I don’t want to live like this,” he said.’

 But for John Egan it was an ‘extraordinary sight’, so good that he filmed himself in front of the flaring, and posted the video on YouTube.  Until, that is, someone decided it wasn’t such good PR after all (gas flaring is, apart from the damage to health and the immediate environment, a significant contributor to climate change) and took the video down again yesterday.

Perhaps he should have known better, for Mr Egan is no stranger to the camera.  Before being recruited by Shell, he was a BBC and RTE journalist, and in 1999 recorded this positive piece about a brave community coming together to protect itself from exploitation by big business, after the tragic, unjust and corporate-linked judicial killing of one of their leaders.  The community was in Nigeria, the murdered campaigner was Ken Saro-Wiwa, and yes, the corporation was Shell.  As Mr Egan wrote at the time:

“For decades, incredible wealth has poured out of this Delta in the form of oil. Yet far from enriching their lives, oil has had a negative impact on most people here. Frequent spillages have devastated fish stocks, and the practice of “flaring off” excess gas, has damaged many peoples’ health. Now forty years after oil was first discovered in Nigeria, the people of the Delta are growning increasingly restive.

Ever since the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists in 1995, this region has been seething with anger. Saro-Wiwa had been fighting against environmental degradation of his native Ogoniland by the Shell oil company. But now the dispute has spread far beyond the small area of the Ogoni people to a vast swathe of the Delta, occupied by scores of different ethnic groups, and the focus of people’s anger is not just the environment, but the unequal sharing-out of oil wealth.”

Indeed.

Posted Date: 
4 January 2016