"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
It would appear that Fr Kevin Hegarty occupies the same delusional world as Christy Mahon, whom he quotes in his Second Reading column in the Mayo News of August 14, if he believes that coverage of the Corrib Gas conflict is unbalanced in favour of the community rather than Shell and its apologists. The evidence of Shell’s well-oiled and well-balanced propaganda machine – of which he is an enthusiastic cog- spinning stories aimed at undermining the courageous and legitimate opposition of the local community to this destructive project is clear for all to see.
That Fr Kevin Hegarty is happy to collude with this discredited company is extraordinary. In doing so he conveniently chooses to forget the fate of Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues who paid with their lives for standing up to Shell and who are appropriately memorialised at the gates of the refinery in Ballinaboy.
I recently visited the Niger Delta and saw at first hand the devastation that Shell and other oil companies have wrought and how local communities have lost their livelihoods of farming and fishing as a result of the pollution of their lands and rivers.
He suggests that I and Afri should have more important things to be doing than bothering about a local squabble in North Mayo. Afri’s trademark has always been linking the local and the global. We are currently collaborating with a partner organisation on the Kenia-Somalia-Ethiopia border as it tackles the issues of conflict and climate change. Should we ignore the same issues here at home where conflict is also rife and a pipeline-refinery monument to fossil fuels is being constructed even as the world reels from the effects of our addiction to oil and gas?
A priest in a church riven by the scandal of abuse, Fr Hegarty should be aware of the danger of averting one’s eyes from abuses in one’s own backyard. We in Afri will not join those who choose to turn their backs on the abuses currently being carried out by Shell and its security apparatus in North Mayo.
Afri’s patron, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a great and courageous church leader, has always spoken out on behalf of the oppressed in his own country and beyond. While visiting Ireland as Afri’s guest some years ago, he advised ‘when an elephant is standing on a mouse’s tail you don’t ask the elephant is the mouse hurting, you ask the mouse’. Fr Kevin Hegarty has taken sides with the elephant in North Mayo and regurgitates its garbled account of what is happening to the mouse. It baffles me to know which gospel he reads that recommends standing alongside and being a mouthpiece for the oppressor rather than the oppressed.
Joe Murray is a coordinator with Afri (Action from Ireland). He was writing in response to fr Kevin Hegarty’s Second Reading Column from the August 14 edition of the Mayo News.