"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.”
‘Strength in community’ is an image selected from “The social archive”, an on-going archive documenting various social movements in Ireland over the past 10 years. The archive was initially developed as a personal attempt to record the many voices of dissent and ideas not represented in Irish society throughout the Celtic Tiger. The initiation of the archives shares a similar timeframe to the resistance of a small rural community in the West of Ireland, to an infrastructural project they perceive as a threat to their community, health, and environment. The Corrib gas dispute centres on a community’s resistance to the development of a natural gas project in Rossport, Co. Mayo. It put them in direct conflict to the Irish governments agenda for economic development and progress and has become one of the longest running civil disputes in Ireland’s recent history.
‘Strength in Community’ is text, painted onto the roof of a cottage in Ballinaboy, Rossport, by a campaigner opposed to Corrib Gas project. In the trees behind the cottage lies the site where a consortium of global players in the international oil and gas industry led by Royal Dutch Shell are building a gas refinery and a high pressure experimental pipeline through the community. This project is both supported and facilitated by the Irish government.
The model of development pursued by the Irish Government throughout the Celtic Tiger was widely acclaimed and seen as an indication of the country’s success in benefiting from the opportunities offered by globalisation. It was held up as an example for many other countries. The model was guided by many false assumptions concerning economic growth, taxation, services, and infrastructure. This resulted in a policy direction based on neo-liberal values in which the government promoted economic growth over local democracy, environmental protection and social development. The dominant public discourse of this period embraced this agenda. Critical readings of the economic boom were marginalized resulting in the emergence of a very narrow debate. Throughout this time a small number of communities such as Rossport opposed what they felt was the negative impact of such growth and development. They expressed their opposition through collectively mobilising and resisting in order to highlight their opposition. Their opposition voice, which was often marginalised and criminalized, succeeded in bringing the community’s concerns to the national and international stage. They exposed and highlighted the destructive impact of the development on their community and the scandalous giveaway of our natural resources to multinational companies.
In post boom Ireland as Irish taxpayers pour billions of euros into propping up sinking banks and failed systems, the campaign continues to challenge the State and raises many ideological questions. It raises many questions on issues of power, the role of civil society, and our understanding of what progress and development really mean in our society.
The power and strength of community to “trouble”, defy and challenge will define all our futures….. Let the fight continue.
Augustine O’Donoghue is a graduate of The National College of Art and Design Dublin. Her practice engages with concepts of local and global socio-political issues. She has worked with travellers, immigrant workers, women’s groups and social organizations in Ireland, Latin America and Africa. Exhibitions and projects have been developed in Ireland, Europe, USA, China, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Africa and taken place in a wide variety of locations including cattle marts, government buildings, supermarkets, museums, factories and political events.