"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
The Rossport Five in their own words
Our Story. The Rossport 5
Published by Small World Media
This book tells the story, to date, of the Rossport Five, through their own words and those of their partners. It is a fascinating insight into the way in which a rural community suddenly found itself confronted by the power of one of the biggest corporations on the planet. And of the courts and political elite of the Irish state.
The book charts the growth of the protest from its beginnings through the court injunctions and the eventual imprisonment of the men in 2005. Side by side with their telling of how they all became involved there are interesting anecdotes about their own lives and the growth of their awareness of the manner in which power operates.
They are scathing with regard to some of the individuals and organisations with whom they came into contact, especially those who attempted to portray themselves as being on their side. Special mention here must go to Enda Kenny and the IFA but they were not unique. In contrast they tell of the huge support they received from ordinary people around the country. Even from the prisoners with whom they were locked up despite their initial bewilderment at men who could have gotten out by simply apologising!
There is also an amusing, if pathetic, anecdote, from Caitlín Ní Seighin about her daughter Brid who attended one of the meetings organised in Belmullet in support of the planning application. In the midst of the meeting, described as "intimidatory" one of the speakers boasted that "I am one of those who wine and dine on a regular basis with Enterprise Oil." Of course the cute fellas are keeping quiet about what they are getting out of the whole thing.
The last word goes to Vincent McGrath who concludes with a tribute to the sense of community that sustained them in their struggle. That is perhaps the over-riding theme of the book and elsewhere reference is made to the massive support that they received from other communities in Dublin and elsewhere. Working class communities that on the face of it might not have been expected to have much in common with, or much sympathy for, small farmers and a teacher from Mayo.
It proved that as an attempt is being made to transform this country from a network of communities into a collection of individual economic units – there for the benefit of property developers and assorted gombeen men who think that paying people buttons and rack renting them makes them "entrepreneurs" – that the sense of community does prevail.
A pessimist might argue that it does not stand much of a chance against the forces that are determined to eradicate much of what we understand as being Irish. It is like a throw back to the days of the Land War when we see Mayo people reciting the Rosary in the face of the new landlord's bullies. Bullies who for Shell's "walking around money" are prepared to batter people off the road to claim another part of Ireland for the globalised economy.
There are of course no shortage of media apologists for this new effort to make us good Europeans or good citizens of the world. Eoghan Harris, in attacking the Rossport Five, stated that: "Today, romantic-nationalist reaction against modernity is making a last stand in Mayo. No wonder the Rossport pickets are supported by the Provos."
When Harris was a Stalinist he spouted such nonsense because the destruction of the Irish "peasantry" and Irish nationalism was an impediment to 'socialism'! Now, as a neo-con (or whatever he is this week) he spouts the same nonsense in support of Shell and "modernity." Same nonsense, different master.
Cutting through the pseudo intellectual nonsense and the pieties that often disguise naked self interest stands the story of the Rossport Five. They are certainly up against it but if they retain the determination that is displayed through this book they will prevail.
BY MATT TREACY