Irish Farmers Say Shell Oil Operations Bring Injustice, Not Jobs
POLLATHOMAS, IRELAND—This remote peninsula on Ireland's west coast is known as a bastion of beauty and serenity, at least for those who don't mind persistent rain and chilly winds driving waves against the stunning rocky cliffs and unspoiled sand dunes. But for years the peninsula that is home to the tiny town of Pollathomas has also been the site of a battle over the ownership of natural resources and the old jobs-versus-environment debate, as the company Shell and corporate partners are seeking to exploit the lucrative Corrib gas field under the ocean 60 kilometers off shore.
Two decades after interest in the gas field was piqued, locals and resident solidarity activists continue to fight against Shell's plans to build a gas terminal on the coast of the peninsula. Signs along the one narrow quiet country road tracing the promontory's circumference read, “No Consent,” “Shell Out” and “No Haulage.” The beauty of the beaches spilling into mud flats below dramatic hills has been marred by Shell's industrial operations. Gardai (police) in fluorescent green vests ply the road in vehicles and stand around on foot—more police on a several-mile stretch of road than I saw in several weeks in the rest of the country. Private security contractors also work the area.
Along the road, a hand-painted sign and tangled barbed wire mark the entrance to the Rossport Solidarity Camp—an outpost of ardent opponents of gas exploitation. Many Irish towns have welcome signs noting that the town is “twinned” with sister cities elsewhere in Europe. The camp sign says it is “twinned with Niger Delta and Gulf of Mexico.” Bikes rest throughout the camp, and tents made of heavy military canvas are fortified against the constant rain.
Up the road from the camp a local activist traipsing the road in barefeet despite the chill pauses to move a dead rat gently into the bushes and later checks on a sheep entangled in a fence. He explains the splits in the movement against Shell, wherein some opponents are open to negotiations if Ireland gets a better deal or the terminal is moved farther offshore, while others are flat-out opposed to gas extraction.