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Spirit of Davitt invoked

Report by Stephen O’Grady The Mayo NewsSHELL to Sea supporters moved to inject new life into their campaign yesterday with the establishment of a new league in the traditions of the Land League.
The move came a day after a chink of light appeared in the impasse between the jailed Rossport Five and Shell, with the five men issuing an open letter saying they were prepared to enter into talks with Shell in relation to the controversial gas project, 48 days after they were sent to Clover Hill prison. Shell E&P Ireland subsequently issued a statement saying they welcomed the statement ‘as a very significant step towards dialogue’.
In spite of this development, the Davitt League, with a People before Profit charter, was launched in the Land League room of the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar yesterday, August 16, the same date the Mayo Land League was formed in 1879.
'After what we witnessed in the council chamber last Friday, we really do think it’s time people moved to the other side of The Mall, back to where people count,' said campaigner, Maura Harrington, who also revealed that she has not declined an invitation to attend the Humbert Davitt Summer School which begins in Ballina this weekend.
The Shell to Sea campaign had been accused of letting down the people of Mayo, after rejecting an invitation to participate in a discussion of the Corrib Gas Project at the Humbert Summer School on August 25.
Representatives of Shell E&P Ireland and the Department of the Marine had agreed to take part in the seminar organised by school director, John Cooney, but following a meeting in Glenamoy on Sunday night, the Shell to Sea campaign officially declined to attend.
'I deeply regret that decision, and regard it as unreasonable,' said John Cooney, Director of the Humbert School, who was notified by Dr Mark Garavan of the group’s decision on Monday.
'Our concern is entirely focused on ensuring an ordered discussion of the issues. The matters requiring attention are of great gravity, and we concluded as a group that the session may not advance an understanding at this time,' Dr Garavan informed Mr Cooney who was to chair the three-pronged discussion.
'In this context we judged that the chair of the session would be better held by someone without declared partisan views on the matter. Your presence and contribution to the debate were, of course, not an issue.'
John Cooney has previously secured sponsorship and support from Shell E&P to fund lectures, seminars and publications. He had declared his intention not to seek financial support from Shell E&P for this event.
Ms Harrington, however, has repeated her availability to attend in an independent capacity in the company of another individual.
Mr Cooney had issued invitations to Shell to Sea, Shell E&P and the Minister for the Marine, aiming to maintain the school’s 19-year tradition of addressing concerns of Mayo people.
The Shell to Sea committee responded that it had a preference to have two representatives attend the seminar, a request to which Mr Cooney agreed. He received subsequent indications that the Shell to Sea campaign would participate in what he describes as an information seminar. Monday’s rejection came as a surprise and a significant disappointment to John Cooney.
'Somehow or other they have refused to accept this public platform, and they have actually gone further by refusing to accept my bona fides as an independent chair,' he commented.
'I think they have let down the people of Mayo by depriving them of a unique opportunity to have major a debate on the subject that would have been conducted not as a negotiation but as an information exercise. It would have been an exchange of views, with the reports providing information that has perhaps hitherto not been understood by people. So it’s a bad day for Mayo that Shell to Sea wouldn’t accept the framework of the school.'

Posted Date: 
17 August 2005 - 7:35pm