"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.”
STANDING outside the ATGWU building on Middle Abbey Street, Dublin on Wednesday evening, I overheard a woman on her way into the meeting talking to a leaflet distributor. ''What do you think of the London bombings?'' she asked.
''I think it was MI5,'' sheanswered herself.
It was the latest public gathering intent on springing The Rossport Five - the launch of what is called a 'National Demonstration'.
The meeting was addressed by Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole, Brid Ni Sheighin, daughter of one of the imprisoned men, and Maura Harrington of The Shell to Sea campaign.
O'Toole opened by saying that ''backbone'' and not oil was the precious commodity, essential to the running of the world.
''There are five men rotting in Mountjoy jail with backbone, and they could lend some to this Government,'' he said.
The fact that the Mayomen are incarcerated in Cloverhill prison and not Mountjoy may have escaped the 150-strong crowd who gave O'Toole rapturous applause.
O'Toole proceeded to slam Shell's ''obscene annualprofits'', its ''ludicrous'' deal with the State and the ''simple mentality'' of theGovernment.
Next up was Brid, daughter of one of the five, who spoke of her father, Michael O Seighin, who ''doesn't live there[Rossport] but worked there all his life''.
Brid used a slide show toillustrate the beauty of her native Mayo coastline ''to give us a feel of what the place islike . . . and how it has changed since the oil company has arrived''.
She was greeted with howls of laughter when she showed slides of an 18-wheel Shell lorry upturned on the roadside and one of three tracked machines sunken to cab level in the local bog.
Maura Harrington, who was the last guest speaker, accused the Government and Shell of lying and of ''singing from the same State/corporate hymn-sheet''.
The biggest cheer of the night came when she spoke about the media - ''what really keeps us going is the insults to the people of North Mayo and the place where we live, which will outlive us all . . . it is these insults [from] the s**ts in suits [who] thought they could get away with it, I don't believe that they will.''
The audience's comments gave an interesting insight into the disparate backgrounds of those who came to give their opinions.
Every issue from bin taxes to pylons, Tara Mines to the Iraq war were raised by the speakers, who then pledged their ''solidarity'' with the jailed Mayo men.
One man, Damien from the Dublin Catholic Worker, said he was currently on trial for helping to disarm a US warplane in Shannon a couple of years ago, had been in jail for five weeks and reminded us about ''the importance of writing to the men in jail''.
Damien wasn't alone in his run-ins with the law, as another crowd member stated he was jailed ''for a non-violent blockade'' in East Timor. Another said that he ''knows nothing at all about the oil side of things'' but, apparently, he has been trying to find out for the last five weeks whether any of the people in the Department of the Marine receive corporate hospitality from Shell.
To this end, he sent 30 emails or more ''all as gaeilge'' and still doesn't know, but he added ''when they don't say 'No' it's like saying, when did you stop beating your wife''.
Another man with a 'solidarity is strength' T-shirt believed President Bush was trying to block new technologies and research into new alternatives to oil.
One lady said that although it is illegal, ''if you are so minded'' you should spray-paint anti-Shell slogans near Statoil stations so as to deter the public from adding to Shell's profits.
Dara Bradley is a NUIGalway student on work experience in the 'Sunday Independent'