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Ballybofey Talk Exposes Government’s Oil-Gas Resource “Sell Off’

Over 150 concerned citizens from across the Northwest gathered in Jacksons’s Hotel on Thursday the 20th July to participate in a public talk on Shell Oil, The Rossport 5 campaign and the Government’s plans to sell off oil and gas exploration rights off the Donegal coast, potentially worth billions of euros.
The event was organised by a group of non-aligned, concerned Donegal citizens who wanted to show their solidarity with the people of Rossport and to increase awareness about the Government’s current plans to grant gas and oil exploration licences to multi-nationals. Five companies have submitted bids for sections of the Donegal-Slyne- Erris basins, which according to the Petroleum Affairs Division (Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources) contains a potential 10 billion barrels of hydrocarbons (Gas/Oil). <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

Guest speakers on the night included Fr Kevin O’Hara, a human rights activist in Nigeria and 3 of the Rossport 5 who spent 94 days in prison for refusing to allow Shell Oil, backed by the Irish Government, from building a high pressure gas pipe-line across their land.

Fr Kevin O’Hara, a native of Stranorlar, began the night by showing a documentary he made in the oil rich Niger Delta which revealed the social, economic and environmental devastation that Shell Oil has caused to villagers and communities living there. Fr Kevin has spent 26 years in Nigeria working as a missionary priest, and is also the founder and Director of the Centre for Social and Corporate Responsibility (CSCR), Port Harcourt, Nigeria. The CSCR monitors oil majors such as Shell who operate a multi-billion dollar oil industry in Nigeria. The video showed how Shell hired militias to intimidate locals who dared to speak out. It also exposed how the oil companies failed to keep their promises to build hospitals and schools for local villages while turning many streams and rivers into oil slicks by failing to replace old and faulty pipelines.

Vincent McGrath then spoke on behalf of the Rossport 5 to a hushed audience. He explained how he wasn’t at all surprised by what Shell Oil are capable off and claimed that Shell’s site excavation work had polluted his own community’s drinking water sourced from Carrowmore Lake. He related the Rossport struggle to Donegal by stating, “if Shell get away with the Corrib Gas project, then they will try and bring it ashore unrefined in Donegal also. When they want to do it on the cheap, safety will suffer. The Government seems unable or unwilling to do anything about this”.

Norwegian people to reap profits of Corrib gas

On behalf of the people of Rossport he thanked the crowd present and added “you can’t imagine how much confidence and determination your presence here gives us to continue on”. Making reference to the Corrib Gas Deal he stated “the Irish nation will get little or nothing from this deal. The Norwegian people, however, who have a large stake in Statoil, Shell’s partners in the project, will receive 25% of all profits which could run into billions of euros”. Norway has used its oil profits to fund a world-class health and education system. The biggest issue during the 2005 elections in Norway was how much extra money should be put into kindergarten schools and maternity leave”. Commenting on the Irish Government’s tax regime offered to oil multinationals he added “even in Nigeria the Government is entitled to 60% of profits, while Ireland has even given the option for oil companies to write off a paltry corporation tax against expenses”.

Vincent McGrath added, “our campaign in Rossport started out as a health and safety issue. It is now about much more. We want the current Government to repudiate the Corrib Gas Deal, re-negotiate the deal in favour of the Irish people and ratify the new deal through a national referendum.

Amanda Slevin, speaking on behalf of the Donegal Shell to Sea Campaign, explained that one of the reasons the group came together was to express a feeling that as citizens “we feel we have no say in how this natural resource discovered off Donegal is used” and added this oil and gas could be used to help give people a level of health, community and social services they deserve, rather than just line the pockets of Oil multinationals shareholders. A further concern of the Donegal Shell to Sea campaign is that any gas found off Donegal will be sold on the International rather than Domestic market and won’t benefit the country in terms of reduced prices. In light of the proposed Bord Gais price hikes, this is a pressing issue and the absence of some of the political parties (including Fianna Fail and Fine Gael) on the night raises many questions.

A lively questions and answers discussion followed with the majority of contributors supporting the Rossport 5 and Fr. Kevin’s work. One participant made the point that not enough was been done to invest in alternatives to oil and gas such as wind and wave power, which Donegal has huge potential to harness. An information and contact network was also formed to keep everyone informed of news and events over the coming month. The second half of the night was given to music and dancing as part of a benefit night to raise funds for the Rossport 5’s legal expenses. For further information on the Donegal Shell to Sea campaign email or telephone 086 3622378.

Posted Date: 
26 July 2006 - 3:01pm