PRESS RELEASE, 16 November 2009
The recent Bord Pleanala ruling in favour of local residents in the ongoing Corrib Gas pipeline dispute highlights the need for new avenues of civic participation, according to a national peace and justice NGO, whose international patron is the distinguished Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Afri Coordinator Joe Murray says that the ruling vindicates the struggle of the local community over the past 10 years but also brings into question why they have had to endure intimidation, jail, beatings and media demonization for much of that time.
“The Corrib gas dispute in many ways tells the story of modern Ireland, where big business has colluded with soft democracy, trampling the rights of ordinary Irish citizens to fair and just treatment. The result has been an erosion of civil liberties and the emergence of corporate rule where multinationals appear to have greater rights than Irish citizens,” according to Mr. Murray.
Examples of this include the jailing of the ‘Rossport 5′ for 94 days in 2005 for attempting to prevent preparatory work for the laying of the high-powered pipeline, which An Bord Pleanala now accepts would pose an unacceptable threat to the health and safety of the local community. The project would also represent a monument to fossil fuels, a retrograde step in light of the forthcoming Copenhagen Summit which will attempt to address the singular threat posed to our very existence by climate change.
Afri is also arguing that the failure of democracy in relation to the Corrib Project is reflected by serious human rights violations. A report by the Global Community Monitor, a US-based NGO, for example, notes ‘evidence…of youth, women and the elderly being pushed and beaten by Gardai without provocation’. Local farmer and Goldman Environmental Award Winner, Willie Corduff, was seriously beaten in a professional manner by masked men within a Shell compound in April 2009 and fisherman Pat O’Donnell had his boat boarded and sunk by unidentified armed men around the same time. This is a shocking catalogue of abuses in a country that trumpets its democratic credentials, according to Afri.
Further examples, of how the voices of ordinary people in Ireland are ignored are provided by the continuing use of Shannon Airport for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite widespread public opposition to these wars, and by the way in which the rich and powerful, who have created the current financial mess, are seen to be getting away with it while the poor are being asked to pay the price.
Internationally, Afri notes that the exclusion and marginalisation of people is even more extreme and the priorities even more skewed and immoral as 1.2 billion people suffer from hunger while military spending runs at an obscene $1400 billion annually.
According to Afri, the time has come for a mobilisation of people in the true spirit of active citizenship. “The conditions are right for people to become more actively engaged in the decisions that affect their lives. Traditional sources of authority have proven ineffective and people are crying out for meaningful platforms and forums in which to participate in the running of their lives and their country”, said Mr. Murray. Afri intends to launch a campaign for the development of active citizenship in the New Year and is inviting support from like-minded groups.