Donal O’Kelly’s “Fionnuala” wins Fringe First Award

Donal O'Kelly Fringe 1st (Willie Corduff)
Donal O’Kelly dedicates the Fringe First Award he received for “Fionnuala” to Willie and Mary Corduff

Afri are delighted to announce that Donal O’Kelly’s play about the Corrib Gas Project, “Fionnuala” has won a Fringe First award during the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Joyce McMillan described “Fionnuala” in the Scotsman as “Gripping, funny and full of a rich sense of Ireland’s great tradition of myth and legend… ruthlessly precise in its analysis of the deep malaise of 21st century Ireland in its subservient relationship with global corporate power and the threats faced by all of us in an age of ever more desperate energy extraction.”

“Fionnuala” is about the Corrib Gas fiasco foisted on a small rural community in County Mayo. Ambrose Keogh works for Shell. When the Tunnel Boring Machine he named Fionnuala sinks into the bog in Erris Co. Mayo, he is magically confronted by Fionnuala of the Children of Lir. Fionnuala puts a geas on him – he’s bound to tell the truth – about Shell. That brings to light some stark truths that Shell management would prefer wasn’t in the public arena. And it brings Ambrose back to his old primary school desk-mate, now an anti-Shell campaigner.

At the awards ceremony in Edinburgh, Donal dedicated the Fringe First to Willie and Mary Corduff and also thanked the people of Kilcommon for their support. Donal stated, “[I] hope that Fionnuala playing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival can be used to highlight the severe abuse of their basic civil rights for over a decade.”  Donal also thanked Afri and the 84 people who crowd funded the visit to Edinburgh for their support.

Article about Donal winning the Fringe First in Hotpress: here

Also, Donal speaking on RTE’s Arena show on Friday about the win (starting at 16 minutes in), click here.

Play now running in Dublin deals with themes taken up by UN Report

Afri welcomes the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, in which she said she was concerned about “the situation faced by defenders and activists defending the right to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, particularly those peacefully protesting against the Corrib Gas project … There is tangible frustration amongst local residents who are standing up for their rights and feel powerless, isolated and have lost trust in public institutions”, she said.

Her report is strongly critical of the way in which the Gardai are policing the project and of the lack of adequate redress via the Garda Ombudsman’s office.

Coincidentally, a play dealing with the social and civil rights issues surrounding the Shell Corrib gas project is running this week, Thursday to Saturday in the Viking Theatre @ Connollys The Sheds, Clontarf, at 6.30pm (6pm Sat). In it, Ambrose Keogh, the Shell PR executive who named their Tunnel Boring Machine Fionnuala, is put under geas (spell) by Fionnuala of the Children of Lir to tell all he knows about Shell’s operations in Erris. The play is a combination of bog magic realism and factual documentary, set against the background of the installation of the TBM Fionnuala in the Shell site in Aughoose, Co. Mayo, in August last year.

“Cuts a swathe through Shell/State propaganda” Hot Press; “O’Kelly performs superbly” Sunday Independent.

One of the information sources used by the Special Rapporteur was the Ailliliú Fionnuala programme/booklet issued by Afri.


1. To read the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report see here: especially page 13 onwards.

2. To book “Ailliliú Fionnuala” contact Viking Theatre Dublin on 087 112 9970 or email

New Run of Ailliliú Fionnuala

Afri is proud to be associated once again with the new run of Ailliliú Fionnuala, written and performed by Donal O’Kelly, directed by Sorcha Fox, designed by Robert Ballagh and presented by Benbo Productions.

Ailliliú Fionnuala takes place on the shore of Sruwaddaconn Estuary in Erris, North Mayo, where the Shell high-pressure raw gas pipeline is under construction.

Ambrose Keogh works for Shell. When the Tunnel Boring Machine he named Fionnuala sinks into the bog, he comes face to face with Fionnuala of the Children of Lir herself in a fairy fort. Fionnuala puts a geas (spell) on him – he’s bound to tell the truth about Shell’s operations in Erris, such as the attack on Willie Corduff in the Shell site at Glengad. During his ordeal, Ambrose comes face to face with his primary school classmate, Malachy Downes, now an anti-pipeline activist, and echoes from the past resound.

Ambrose Keogh was the silent minion in Donal O’Kelly’s international success Bat The Father Rabbit The Son, premiered by Rough Magic in 1988, and touring to acclaim in Edinburgh, New York and Australia. A quarter of a century later, Keogh’s found his niche in the corridors of power, at the heart of the Shell/Corrib gas project. Continue reading “New Run of Ailliliú Fionnuala”

Rights group criticise Shell and Garda over traffic blockage

The justice and human rights group Action from Ireland (Afri) has condemned the actions of Shell and the Gardai in Erris, County Mayo, over the bungled transport of tunnelling equipment for a controversial gas pipeline that has seen roads closed in the area and local people arrested, and has re-iterated its call for suspension of the project.

Afri coordinator Joe Murray said that the latest incident “represents a continuation of the long established trend whereby the health and safety of local residents has been jeopardised to boost the profits of a multinational corporation”.

“If Shell are not to be trusted to carry a piece of equipment by lorry, then how can they be trusted to transport raw, flammable gas by pipeline under an estuary and past people’s homes?”, Mr Murray asked.

Mr Murray particularly criticised the arrest yesterday of local farmer Willie Corduff for his protest at the chaos caused by the fact that a lorry carrying Shell’s tunnelling equipment had jack knifed and blocked road traffic. “Instead of charging Shell with reckless endangerment, the Gardai chose to arrest a man doing nothing more than peacefully safeguarding the welfare of his family and friends”, Mr Murray said. Mr Corduff, the winner of the prestigious Goldman Medal which is often described as the environmental Nobel Prize, was later released without charge.

Afri has previously been highly critical of the policing of the Corrib Gas dispute and has pointed to what it says were abuses perpetrated even against human rights monitors. Afri is calling for immediate suspension of all work on the project pending a thorough review of all aspects of it, including human rights, health and safety and environmental impact. Afri pointed to Shell’s much criticized environmental and human rights record in many locations throughout the world, from the Niger Delta to, more recently, the Arctic Circle, as further evidence for the need to review and revise the Corrib project in its entirety.

Rights Group Criticises Shell and Garda over Traffic Blockage: Irish Times, 7th August 2012: