On Tuesday November 10th 2015 at 6pm, human rights campaigners and environmentalists gathered at Shell’s Irish headquarters to mark the twentieth anniversary of the execution of poet and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others known as the Ogoni 9. The vigil is being organised by Afri and is supported folk singer Christy Moore and Sr. Majella McCarron, an Irish missionary nun from County Fermanagh who was formerly based in Nigeria where she was a friend of Saro-Wiwa.
The Ogoni 9, campaigners against Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta, were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. In 1996 the U.S based Center for Constitutional Rights sued Shell for its complicity in human right abuses against the Ogoni people, including collusion in bringing about the deaths of the Ogoni 9. In June 2009, on the eve of the trial, a settlement of $15.5 million was made to establish a trust on behalf of the Ogoni people. Shell continues to face fierce criticism for the environmental and health legacy they have left in Ogoniland. (Ref: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/yes-minister-it-human-rights-issue/shell-oil-nigeria-ken-saro-wiwa-niger-delta )
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother Owens, speaking about his brother’s death has said that he fears lessons have not been learned.
“Shell talks of jobs and progress, crows about its lavish philanthropy and promises that no harm will be done, no chaos left in its wake. I heard these promises in Rossport and I fear that Shell’s bounty in Ogoni may yet be repeated elsewhere. This is a company that pantomimes concern and compassion for human beings when its only true concern is for where new money can be found. No doubt Shell’s sights are already set on its next oil field conquest, irrespective of who lives there or their history with that land.”
“When my brother Ken was executed, his last words were “Lord, take my soul…but the struggle continues.” I hope Ken is watching and seeing that, yes, it does. From Ogoniland to the Arctic, to Erris County Mayo and beyond, people are rising up to say “Shell No!” They are standing strong against a corporation and an entire industry that will mortgage our future for quick profits.”
Joe Murray, organiser of the vigil and Director of human rights and peace organisation Afri, agrees that there is a clear parallel between Ogoniland and Mayo.
“Just as Shell colluded with the military dictatorship in Nigeria, the Irish State has colluded with Shell in bribing, bullying and intimidating the community in Kilcommon into accepting a monument to fossil fuels at a time when climate change threatens the very survival of our planet. The Corrib gas project, in which Statoil is also a partner, has been a disaster for human rights, civil liberties and the environment. The natural gas giveaway has already resulted in a very bad deal the Irish taxpayer.”
Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport 5 who spent 94 days in prison at the behest of Shell, says the community in Erris remember the Ogoni 9 on a daily basis.
“Today, as Shell preaches progress, many miles from their homeland in Nigeria the crosses of the 9 Ogoni heroes stand defiantly in front of the main refinery gate at Ballinaboy as a reminder to Shell that their sins will follow them forever.”
A separate vigil by the Shell to Sea group was held from 12 noon at Shell’s headquarters on 52 Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2.
Thursday Feb 28th is a date that could be etched in Irish memory. It is the deadline date gas companies have to submit applications for an exploration licence. Currently two of these companies have applied. If they are granted rights for an exploration license, many commentators advise that this would pave the way for the introduction of hydraulic fracturing into Ireland. The nature of the licensing terms are difficult to get out of. Companies also gain the opportunity to build their fracking infrastructure for this controversial industry.
To mark this date, a delegation from Love Leitrim are coming to the Dail to ask the ministers instead, to make a positive stance on behalf of their people and grant a licence not to frack Ireland. They will be outside the gates from Midday to 3pm. The Frack Free Ireland campaign has been rolled out and people have been asked to send in their licence request for their right to have unpolluted water, their right to live in a rural area, right to maintain and safeguard indigenous industry, and fundamentally the right to their health and the health of future generations. The campaign has captured the imagination of the public and high profile artists with backing of Christy Moore, Steve Wickham, and Glen Hansard who have pledged their support. Eleanor Shanley of De Danann fame, Rossa O Snodaigh Of Kila and Leitrim GAA stars are others who have signed the Application not to frack Ireland.
At the moment the decision currently lies with the government whether to frack Ireland or not. While research has been commissioned it does not consider public health and does not have public health expertise on the steering group guiding it.
The brainchild of Irish tourist provider Nuala Mc Nulty, the Application for a frack free Ireland pleads with the government to make a powerful positive choice on behalf of its people and immediately halt any further licences.
“Throughout this process people have been forgotten about. We want to put people back into the centre of decision making. It’s as simple as this. We are asking the Irish government, Are you with your people or not? We need them to show us they are with us by halting any further licenses’
Love Leitrim wants Feb 28th to be the beginning of a show of solidarity by the government to its people at home and abroad, and that date to be remembered for all the right reasons.
or for further background on the campaign
A Night of Readings and Music
Booker Prize-winner ANNE ENRIGHT
WILLY CORDUFF of the Rossport Five
DONAL O’KELLY and SORCHA FOX.
The Sugar Club, Lr. Leeson St.
8pm, Sunday 17th May 2009
Tickets 20EUR Booking 01 8827563.
Proceeds to Afri’s Rossport Fund.
June 2009 – Financial report
Income (including book sales) €3,912
Expenditures (including radio advertisement on RTE and venue hire) €2,439
Publishing and launch of ‘The Great Gas Giveaway’ €1,523
(Publishing costs were covered in part by proceeds from the gig and partly through self-generated funds)