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Shell to Sea protesters ought to pipe down

The Shell to Sea campaign, led and supported by the miffeds, and backed by variegated bands of republicans, faced down the gardai in protest after protest.

Four binary questions divide most western societies. Which is the more important: mercy or justice? Idealism or pragmatism? Truth or freedom? Diversity or unity?

If you answered “mercy, idealism, freedom and diversity” you probably supported the Shell to Sea campaign and are delighted that Royal Dutch Shell, having got its fingers burnt in Co Mayo, is now leaving. You also think that anti-wind farm protesters are reactionary luddites who don’t care about global warming. Also, you are probably female or a “feminist” male, work in the public sector and are a soft republican. We’ll call you M-I-F-D: “miffed”.

The alternatives are truth, unity, justice and pragmatism. Without shared verities, “freedom” translates into murder, theft and rape. Diversity without the spine of unity equals the Congo. Idealism without pragmatism is a man with canvas wings plummeting from the Eiffel Tower. Without justice, mercy is merely the arbitrary whims of a Hitler. T-U-J-P. Let’s say, tulips.

Tulips have no easy answers. We — yes, I’m a tulip — quite like wind technology, but know it’s not the full answer, and no answer at all if the turbines are large or near human habitation. We detest the mob, even when it supports us. We believe the primary duty of the state is to keep order.

And for a dozen years, the state consistently failed to do this at Rossport. A gas-extraction project that should have cost €800m ending up costing well over €3bn, and a dozen years late. No doubt those Shell to Sea protesters — and their many media supporters — exulted. Demo over, they’d all get back into their fossil fuel-driven cars and return to their centrally heated homes homes in Foxrock or Derry on the roads made after millions of tonnes of coal were used to roast the concrete.

Moreover, the cooing soupy voice that RTE journalists adopt when addressing the Greens’ Eamon Ryan says all you need to know about the new hierarchy. It’s rather like listening to Monsignor James Horan interviewing the Virgin Mary at Knock. Naturally, Ryan celebrated the end of Shell’s involvement in the Corrib, and spoke eagerly of the day when we’ll no longer be dependent on fossil fuels. Instead, the Green Party leader said, we should have wind, and tide and solar.

Ryan probably said that in a broadcasting studio made largely of plastics that are all derivatives of the petrochemical industry. Maybe he commutes to the Dail on a bike made of wood, hewn by a bikewright using a wooden chisel from a single piece of renewable hay. If not, and the Ryan bike is ordinary, it might contain 10lb of aluminium, the extraction of which would have consumed at least the equivalent energy of a dozen or so 40-watt bulbs burning night and day for over four years.

Where did that all energy come from? A bicycle-powered generator? No. From fossil- or nuclear-fuelled power stations, both of which the Green Party opposes. Wind? Sometimes works. Sun? In Ireland? Tide? Still a fictional energy source: the Swansea tidal lagoon project looks like being an ecological disaster, and if it ever comes on stream would be the most expensive “green” energy source in Britain. However, that probably won’t happen, because the sea has more energy than mankind yet has the counter-energy to tame.

But eco-energy makes you feel good? Fine. And I do hope you still feel good when you die of cold in a mid-winter blizzard because electricity from green sources is either too expensive or non-existent, and maybe demonstrators have finally shut down Corrib. And I would say that, wouldn’t I, because as you know, I shan’t be happy until the last whale is clubbed to death with a piece of ice from the very last glacier in the North Pole, while in the Antarctic we fossil-fuel fascists barbecue the last surviving penguin chick alive, squawk squawk squa…

However, no matter whether you’re a tulip or miffed, you’ll have noticed the difference between the campaigns against wind farms and Shell to Sea. The former’s protests have been mannerly and lawful, and largely ignored by the Dublin-based media. The Shell to Sea campaign, led and supported by the miffeds, and backed by variegated bands of republicans, faced down the gardai in protest after protest. They never hesitated to challenge the state and the response from the media was hugely sympathetic.

The miffed agree that oil is evil and bad, and run by the devil’s earth stations such as BP, Shell, Exxon. However, Norway’s Statoil — which owns 37% of the Corrib project— is not so demonised, because it’s state-owned and therefore virtuous. Rather like Britain’s National Coal Board, which owned the Aberfan slag heap that killed 144 people in 1966. Had Shell been responsible, it would have been mass murder. Instead, it was Just One Of Those Things.

Is the name Lars Wagner familiar? Probably not. He was a young German who was killed building an unnecessary tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay in 2013. This work was undertaken by Shell in response to local objections to An Bord Pleanala that a short pipeline direct to the land might endanger people locally.

Ah, they have a point, surely? How would I like one beside me? Well, I do have one, just 20 yards from my bedroom, so there. Moreover, had Lars Wagner been an anti-Shell demonstrator he would now be a martyr, with candlelit vigils in his name. But he was an indirect and inadvertent victim of the Shell to Sea campaign, so he’s forgotten. (Is there any guilt felt in Rossport over his tragic death?)

Moreover, unchecked Rossportitis mob law eventually proved contagious and spread to Jobstown — and just look at that unholy mess. The taoiseach probably now realises that he made a grave mistake by even appearing to give ground over the garda policing of the protest. Any apparent affirmation of the mob’s hysteria will never be rewarded with sweet and attentive reason. Quite the reverse — the privilege of the Dail was subsequently abused with a display of Rossportitis at its nastiest. That’s the nature of the beast you’re dealing with, Leo. Never forget this lesson, never.

So, gentle reader, if you agree with what I’m saying, you’re probably a tulip. If not, you’re probably a miffed — so miffed indeed that you might even demand my dismissal. Naturally. Because not tolerating dissent is a fairly common characteristic of people who cherish mercy, idealism, freedom and diversity.

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