Merthyr to Mayo: Shell to Hell!

IssueJuly - August 2010
News by Kelvin Mason

This report is written as a letter to Pat O’Donnell and Niall Harnett who are in jail in Ireland for opposing Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline.

Dear Pat and Niall
We’re just back from the Merthyr to Mayo Solidarity Bike Ride, which connected the struggles of the people of Wales and Ireland opposing the misuse of our natural resources by multi-national corporations and complicit governments.

My partner and I joined the ride in Galway. Some of the other riders did the whole trip – from Bristol up to Merthyr, down to Swansea to catch the ferry to Cork, and all the way up the west coast of Ireland to Rossport Solidarity Camp: a mighty effort.

The day we joined the ride in Galway was the day the Israeli Defence Force killed people taking humanitarian aid to Gaza. So, we were straight into a protest at Marks and Spencer. After a good soaking in the rain in Galway, the next day was the long ride up to Castlerea to visit the two of you.

I’m sure you heard the music, singing and shouting outside the jail – the Solidarity Bike Ride came complete with Bicycology’s tandem sound-system. But I wish you could have seen it: a ceilidh in the visitors’ car park, two Rebel Clowns trying to break in to break you out and graffiti chalked on the walls.

On the way out we continued the party on the forecourt of a Topaz filling station (did you know the Garda don’t like to dance?). Amazed me more, though, that Shell are so embarrassed by what they’re doing in Ireland that they’ve re-branded: Topaz, my ass; we all know it’s Shell!

Next day up to Ballina and another party: great craic. All the way through Ireland, the bike ride linked local struggles and everywhere people were brilliant hosts. In the morning it was a critical mass bike ride, blocking punters from filling stations and handing out Changing Times, the news- paper produced for the Merthyr-to-Mayo ride.

Fair play to them, the Garda kindly escorted us out of town and set us on the road for Glengad. And it was a hell of a ride, cursing against the wind all the way! Worth it, though. When we finally arrived outside the gates of Shell’s refinery there was a great crowd of people to welcome us! (And there was a lump in my throat to see the graveyard tribute to the Ogoni activists hung in Nigeria.)

I know the people of Merthyr opposing Miller-Argent’s environmentally disastrous Ffos-y-Frân open-cast coalmine were inspired by strength of the campaign in Ireland. After all that, the Solidarity Camp was grand: see you there next year!

See more of: Wales