LIT Film Festival
Millennium Theatre, Limerick Institute of Technology
As part of the LIT Film Festival in Limerick, there was a special screening of the award-winning documentary The Pipe in the Millennium Theatre in the Limerick Institute of Technology on Tuesday, 12th April. The film, directed by Risteard Ó Domhnaill, documents the conflict between the residents of a tiny village in Rossport Co. Mayo, Shell Oil and the State about the laying of an underwater gas pipe which could potentially ruin the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen.
The film opens with an aerial shot of the West of Ireland which shows the beauty of the unspoilt landscape. The camera hones in on a fisherman – Willie Corduff in his boat talking about the generations of fishermen in his family. This highlights the crux of what is at stake if Shell manages to lay a gas pipe through this idyllic village. A battle of rights ensues.
In 1996 a natural gas source was discovered off the shore of Rossport. The State and Shell Oil decided that the gas could be pumped underwater to a refinery. Initially it promised economic prosperity and new jobs, but at what cost? The residents would effectively be sacrificing nature and its resources for Shell.
However, the residents were not informed of the dire consequences of a natural gas pipe running through their land. Not only was information withheld, but the residents of Rossport were not asked permission concerning the laying of the pipe. This raw, high energy gas pipe would run underground close to the homes of the residents. They were effectively bullied into accepting that the pipe was going to be laid despite their protests against it.
Their human rights, civil rights and safety were at stake. This caused immense frustration and resentments against Shell and the State for allowing this to happen. The fishermen ascertained that their livelihoods and the traditions of the land were at stake because of Shell’s greed for economic wealth, and that there was a constant threat over their jobs. Regardless of the lack of consent by the residents of Rossport, Shell Oil insisted on laying the gas pipe. This inevitably led to protests and numerous arrests for blockading the Shell workers.
Protesters were forcibly removed by brute force by Gardaí with some people receiving a beating by batons. The use of a handheld camera in the middle of the action effectively conveyed the aggressions and tension that was rife during the protest. Five men who continuously stood up for their rights were arrested by Gardaí. They became known as the ‘Rossport Five’. They spent 94 days in Cloverhill Prison for not adhering to a court injunction that allowed Shell workers to enter their land to lay the gas pipe. However their attempts for justice were in vain: the pipeline was laid in 2009 much to the dismay of the residents.
The Pipe is an insightful documentary that delves into conflict, injustice and the struggle to maintain lifelong traditions.
The LIT Film Festival will continue until Friday, 15th when there will be an awards night in the Millennium Theatre, Limerick Institute of Technology.