Skip to content or view screen version

A visit to Rossport Solidarity Camp

Happy Camper | 31.08.2011 16:26 | Rossport Solidarity | Free Spaces

This is a brief perspective from a UK-based visitor to the Rossport Solidarity Camp, Mayo, Ireland. It gives those who have not yet visited the camp an idea of what to expect, and ways to support the campaign.

The Rossport Solidarity Camp has been appearing annually on the west coast of Ireland's County Mayo, forming a base for activists to take direct action against the construction of Shell's environmentally-destructive Corrib gas pipeline project, which is opposed by the great majority of the local population. I won't go into the background of the campaign here; check the websites at the end of this article for that.

The Gas Works : Shell are attempting to enclose a site compound at Aughoose, from which they then intend to launch a tunnel-boring machine which will lay the gas pipeline under the estuary for a several miles until it emerges onto the beach at Glengad, from where it is planned to link to the (already laid) undersea pipeline from the Corrib gas field. See this google map for context -,+Ireland& (A is (approximately) the site of the Shell compound, and the pipeline route is under the estuary to the sea).

Direct Action : Currently, the campaign focus is attempting to stop the completion of the compound, which involves the erection of substantial fencing amongst other works. Direct action has thus mostly taken the form of site invasions, and of blockades of roads to stop deliveries of building materials from Shell's base at their nearby Bellanboy refinery. The refinery and compound are both guarded by Intergrated Risk Management Services (IRMS), who have an estimated 80+ security guards at the compound, and at least several dozen at the refinery. The IRMS guards are instructed to remove any "trespassers" from site, which they attempt to do with varying degrees of competence and aggression. On the road, responsibility for protecting the delivery vehicles and keeping the road clear supposedly passes to the Gardai (police); however, in practice, IRMS often (illegally) "police" things on the road outside the compound, and the police and IRMS can seem to merge into a blue -and-yellow blur of corporate strong-arm buffoonery. Typically, arrests are rare, and most activists are likely to experience getting blocked, grabbed or shoved rather than nicked. The last week has seen a fantastic flurry of actions - see

The Camp : The camp is currently situated near to the Shell compound site at Aughoose, on land owned by a supportive farmer. It contains communal facilities including a kitchen/socialising marquee, a second storage/work marquee, communal sleeping benders, many smaller structures, compost toilets, and a look-out tower. The camp is extremely well-organised and well-equipped; jobs like cooking and cleaning are self-arranged on a rota basis and the general impression is one of a friendly, sorted purposefulness. Visitors are asked to pay 25 euro a week to cover all food; communal meals are vegan. The camp is alcohol-free, except at the week-end. There is usually a mix of irish, british and other nationalities around, and there was a great atmosphere on site when I visited. Relations with the local community are long-standing and excellent, and the camp (which has many long-term residents as well as short-term visitors) is very well integrated locally, with the regrettable line between "local" and "activist" being more blurred here than at any protest camp I have ever visited.

Getting there from Britain : It's a fair journey, but worth it! The cheapest way is to buy a "rail and sail" ticket from your local railway station to Dublin Ferryport, via Holyhead; they currently cost around £33 each way. Ferry times are available from the Irish Ferries or Stenaline websites. Once at Dublin, a local bus meets the ferry and takes you to the central coach station, from which a Bus Eireann coach will take you to Ballina, a journey of about 4 hours. You can of course hitch to Ballina, and there are also trains. From Ballina, it's a 30+ mile hitchhike to the camp, most of which is on the N59 road and will hopefully be fairly straightforward. If you get most of the way and get stuck, you could try ringing the camp on 0851141170 and seeing if someone will come and rescue you. There are places on the camp to sleep, or lots of places to pitch your own tent. The weather can be wild, and the camp is boggy, so bring warm clothes, waterproofs, and wellies.

I hope this is of use to those who have not yet made it out to Mayo. I would urge anyone who is able to to go and visit - you will be welcomed and, I predict, will be inspired by this remarkable campaign in a beautiful part of the world. It does feel like one of Europe's ecological resistance frontlines, and it deserves support. Shell plan to work through this winter, and so the campaign won't go away - keep an eye on the websites below for the latest news. If you can't get there, solidarity actions in the UK are very much appreciated by the campaign.

More info and the latest news can be seen at

Happy Camper