At the edge of the world: power, protest and the Corrib gas field

This source preferred by David McQueen

Authors: McQueen, D.

Start date: 8 January 2014

The small, rural community around Rossport, County Mayo in Ireland has been divided by the construction of a raw gas pipeline through their land. The paper traces how local protestors stood against the oil giant and the Irish government in its plans for energy development in the area. It explores how Shell and its opponents have fought a bitter war around the pipeline project that has involved legal action, occupations, blockades and a sustained media campaign to influence public and shareholder opinion. The protest group Shell to Sea have publicised their cause through social media and with the help of local documentary film-makers, while Shell has fought back at a local and national level through a well-funded public and media relations campaign.

Ireland’s experience of colonial occupation and fight for independence has framed much of the discourse of resistance in the dispute (Gilmartin 2009). This paper shows how a marginal, isolated community of Gaelic-speaking farmers, fishermen and concerned citizens garnered national interest and support in their battle against Shell, forcing the oil company to adopt new, proactive public relations and communications strategies. It looks at how determined opposition to the project has been managed by Shell through sophisticated community engagement and online and broadcast media coverage designed to restore Shell’s reputation and delegitimised the Shell to Sea protestors. It examines the shifting media strategies and tactics of the major actors in the dispute and assesses the successes and failures of each and lessons for future conflicts of this kind.

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