According to his trade union and other sources, Oscar Reina, spokesperson for SAT (Sindicato Andaluz de la Tierra — Andalucian Workers’ Union) was arrested at midday in Granada today while lunching with some of his colleagues, taking a break from preparations for the big demonstration on December 4th, the National Day of Andalucía as well as postering for a festival against repression planned for December 8th in Marinaleda, at which the band Ska-P will launch their most recent CD.
Reina has been required to attend court since being ordered to do so to answer charges of sending a “disrespectful to the Monarchy” tweet in 2016. H
According to trade union colleague José Caballero, communicated to the newspaper El Salto, he had not presented himself voluntarily to answer the charges in line with his union’s policy of disobedience for the leadership, adopted unanimously some years ago against the rising repression suffered by SAT, with a million in government fines and demands for imprisonment of more than 300 years with nearly 500 trade unionists charged.
The tweet for which the trade union leader is to be tried: “You must feel little shame Felipe de Borbón; you are a disgrace. Your position which nobody has voted for is inherited from an institution that was maintained as a result of a Francoist and terrorist coup.
I would award you the Prize for Lack of Decency and Hypocrisy, with a trip into exile.”
The SAT (Andalusian Worker’s Union) is a trade union operating within the Andalusian autonomous region within the Spanish state and claims a membership of 20,000. It was founded in 2007 and describes itself as: a trade union of class, alternative, anti-capitalist, assemblyist, of solidarity, internationalist, pluralist, anti-patriarchal, confederal, republican, Andalusian nationalist, of the Left and communist. Its General Secretary is Diego Canamero. The union is known for actions such as occupations of unused land and a 2013 raid on a supermarket to distribute school materials on families in need.
A recent protest of the union has been against the proposed Lands Law which they say will “sink forever the dream of our Andalusian working population for Agrarian Reform. One cannot understand Andalusia with the struggle for the land and that is more recent than might appear ….”
Andalusia has an unemployment rate of 24.4% (2017 official figures), with male unemployment at 21.6% and female unemployment reaching 27.9%. According to SAT’s figures, 50% of the land is in the hands of 2% of the population and that concentration is increasing. That is an average and in some areas the situation is much worse. One worker a day dies on the land, according to the union and 60% of Andalusians earn less than 1,000 euro a month. Around 40% are so poor they cannot afford educational materials.
The union spokesperson denounced the PSOE (which has the majority in the autonomous government) and put forward a six-point program of reforms demanded by the union which they say will address all these issues.
Reina ended the communiqué by calling on the working population of Andalusia to mobilise militantly and to demand “Tierra y Libertad!” (Land and Liberty).
People visit the Basque Country for different reasons — among the touristic reasons are cuisine, folk culture and beach-type tourism including surfing. For some there may be business reasons and possibly on the other end of the spectrum from them there is the political aspect – interest in and solidarity with their struggle for independence and to a lesser extent perhaps, socialism. Eco-tourism and archaeological interest are probably not high on the list for most people but I’d suggest it would be worthwhile to include sites dealing with such aspects in any itinerary.
Many Basques would tell you that their country has a long way to go in environmentally-friendly practices – or at least in those less harmful to the environment; if true, it serves to illustrate just how far behind the desirable are the practices common in Ireland. Everywhere in Basque village or town, one sees the recycling containers in their five different colours for paper, plastic, metal, glass and organic waste. One frequent complaint is about timber-production forestation practices and though much of the Basque country is green with trees, many of those trees are conifersor, even worse, Basques will say, eucalypts in mono-cultural acres. The latter are indeed widespread and are said to suck the moisture out of the soil so that after they are felled, little else can grow there.
Environmentally-friendly timber production is less intensive and more diverse in species, less harmful to biodiversity of plant and animal life and more protective of the soil from erosion, flooding and desiccation. But to business — and therefore mainstream political interests — it is slower in turnover of profit. The perils of this concentration on early profit gain have been underlined this year with the infestation of the main crop pines, the “Monterey pine” (Pinus radiata) by the ‘Mycosphaerella dearnessii’ fungi and ‘Mycosphaerella pini’, said to have originated in Central America, which turns the foliage (needles) brown, eventually leading to the destruction of the tree.
That all said, at grassroots (forgive the unintended pun) and often municipal level, there is great interest and support for biodiversity in the Basque Country and discussion around the subject is much more socially widespread than one would find in Ireland or in most of Britain (though perhaps not in some other parts of Europe). There are many national parks and reserves of great beauty and even city Basques tend to have a culture of collecting edible fungi in the woods in the autumn and of hill-walking or mountain-climbing at various times of the year. And small farms can be found dotted throughout the countryside.
Education about the environment for adults, children and even tourists is taken seriously and, apart from schools, centres promoting environmental care can be found in many areas. One such site of interest is the bio-diversity and heritage centre of Madariaga, the Ekoetxea, in the Axpe de Busturia area between the towns of Bermeo and Gernika These are interesting towns in themselves of the coast of Bizkaia (Biscay) province and Gernika was of course made famous by its bombing by the Nazi Luftwaffe, in the service of the fascist generals (Franco et al) in 1937, during what probably most people call the the Spanish Civil War and others, the Iberian Anti-Fascist War. Bus and train services connects both towns and pass through Busturia, both services having a stop or station in Axpe. The bus and train services run at mostly half-hourly intervals, the train all the way to Bilbao, on a single track for much of the line, up and down trains alternating.
I dropped in to a charming tavern in Axpe named after the Basque flower, Eguzkilore: literally “Sun Flower”. This is not the “sunflower” which Van Gogh famously painted, so named because it turns to follow the sun through its journey across the sky; the Basque flower (Carlina acaulis)is a member of the thistle family and is thought to resemble an idealised image of the sun. Dried specimens are often found hanging over the front door of Basque houses as a good-luck symbol, quite probably a remnant of pagan sun-worship (like the Irish “St. Bridget’s Cross” and indeed the traditional Basque symbol of the lauburru is very like that Irish symbol too and interestingly, the Basque tradition related to me was that it was borrowed from the Iberian Celts).
The Eguzkilore tavern is owned by a friendly young couple, a Catalan woman and Basque man: he of course speaks Euskera and Castillian (Spanish) fluently, whereas she is fluent in Catalan, Castillian and English, speaks Euskera well and smatterings of other languages. Although I know from experience that their cuisine is excellent, I ordered only a simple kafe esnea there and after finishing it and a chat, set off up the road to the Madariaga Ekoetxea (“eco-house”), an easy walk of perhaps fifteen minutes. Turning left at the roundabout at the crest of the hill the centre was easily visible by the clock-bell tower and the taller viewing tower.
This latter was a defensive construction quite similar to the keeps constructed in Britain and Ireland by the Norman invaders, livestock quartered below and people living on floors above; one of the staff told me that it had been inhabited until the 1930s. Now the floors have been ripped out except for the top one, accessible by a short journey in a lift and once there one can view around something like 160 degrees: steep hills close by beyond the road, land sloping away towards Gernika and distant mountains on another side, beach of the estuary and some marshlands on another.
The Tower was in fact the last part of the centre which I experienced. It was a showery Sunday in mid-October and the centre was fairly quiet, less that ten vehicles in the car park and nobody but a receptionist immediately available upon entering the building. I used my limited Euskera in addressing her, which is my practice in the Basque Country, and which is usually – but not always – appreciated. The native language has become “politicised” here (as some say it has also in the case of Irish in Ireland), which is another way of saying that it was banned under the Franco dictatorship, that people of a Spanish unionist turn of mind often resent it and native speakers, learners and independentists want to encourage its spread and use in everyday life. Of course in a cultural type of centre in the Basque Country I would not expect any negative response and I was answered politely in Euskera with a quick conversion to Castillian when my limited store of Euskera ran out.
WATER AND BIODIVERSITY
I had seen a small charge advertised outside but there was none on that day or perhaps that time of year to see two standard exhibitions, one on water and the other on biodiversity. The one on water informs visitors that water is a circulatory system: 1) most of it falls from the air in rain or humidity, some of it on to land and some on to lakes or on to the sea; 2) some of that which falls on land is taken up by soil and vegetation and excess runs off into streams, rivers and lakes; 3) some also soaks through permeable or semi-permeable strata of soil and rock and forms underwater reservoirs and lakes. 4) The excess runs out in underground rivers and streams, emerging eventually to empty into seas and lakes, where 5) the sun heats up the top layers again, creating clouds, many of which precipitate on to land, renewing the circle.
The diagrams, photos and videos demonstrated this process well and attractively and there were samples of varieties of sandstone and limestone to examine at close quarters. For me, the photos of underground caves formed by the water wearing away the limestone and the various and sometimes fantastic formations caused by chemical-rich water dripping for millenia were the most impressive along with the few examples of invertebrates adapted to life without light and mammals using natural caves were the most interesting, while others might have found the supplying of water to the public of greater interest (and certainly this is an important issue in many countries and not least so in Ireland).
The section dedicated to bio-diversity is divided into different parts, including a room with video screens showing different types of humans (ethnic, gender, possibly sexuality, culture, age) and others dealing with plant, fungi and animal life. Passing through a type of broad corridor with explanations of what is a definition of biodiversity in many languages, one enters a brightly-lit room seemingly constructed entirely of panels, each one of an animal: birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects and other invertebrates. Not only the walls but floor and ceiling appear constructed of the panels, a vibrant bright room somewhat evoking the effect of stained glass with light shining through, a church celebrating the diversity of animal life, perhaps.
Walking onwards, one finds a hall filled with large cubes, standing haphazardly upon one another, each carrying the image of an animal or plant. The names of the species are given in Euskera, Castillian and Latin. I find myself at times wishing to see the names in English and then chiding myself for the unreasonableness of this wish. There are images of plants to be seen too, some of plants which we are informed are native to the country and one found only there.
ATTRACTIONS IN THE WIDER AREA
A slim informational folded leaflet is available in a number of languages, one version being in English and French, not only about this centre but about a network of them managed by the “Basque Government” (i.e the Government of three of the southern Basque provinces, Biskaia, Gipuzkoa and Alava). These are visited every year by 100,000 people, the booklet informs us, 25,000 of which are schoolchildren; the ekoetxea which I visited receives 2,000 schoolchildren out of a total of 45,000 visitors annually.
Another, more substantial booklet available in English which shows signs of translation probably from Castillian gives more information on the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, the wider area in which the Madariaga Ekoetxea is located. This booklet advertises nature trails for hiking or biking, restaurants for Basque cuisine, a cave occupied by prehistoric humans, the Gernika Tree and General Assembly building and museum, markets and folk festivals, cider and wine-houses, painted forest, hermitages, bird-watching and sea activities including surfing and whale and dolphin-watching. Strangely (or not), in its caption about Gernika, it has nothing to say about the bombing of the town in 1937 nor, in its references to human habitation and culture of the wider area, nothing either to say about the Spanish Civil (i.e Anti-Fascist) war or about the occupation of the area by the fascist troops and the repression that followed, nor about the suppression of their language under Franco.
An information panel tells visitors that there are 3,335 different mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, fungi and plant species etc. in the the Urdaibai reserve and that 85 are in danger of extinction or are of special interest. Some panels showing examples of these would be welcome as would more about the wildlife native to the area (like what species are the owls one can hear hooting at intervals through the night from the forested hill above Axpe, for example).
They are all around us; they live but they are not animals. Nor are they micro-organisms – we see them clearly all in many places. They can grow on organic and none-organic surfaces. We might think they are plants – algae, moss or fungus but they are none of those — they are lichens. There are about 20,000 known species1 and they cover an estimated 6% of the Earth’s surface, able to exist in environments as different as beneath Artic snow, on salt spray-showered seashores and windswept mountain rocks and in tropical rainforest. An estimated 6% of the Earth’s land surface is covered by lichen species.2 Some are long-lived and include the longest-living things on Earth. There are species that require nothing to cling to while others can live inside rock, in the spaces between grains.3In Ireland, 1,134 separate species of lichen have been recognised, according to the National Biodiversity Data Centre – i.e over 5% of Earth’s estimated total species right here on this little island.4
When we look at some growing on tree bark or rock, we are tempted to think of them as fungus, algae or even moss. Mosses are ancient enough life-forms and are plants, which algae are too and almost certainly much older. Fungi used to be considered plants but are so no longer and in their structure and digestion and also genes, are more akin and more closely related to animals. This will not be good news to vegetarians or vegans but the evidence is difficult to deny.5 Indeed there are some feoilséantóirí (word in Irish for a vegetarian and more apt in the context of this sentence) who already dislike eating many fungi because the texture reminds them of meat.
But lichens are neitherfungi nor plants.
So if lichens are not plant or fungus, what are they? Another kind of life-form? Well yes … and no. They are a combination of both, fungus and plant. At some point in the evolution of life on earth, logically after plants and after fungi had evolved, somehow some species of fungi combined with some species of alga and/or cyanobacteria6 and produced a symbiont or biont: lichen. Scientists maintain that the 20,000 estimated species did not evolve from one common ancestor but that different species appeared separately at different times during the history of the Earth.
Plants draw their nutrients from sun and elements in the soil (or in some cases, in the water). Fungi, like animals, cannot get their nutrients straight from sun or soil and need to break down their alimentation materials, whether flesh or plant, in order to feed on them. In doing so, fungi are important decomposing agents – in fact, the principal ones.
Vascular plants need roots not just to cling to soil but even more importantly, to draw up water and nutrients but algae don’t; when they have any kind of roots, it is to cling to a surface and that is exactly what the lichen needs too. Fungi extend and feed through root-like growths usually under the surface of what they are feeding upon, extending from the tips; they are not roots, however and break off easily.What we see of fungi is usually the spore-bearing parts above the surface, often much the smaller part of the organism.
Plants seem to grow above ground also by elongating their tips but in fact are extending from further back, adding cells to cells to lengthen the body. All plants need a constant supply of water (cacti and succulents store water but still need to draw on the supply to live). Fungi need damp conditions. But when combined into lichens, the new species can live without water for a considerable time. So, a marriage, as they say, “made in Heaven” … or perhaps in a Hell, an environment of very dry and hot conditions alternating with the very wet and cold , where the newly-wedded ancient algae and fungi set out to build their homes.
Some lichens contain not only algae combined with a fungus but also a cyanobacterium; this partner is capable of fixing nitrogen extracted from the air and is a valuable addition to the menage-a-trois.
It has been remarked by some that the marriage of plant and fungus is not an equal one, is not true symbiosis, since the fungal partner or symbiote benefits more than does the algal. The algal symbiote produces sugar through photosynthesis and the fungus only chitin, or ‘hard‘ structure, it is argued. However, if both partners (or three) are content with the arrangement, is that not a happy marriage? More seriously, the fungal partner may contribute other factors to the symbiosis of which scientists are only just becoming aware – for example, chemicals to repel organisms attempting to graze on them and protection from the sun.
And scientists do not treat them equally either, since the species of lichen is always determined and named by them according to the species of fungus, not of the alga or bacterium.
COLOURS IN THE RAIN
So, if the claim is that we see them all around us, where are they? They may be seen on slate roof-tops, in patches of roughly circular white (not to be confused with pigeon or seagull excrement, which may also be in evidence). Yellow or orange patches are typically seen on stone, as is a black or dark brown one by the seaside. A bright yellow-green one may be seen on fallen twigs or on tree-bark, as may also a tufted-form green one growing on rock or tree.
The colours tend to be particularly vivid during or soon after rain when the cortex becomes translucent and, if there were no other reason to be grateful for the precipitation levels usual in Ireland, that would be reason enough, perhaps, should we take the time to admire the little things of beauty. Of course there are other reasons and as a Basque once said to me about the green of his native country and could perhaps even more accurately said about colour associated with the “Emerald Isle” — “It’s not green because we paint it.”
Some of the bright colours in lichens, produced by the fungus, are thought to be of use in protection from the rays of the sun and become more vivid after rain due to rapid absorption of water by the chlorophyl-holding part of the symbiont (or biont).
PIONEERS AND SURVIVORS
Lichens are considered “pioneer organisms” by botanists and geologists, i.e organisms that set out to colonise new territories. These maybe new territories in the sense that a geological change has exposed them to air, e.g from the seabed or from under ice, or from inside the earth by volcanic action or by tectonic plate collision.
Pioneer organisms need to be tough and adaptable and they often create footholds for other species, not quite so tough or adaptable, to follow after. However, given that logic dictates that algae and fungi existed before some of them combined to form lichens, the latter could not have been among the earliest colonisers of the Earth’s crust. On Earth then, they are later pioneers of newly-created inhospitable terrain.
May they be used to help create habitable environments elsewhere? It’s perhaps worth quoting these two paragraphs from Wikipedia in their entirety:
In tests, lichen survived and showed remarkable results on the adaptation capacity of photosynthetic activity with the simulation time of 34 days under Martian conditions in the Mars Simulation Laboratory (MSL) maintained by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
The European Space Agency has discovered that lichens can survive unprotected in space. In an experiment led by Leopoldo Sancho from the Complutense University of Madrid, two species of lichen — Rhizocarpon geographicum7 and Xanthoria elegans — were sealed in a capsule and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket 31 May 2005. Once in orbit, the capsules were opened and the lichens were directly exposed to the vacuum of space with its widely fluctuating temperatures and cosmic radiation. After 15 days, the lichens were brought back to earth and were found to be in full health with no discernible damage from their time in orbit.
In some areas, soil lichens help to bind the sand-crust or soil-crust together but lichens have also been shown to chemically attack stone, thereby helping to create soil. Lichens can also help create little environments where soil may be retained and seeds of plants germinate. However, like all species, lichens are out to help themselves and some produce chemicals to restrict the march of mosses (another pioneer species but more water-reliant), with which lichens would have to compete in many areas).
When growing on tree bark, lichens do not parasitise on the tree nor harm it in any way, merely using it as a secure base. Older trees are often covered with lichen and dead trees or branches more so, associating in some people’s minds the ill-health in a tree with the growth of lichen upon it. Circumstantial evidence may suggest the guilt of the lichen but it is completely a case of coincidence: lichen is slow-growing and the older the tree, the more time lichen has had to grow and extend upon it; the tree dies because it grows old.
The lichen will survive the dead tree for a period but it is not the killer. Now come decomposers: insects, snails, slugs and especially, distant relatives of the lichens: fungi. Without concern for their relatives, the fungi, along with the other decomposers, will reduce the tree to soil ingredients and thereby deprive the lichens of their base but, in time, providing more soil for more trees to grow and for new generation of lichens to attach themselves to the bark.
The fungus is not too discriminating and a particular species may combine with different algae species; the resultant lichens may appear to be different species but (since 2014) will be classified as the same lichen species, i.e containing the samespecies of fungus.8
The alga can also exist independently in nature but the fungi cannot. Two species in two genera of green algae are found in over 35% of all lichens, but can only rarely be found living on their own outside of a lichen.9
Sex and Reproduction
It is only the fungal part of the symbiote that reproduces sexually. When doing so, it produces spores (as do ferns and mosses) which must find a compatible alga in order to produce a new lichen, a symbiote of the fungus of the parent fungus and a new alga.
Some lichens reproduce or extend asexually, advancing across a surface and merging with another of the same species.
Uses of lichens:
When we discuss “the use” of some thing we generally mean its use for humans; lichens no doubt have many uses for other organisms, whether as food for reindeer during non-growing seasons or as micro-environments for tiny creatures. But for humans, the uses are mostly in the areas of
geological age indicators
Dyes and Pigments:
Dyes were made from the orange Xanthoria Parietina and the grey-green branched Parmelia Saxitillis to dye wools used in traditional tweed (Harris) weaving in the Scottish Highlands10and I myself have had the second of the two pointed out to me by an Aran Islander woman as the source for the rarely-used green wool knitted into a geansaí (pullover or jumper). Material for other natural dyes exist for example in Ireland but the issues are how easily they are obtained, how true they dye and how long they remain the desired colour and shade.
“There are reports dating almost 2000 years old of lichens being used to make purple and red dyes. Of great historical and commercial significance are lichens belonging to the family Roccellaceae, commonly called “orchella weed” or “orchil”. Orcein and other lichen dyes have largely been replaced by synthetic versions.”11
We know that red and purple dyes were much sought after and in some medieval civilisations the wearing of those colours was restricted to certain social classes and even to one individual (e.g the purple for the Emperor). Once Europeans had gained familiarity with indigenous civilisations of Central and South America, the red dye obtained from the parasitic cochineal insect Dactylopius coccusbecame an important export product to Europe until the late 19th Century, when synthetic pigments and dyes were invented. Despite this development, traditional hand-made textile producers, for example in regions of Mexico, continued to use cochineal dyeing. However, health concerns associated with some or all of those synthetic colourings in food have once again created a demand for cochineal and cultivation of the insect is once again economically viable, with Peru being currently the main exporter.12
Drugs and Medicine:
There is reason to believe that metabolites produced by lichens may have antibiotic effects and usnic acid, the most commonly-studied metabolite produced by lichens, is being investigated as a possible bactericide, in particular against Staphylococcus and E.coli.13
Lichens were also used in European traditional medicine, in particular based on the theory that plants that resembled human organs would be efficacious in treatment of illness of those organs. Some American Indigenous people also used them in traditional medicine treatment.
Lichens as Indicators of Geological Age and of Pollution Levels:
The science of lichenometry is a relatively new one in which measuring the type and size of lichen is used to indicate the age of exposed rock. It takes the known slow growth-rate of different lichens to arrive at an estimate of how long the rock in question has been exposed. This can be used on rock formations, landslides, stone buildings and statuary.
The tolerance (or lack of tolerance) of different species of lichen to certain types of air and rain pollutant can be used as bio-indicators. In general the “frond” or “bushy” types are less resistant to some air pollutants and the flat or “crusty” types more so. Lichens take their water from the surfaces to which they are attached and from the air and are therefore quickly affected by the water quality in rain and air.
Readers may find it worthwhile to take some time to examine the lichens growing around us, to think about their unusual ‘domestic arrangements’ and their pioneering habits. Or to inventory them as indicators of the level and content of pollution in a specific area.
And in particular, to put on rainproof or resistant clothing and to view lichens during rainfall or at least very soon afterwards.
Cycling through Griffith Park off the Mobhi Road, after a walk in the nearby Botanic Gardens, a flurry of wings and a flash of colours attracted my attention. Three birds came down with a splash into the Tolka.
You don’t need to be any kind of expert to identify the Mandarin Duck, especially the males and that’s what two of those birds were. The dowdier third one was the female.
I have often noted two male mallard ducks peacefully accompanying one female and wondered whether they had a menage-a-trois going or what the arrangement was. But there was nothing like that going on with the Mandarins as the males made clear quite quickly. After briefly circling around one another they were quickly into fisticuffs (or beak-and-wing-cuffs), scuffle-splashing, clucking insult or challenge, until the rival to the established male would take to the wing either for a break or to get next to the female. In the latter case, the male would take to the air also, in pursuit.
The female? She swam demurely apart waiting for the victor.
There was clearly one established male who for the moment was the dominant one but the rival kept coming back while I was watching and they were still at it when I left. The established one has the psychological dominance factor on his side, which is a strong advantage but it is by no means a guarantee of success. The rival might wear him down. Or the established one might become injured. Being a male and keeping one’s bird is not easy.
According to Charles Darwin, genders of many species but many birds in particular have become colour-differentiated through part of the evolutionary process described as sexual selection (The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871). This has reached amazing and one might say even bizarre though beautiful extremes with such birds as the peacock and the bird of paradise.
Darwin’s ideas make more sense than other explanations being proposed but it is nevertheless hard to credit that a female’s appreciation of colour, shape and behaviour would so impress upon the male the need to flaunt gaudy colour and shape in direct contravention of the need to survive predators by NOT calling such attention to himself. Still, there is no other viable contender explanation around (as distinct from the Mandarin contender, who may still be biding his time or pressing his suit, which if the established male has anything to say about it, is all he is going to press).
Aix galericulata is the Latin species name and the only other species in the Aix genus is the North American Wood duck. A chromosome in the Mandarin makes hybridisation between the two impossible.
Mandarin Ducks originate in East Asia but have been kept in Europe in aviaries and in ponds and lakes. Stephens Green used to have some, along with many other kinds of wildfowl, until the OPW allowed the Herring Gulls to take over to the extent that they have. I have not seen them do it but would not be in the least surprised if the gulls ate the chicks of many of the waterfowl species until they died out or took off somewhere else.
However, there have been feral Mandarin populations in Ireland for some time, notably in Co. Down and in Wexford and pairs may be establishing themselves in other places, including in the Glasnevin/ Drumcondra area, based around the Tolka (and perhaps the Royal Canal).
The Mandarin is a perching duck and this kind have feet capable of grasping a branch. They build their nests in hollows in trees which is good for the safety of the nesting female and the eggs. But what of the chicks or ducklings? As we know, ducklings take to the water long before they can fly. So what can these ducklings in tree hollows, many feet from the ground, do? They simply jump. A veritable leap into the unknown.
When they hit the ground, which at first sight seems to ensure they have broken practically every bone in their little bodies or a least concussed themselves and messed up their insides, they bounce a little, get up and waddle to their mother. Yes, she called them out, which is why they came.
One needs to see the process to believe and I have included some Youtube links. It would seem at first that they need soft leaf litter or water in which to land but one of the links I have posted shows Mandarin ducklings jumping from a nestbox on to bare stone — and getting up, apparently unhurt. It is difficult to understand, even with accounting for the relationship of weight to surviving a fall. We probably know that we can drop lots of insect species on to the ground and they don’t get hurt but the principle goes farther — apparently a mouse can survive a fall from a great height (unless a hawk gets it on the way down, or a cat is waiting below); conversely a fall of four foot on to its feet can kill an elephant (so it is said — I have not actually tried this with elephants but I have inadvertently confirmed the mouse theory).
Often invasive species should not be welcomed as they upset the natural ecological balance. The grey squirrel in the nearby Botanic Gardens, originally from the USA, may be cute but it is helping to wipe out the native red species. And that’s just one of the invasive species of animal and plant that are causing problems in Ireland (see https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/the-scent-of-intruders/). On the other hand, the widely-distributed Red Valerian (also with white and pink varieties) does not seem to be causing any problems and it is difficult to see how the Mandarin can become a serious problem either. But of course, one does not know for sure. It can be stated that the populations so far established in Britain and in Ireland do not seem to have caused any ecological problems. And it is true that we don’t have many dense woods in Ireland anywhere (thanks to certain human invaders in our history), least of all close to slow-flowing water, although some species have shown remarkable adaptability, witness in these climes the rat, fox, pigeon, herring gull and, of course, homo sapiens.
One of the curious things about the Mandarin is the name we have for it. Apparently, it is a Portuguese word for the Chinese government bureaucrats in existence when the Portuguese first began to trade with them (before they and other Europeans decided to invade China and confiscate areas, in particular ports and islands). How they became associated with the duck was not revealed in my short internet search.
However, in China and in Korea the mandarin duck is associated with fertility, good fortune and constancy in monogamy, so that it is often presented as a wedding gift, either as living pairs or symbolically in an ornament. It is not currently considered an extermination-threatened species.
Video links (second one is of merganser ducklings and is even more impressive):
Diarmuid Breatnach — part of Submission to the Minister’s Moore Street Consultative Group
I have had input to a number of submissions to the Minister’s Moore Street Consultative Group and recently sent in my own personal one. The submission is divided into sections and this is the one dealing with the market (the others will be published at intervals).
DUBLIN’S HISTORIC STREET MARKET
Historically, the Moore Street quarter deserves preserving in its own right and should have been so. Instead, it has been both neglected and preyed upon. But so has the street market.
As the only traditional food street market of antiquity remaining in Dublin, considering also its iconic status to not only Dubliners but migrants through the centuries and to visitors from the countryside, the street market should also have been saved. Such features in cities abroad are promoted for tourists, and indeed both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland do promote the market to visitors to Dublin. One can see the bemusement of the faces on many as they wander through in groups and imagine their thoughts (or overhear their expression):
“This is the famous street market? Are we sure we haven’t taken a wrong turning?”
It is easy to understand their confusion. Had they come a half-century ago, before the ILAC was built, they would have seen a bustling street, with stalls and shops both sides of the road along its length, and some businesses in side streets. Two decades ago, they would have found no difficulty in imagining the market’s former glory, for much of it remained still. Even a decade ago, perhaps, enough remained to imagine it.
But now? With shops closed and ugly hoardings squeezing the street? With big business shops pushing out in Moore Street? With independent shopkeepers offered only one-year leases at a time and pushed out willy-nilly? With only 15 street trading licences in operation and only some of those on the street at any one time?
The street market is not beyond saving and I will devote some space to that issue but first let us examine how it has come to this, for overcoming those causes is part of the solution.
In a Rogues’ Gallery of those guilty for bringing about this state of affairs, first in line must stand the Planning Department of Dublin City Council, which has made the decisions about what could be built and what demolished.
I know not how much money was placed into how many brown envelopes nor the names of all those who received them (though I have a fair idea of the identities of some of the recipients), nor what other favours were dispensed. But what is clear is that there was massive favour given to big business and speculators, the legendary Gombeen Men, and massive disfavour to street traders, small independent businesses, workers and working class residents. This of course has happened in many other areas of Dublin City and County and indeed elsewhere in Ireland. But one of the most concentrated areas of abuse has been the Moore Street area. And it continues to suffer that abuse.
Who, wanting to conserve a street market, would allow a giant supermarket chain outlet at one end of the street and another next door, in a city centre already abundantly served (if that is the word) by supermarkets? Who, wanting to conserve such a street market, would grant planning permission to huge shopping centre buildings to cover the entire area on each side of that remaining street market? Who, in good stewardship of our city centre, would grant a huge extension on a bad planning permission when the original one of a decade was running out with no work of any significance having been done on it to that point? And what public servants would so callously and nonchalantly ignore the wishes expressed by its citizens and, indeed of late, by the majority of their elected representatives?
Since no other motivations are apparent, one is entitled to assume either idiocy or rapacious greed; since the men involved on both sides of those arrangements are not idiots in the normal sense, that leaves an intelligent observer with only one alternative. And ask most ordinary people in Dublin and they will freely name the alternative, the real motivation.
Next into that rogues’ gallery must step the Department of Dublin City Council responsible for Street Trading – it is they that issue the street trading licenses to the street traders, lay down conditions and enforce restrictions, and in conjunction with other departments, provide their facilities.
Yes, well – facilities? One covered stall, open on all sides. No heating. No lighting other than the dim amount in the street. No water supply near to stalls. No toilets or changing rooms for the traders. Year after year, despite promises to the contrary, these disgraceful conditions continue. Some of the current traders are the fourth generation of their family in such work but is it any wonder that few stall-holders believe their children or grandchildren will follow them into the work?
As if that were not enough, around the time the Moore Street campaign was heating up further, when Chartered Land was gearing up to make its ‘land-swap’ offer, a deal promoted by the head of the Planning Department and lauded by Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys, Dublin City Council put not one but two permanent Market Inspectors on the street (at that time I think there were only 16 street licenses in operation there). Previously, one inspector would tour the market perhaps once or twice a day, for an hour at most.
What was the practical need for bumping up to this relatively high level of inspection? These inspectors have no powers other than instructing the shops and traders about street and pavement regulations and fining them for non-compliance. They do not attend to any other matters. They do not even claim to monitor the quality of the produce sold in the street.
There is no reasonable answer to this question, unless the purpose is to harass the small shopkeepers and traders further, in the way that unscrupulous landlords harass their tenants when they want to get rid of them but find it difficult to do so legally.
I do not accuse the individual inspectors of having that intention – only those who conceived of the idea and put them on that street. But employ two men on a street which they can clearly see often contains only ten stalls, tell them they have to enforce the street trading rules or their jobs will be in jeopardy — and what will they do? Urged by employment insecurity and sheer boredom, they will go up and down the street, criticising traders and even shopkeepers for extending some inches outside their allotted space (though there are many empty metres to each side and their neighbours are not complaining), or for continuing to sell some minutes after official closing time, threatening and even fining those trying to make a living with legitimate businesses and stalls on that street.
One might almost suspect that between speculators, big chain businesses and certain Dublin City Council officials, there is a conspiracy to run the street market into the ground, in order to make the whole a rasa tabula, a board wiped clean, upon which powerful financial interests can write their plans. Or an eyesore that few will bother to defend. And I say that such a conspiracy exists. Generally in this world, what looks like, feels like and smells like is indeed the substance one suspects.
The Moore Street Market should be cherished, nurtured and supported. Perhaps it is too late to do anything about those already in existence around it but no more supermarkets should be permitted in its near proximity.
The street traders should be given decent working conditions of shelter, heating and light and free from unnecessary official interference (not to say harassment). Small independent businesses should be encouraged in the street and in its surroundings (more on this later). The objective should be to promote a healthy, vigorous, colourful street food market on the spot where such has stood for centuries, with attractive working and earning-a-living conditions for those who work and shop there.
I am not a street trader but I have sold and promoted items publicly on many occasions and I also know something of the conditions in Moore Street, which I attend at least once week and usually a number of other days too.
When the weather is fine it is pleasant to have an open-air market but when it rains, snows or cold winds blow, shelter is desirable. The only way to be able to benefit from good weather and shelter from the bad is to provide a removable cover over the whole. I am sure that our present level of technology can provide a retractable, transparent roof.
Because the winds can be biting and also to conserve heat in winter, I suggest that sliding doors at each end to of the market should be provided – these can be left open or partially drawn as required.
Each stall should have adequate lighting and heating at hand (or foot!). A water supply should be available nearby no more than a few feet distance from every stall.
Toilets should be provided for traders.
There should be more flexibility in what the traders can sell, without losing the focus on a food market. During the 1916 Centenary year, traders were prevented by market inspectors from selling simple 1916 memorabilia – scarves, copies of the proclamation, flags etc. Such a prohibition in Moore Street was particularly ironic and unfortunate.
The refuse collected in the street should be verifiably recycled, the vegetable and fruit refuse in particular making excellent compost for city gardeners (and perhaps for a garden in the quarter itself).
The market traders do not work on Sundays and this seems an excellent opportunity to provide a farmers’ market in the street and lanes, bringing more value to the area.
The part of Moore Street largely omitted from the Barrett judgement, i.e from the Henry Place/ Moore St. junction to Henry Street, should be included in the overall plan
All of the above should be done in consultation with representation from workers, traders, small shopkeepers, shoppers of Moore Street and with local residents and the process should be transparent and publicly accountable
The Basque Country is one of the few places in the world where popular opposition successfully prevented the completion of a nuclear power plant; the opposition consisted of both popular mobilisations and armed action. But is the Spanish state now about to reimpose a nuclear program on the Basques?
In the 1960s, the Spanish state began a program of nuclear plant construction in the territory under its dominion. This was an era of great enthusiasm among states and industrialists for nuclear power and generally there was little popular opposition – most of the nuclear opposition at the time being focused on use of nuclear (and earlier, atomic) weapons and nuclear-powered military vessels.
Broad popular opposition to nuclear power itself began to build in particular after the accident at the nuclear reactor at Three-Mile Island (Pennsylvania, USA, 1979) and a catalogue of smaller nuclear reactor accidents (such as those at Sellafield, Wales, for example).
The lobby in favour of nuclear power tends to emphasize the ‘cleaness’ of the fuel (i.e. as opposed to ‘acid rain’ carbon dioxide and other pollution from coal-burning and oil-burning stations, and oil tanker disasters), relative ‘cheapness’ to produce (as opposed to oil, gas and coal) and possibly inexhaustible power (as opposed to fossil fuels). The lobby against nuclear power quotes environmental damage from accidents with potentially greater consequences and points out that the ‘cheapness’ is created by ignoring the costs of safe disposal of nuclear waste material which, if taken into account, would make it much more expensive.
Of course there are powerful interests in favour of nuclear power programs, including military, industrial energy production and construction industry. Employment opportunities in work-poor areas often build local support for construction of such plants also but in some areas it is precisely the local community that opposes the construction and that was the case in the southern Basque Country (the four provinces in Spanish-controlled territory).
Nuclear reactors tend to be built away from especially large population centres; if one accepts the necessity of such plants this policy makes sense but exposes people in areas far from the national decision-making centres to the pro-nuclear policy and its consequences, actual and potential. The later stages of the Spanish nuclear program included building three reactors in the Basque Country and one had already been built in the first phase at Garoňa, in the nearby Spanish province of Burgos.
LEMOIZ: A HISTORY OF STRUGGLE AGAINST NUCLEAR REACTORS IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY
The first site of the Basque-location phase of construction was at the small harbour of Lemoiz (Lemoniz in Spanish), situated in a picturesque part of Bizkaia (Biscay) province and attracted opposition from a coalition of interests: militant Basque left-nationalists, anti-nuclear and environmental campaigners.
Popular demonstrations began in the 1970s while the site was under construction with people traveling to the site to protest, also holding protests elsewhere and there were even some incidents of sabotage inside the facility, which was guarded by a Guardia Civil (Spanish Francoist paramilitary police force) post. This took place during the life of the Franco regime (he died in 1975) and also after his death during the repression of the “Transición” process which was not completed until 1982. Festivals and marches were also organised elsewhere in the Basque Country against the project.
The first armed attack by ETA was carried out 18 December 1977 with an attack on the Guardia Civil post at the site, during which David Álverez Peña,one of the ETA group’s members was injured, causing his death a month later. ETA later succeeded in planting a bomb in the reactor of the station which exploded on 17 March 1978, causing the death of two employees (Andrés Guerra and Alberto Negro), and wounding another two. Substantial damage was caused to the structure in the explosion, delaying construction.
On an International Day of Action Against Nuclear Power, 3rd June 1979, a police bullet resulted in the death of an anti-nuclear activist during a demonstration in Tudela, a town in the Basque province of Nafarroa; her name was Gladys del Estal and she was from Donostia/ San Sebastian in Gipuzkoa province. Demonstrations against the facility were now a weekly event.
ETA struck again on 13 June of that year with another bomb placed inside the site, on this occasion in the turbine area which, when it detonated, caused the death of another employee, Ángel Baños.
The deaths of employees in explosions might not have been intentional but on 29th January 1981 ETA kidnapped the chief engineer of the power station, José María Ryan, from Bilbao. The armed organisation issued an ultimatum to demolish the facility or to face the death of their hostage. Despite a demonstration organised against this threat, ETA killed engineer when the company did not back down.
The company replaced Ryan with Ángel Pascual as chief project engineer and ETA assassinated him on the 5th May 1982. Work at the site ground to a halt and Iberduero, the company developing the site temporarily halted work, calling on the Basque Government to commit itself to supporting the project.
The Government of the Autonomous Basque regionin which the site was located was in the hands of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) which, although completely opposed to ETA and by no means socialist, feared to go publicly against popular opinion opposed to the nuclear project. In 1983 the company officially stopped work, at which time both reactors were almost ready to go into production.
The deadlock was broken by the PSOE (Spanish unionist social-democratic party) winning the general election in 1984 on an anti-nuclear power policy and their government declared a moratorium on the building of all nuclear reactors throughout the state.
SPANISH STATE RETURNING TO A NUCLEAR -BUILDING PROGRAM?
The Spanish state currently has seven nuclear reactors generating a fifth of its electricity and its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1968.
After the horrificnuclear reactor disaster of Chernobyl (USSR 1986), people probably assumed that no further nuclear reactors would ever be built in the Spanish state. But the PSOE, the main establishment political party that formerly forced the nuclear moratorium showssigns of beginning to waver on the issue and even the nuclear reactor disaster at Fukishima (Japan 2011) does not appear to have deterred them. The PP, the right-wing Spanish unionist party, has always been in favour of nuclear reactors so that now a ruling class consensus favourable to more reactors seems to be forming (or formed).
Last month, according to press reports in the Basque Country, José Ramón Torralbo, president of Nuclenor, the operator of the Garoña plant, stated that a “two-year-long” “comprehensive” evaluation of the nuclear power plant found no reason that the reactor could not be restarted “with some modifications”, although consideration of the request to reopen the plant is not complete and asked that deliberations of the CSN (Nuclear Safety Council) “should not be interfered with”.
Around the same time it was reported that the reopening of the Lemoiz plant was being considered also.
The decision on reopening is not to be based on questions of feasibility in the short term alone but on the decision of the Spanish Government with regard to its energy policy in general and with regard to nuclear power in particular. The President of Nuclenor indicated when speaking about the Garoña plant that a commitment to operate for 40 years only would rule out feasibility and that they would be looking for a 60-year minimum commitment and preferably for 90 years – presumably this would apply also to the Lemoiz plant.
Referring to environmental and other opposition to nuclear power generation, the president of the Forum of the Spanish Nuclear Industry, Antonio Cornadó, claimed it an “error” to “mix ideological with technological considerations”, stating that has “negative consequences” for the state energy model and for the economy, since the sector generates an important contribution to GDP and taxes.
Cornadó put this figure at €2,781 million contribution of the nuclear industry to Spanish GDP, the equivalent of 30% of the textile and footwear industry and said that “environmental taxes are becoming fashionable and seem set to increase”, stating that of every 100 euros of business, 25 go to the payment of taxes which contributes 781 million euros in taxes overall.
In addition Cornadó raised the fear of “irreversible risk …. of failing to meet climate change targets” and that “Spain is not ready to tackle the massive dismantling of all its nuclear power plants, which would be a very difficult and very expensive technological plan.”
A new uranium mining project is also commencing.
SPANISH STATE READY TO REOPEN LEMOIZ DESPITE ITS HISTORY?
With regard to Lemoiz and plans for any further nuclear reactors in the Basque Country, the factors to consider of course are much than financial viability, given the history of the plant. The Spanish state and indeed the ‘Autonomous’ Basque Government may feel that the current political situation favours a return to the nuclear program in the Basque Country or at least is less favourable to the forces that oppose it. This is despite the leading PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) official in Araba province declaring his opposition to it.
Some Basque trade union sources have claimed that Iberduero, the company owning the Lemoiz plant, have communicated to them that it has no plans to reopen Lemoiz but it is not clear whether these statements are merely trying to calm fears or possibly even enlist trade union support for employment at the plant.
The leadership of the Abertzale (pro-Basque independence) Left has chosen to abandon the armed struggle (ETA has been on “permanent ceasefire” since 2011) and, under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi, to pursue a national independence program electorally in alliance with social democratic parties, which has seen a fall in street opposition activities also. The opposition to the Abertzale Left’s approach within the broad movement is growing but currently weak and, to an extent, divided. It is difficult to see how the movement’s current mainstream approach can hope to prevent a vigorous return to a Spanish State nuclear program throughout the territory it controls, including the southern four provinces of the Basque Country.
On the other hand, the Spanish ruling class finds itself politically divided and with neither of its main political parties able to form a government, with increasing talk of both of them, the PP and the PSOE, coming to an agreement for a national coalition government. That may bring the Spanish ruling class further problems in the future as the possibility of democratic alternative choices become more remote and are seen to be so. The discontent of broad sections of society within the Spanish state in recent years has been expressed in monster demonstrations, strikes, some movements and in elections, in which oppositional but mainly radical social-democratic parties across the state have made gains, sometimes huge ones. At the moment, the revolutionary opposition movement(s) in all parts of the state is weak and divided but this may change as the situation develops.
“Almost slash and burn,” is how one of the people I am talking with describes the procedures they expect from Lisadell, the construction company employed by the Department of Heritage in Moore Street, to work on where the GPO Garrison retreated in the last days of the Easter Rising.
“The roof doesn’t need replacing,” says another. “It needs the hole in the roof fixed and the timbers carefully repaired, not replaced.” I remark that I’ve known people who’ve had water damage or dry rot and just had the timbers replaced. “Yes, of course, when conservation is not an issue. But when it is, the work is slow and painstaking, bit by bit, to conserve everything that can be conserved, putting in extra supports when needed.”
I am talking to people with expertise in the area of conservation of buildings of historical and/ or architectural value. They know what should be done to conserve the historic buildings in the Moore Street quarter and they feel certain that it will not be done. They feel impotent – they have the expertise, they care about conservation but they fear the combined powers of the State and big property speculators such as Hammerson, who plan to build a huge shopping centre over the whole Moore Street quarter. They will advise but if they go “too far”, they feel their professional lives will be seriously impaired. Perhaps they fear even more than that – who knows?
In 2007, just before Nos.14-17 Moore Street were made a national monument, TG4 in the their Iniúchadh Oidhreacht na Cásca program broadcast a remarkably in-depth exposure of the battle between Chartered Land and another firm of property speculators for control of the quarter and how Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land, coming from behind, had been given an incredible advantage over his competitors with a preferential deal with the Planning Department of Dublin City Council. This took place among more than a whiff of corruption and of complaints by elected Councillors who were excluded from a secret meeting and at another, threatened with financial penalties. Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land (and also joint owner with Irish Life of the ILAC shopping centre) gobbled up most of Moore Street and only a fierce campaign in the autumn of 2014 prevented the Planning Department getting authorisation to swap him two Council properties in the Street, thereby clearing the way for him to begin demolition of the terrace.
“THESE TIMBERS HEARD …. MACHINE GUNS … SCREAMS … THE PAINFUL DECISION TO SURRENDER …”
Another of the experts intervenes. “These timbers they are going to rip out are the ones that heard the discussion around whether to surrender or to go on fighting,” she says. I am a little surprised at such poetic imagery from a person whose work is in bricks and mortar, plaster, timbers and slates – but there is no denying the passion and there is more to come.
“Those timbers heard the chatter of British machine guns, the crack of their rifles, screams in the street, the occasional crack of a Volunteers’ rifle, perhaps an occasional groan from the wounded Connolly. They heard Elizabeth O’Farrell volunteering to go out under a white flag although civilians had already been shot down under such a flag. They heard the discussions upon her return, the painful decision to surrender, Pearse’s decision to go out with O’Farrell, Seán Mac Lochlainn’s orders to march out in military order ….”
Can damaged timbers and bricks be conserved? I ask. “Oh yes, they do it in England on historic buildings, even genuine Tudor ones. All kinds of damaged timbers can be conserved. But if at all possible you do it in place, in situ – removing timbers causes further damage.”
And bricks? And slates? “Well,” breaks in another, “you’d photograph everything carefully in advance or as you uncovered sections. Anything to be temporarily removed would be numbered, slates or bricks. Then the supporting timbers or brickwork is slowly treated, then everything put back in the same order.”
What about missing or broken bricks or slates? “Broken bricks can sometimes be repaired but otherwise you’d source bricks from the same brickyard. Or if the brickyard is no longer in business, you’d look for other buildings of the same bricks being demolished and buy the material. The same with slates.” I think of the descriptions by campaigners occupying the buildings of how they found timbers just thrown into a set-aside room, and all kinds of objects left leaning against plasterwork that was probably in need of conservation.
A woman shows me on her Ipad a section on restoration procedures on the website of Historic England, a body sponsored by the British Department of Media, Culture and Sports. I quickly record three paragraphs (I will look up the rest later). “A conservative approach is fundamental to good conservation – so retaining as much of the significant historic fabric and keeping changes to a minimum are of key importance when carrying out repair work to historic buildings.
“The unnecessary replacement of historic fabric, no matter how carefully the work is carried out, can in most situations have an adverse effect on character and significance.
“The detailed design of repairs should be preceded by a survey of the building’s structure and an investigation of the nature and condition of its materials and the causes and processes of decay.”
I remark that doesn’t seem to be what is going to happen to Nos.14-17 Moore Street. They nod – they agree.
“It’s just a building site to them,” says one. “What they have already done in defacing a national monument is criminal – but who will prosecute them?”
“They put more holes in the front of those buildings than British soldiers did in 1916,” says another man angrily. “Then they just ripped out their Hilti bolts and filled up the holes with an epoxy resin, instead of pointing material.”
This is a reference to the drilling of holes for the erection of a banner without planning permission, across Nos. 14-17 Moore Street, officially a national monument since 2007. Judge Barrett agreed it was illegal in the case taken by Colm Moore, the nominee of some 1916 fighters’ relatives. Although she is appealing that and other decisions of Barrett’s, the Minister had it taken down recently — but again using questionable methods.
“No wonder Humphreys doesn’t want independent inspection and monitoring”, says another, a reference to the Minister of Heritage’s consistent refusal to allow any independent conservation experts in, or indeed the Lord Mayor of last year, or a number of TDs and Councillors, always under the guise of “Health & Safety requirements” that no-one not of the workforce should enter. Yet when they had their media exercise after the Government’s purchase late last year, RTÉ camera crews were in there as was Caitriona Crowe of Trinity College, praising the purchase of the buildings and the Department’s alleged intentions. It later emerged that the demolition of three adjoining buildings was part of that plan but a five-day occupation of the building by concerned citizens put a stop to that, before an injunction was granted by Judge Barret preventing further demolition until the case taken against the State had been decided.
While the rest of the buildings in the quarter and the streets themselves, uncared for and subject to constant assault of weather and with broken drainpipes, heavy traffic and so on accelerate in deterioration, and the Minister’s appeal against the Barret Judgement will not even open until December next year, an assault is imminent on the roof and parapets of four of the buildings of the historic 1916 terrace, those with the best-preserved original frontages and among those with the highest specific historic importance within that terrace. If this were a case of some greedy or careless private owner or company, a complaint could be made to the National Monuments Service. Many such cases have ended in heavy fines for the perpetrators.
But Terry Allen, the Principal Officer of that very Service baldly said in his evidence to Judge Barrett that Moore Street was not a 1916 battlefield. His office comes under the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, of which Minister Heather Humphreys is the boss. And the Government’s Cabinet stands behind her, if not actually pushing her forward. We tend to look to the State to protect national monuments from people damaging them. But who can protect them from the State itself?
NB: These conversations happened but not with all of the people present at the one time. I have put them together for the sake of a condensed narrative and for the protection of identities.
Principles of Repair for Historic Buildings from Historic England website:
Maribel Eginoa Cisneros died on the 13th of this August in the Santutxu district of Bilbao. She was many things – a democratic Basque patriot, dancer, choir singer, herbalist, mycologist, carer, wife, mother ….
I and two of my siblings travelled to attend the funeral. For me it was a farewell to a warm, intelligent and cultured person who, along with her husband, two of her daughters and a son-in-law, had been very welcoming to me. More than that or because of that, I thought of them as “my Basque family”.
Somewhere I have a Basque family related through blood and marriage but I don’t know them. Different loyalties and some German blood during the Spanish Civil War took my mother out of the Basque Country; the ties were cut and left behind. My mother became a woman in Madrid, where she met my father soon after.
Although they never met, it was because of my mother that I had first met Maribel. My mother, Lucila Helmann Menchaca (the Basques spell it Mentxaka), was born in Algorta, in the Getxo district, not far from Bilbao and spent her early childhood there. How her parents met is another story but Luci grew up bilingual in Castillian (Spanish) and German, with a Basque mother who hardly knew any Euskera (Basque) and a German father. All of Luci’s children, the five boys and one girl, knew of their mother’s childhood in the Basque Country and as we grew older, a desire grew with it to see where she had been born; each of us individually making the pilgrimage.
ONGI ETORRI – BASQUE WELCOME
I was a total stranger and low on funds on my first visit to the Basque Country. I had one contact, a woman I had met only a couple of times when she worked as an au pair in Dublin; she promised to help me get based and I arranged to phone her when I arrived. But the flight was delayed and then could not land at Bilbao airport – too much cloud, the pilot said – and we would land instead at Zaragossa, over 154 miles (248 Km) away. There the passengers had to wait for a coach and eventually arrived in Bilbao in the early hours of the morning. Of course, I had not booked an hotel, so the driver of the last taxi available tried a few without success and then brought me to the Nervión, a four-star hotel over its namesake river, dark and unlovely with a nightly rate that hit me in the gut.
Next morning I phoned my contact, Ziortza and she came to the Nervión and waited while I checked out. I expected to be brought to a cheap hotel or hostel but was instead brought to her family’s home and there, for the first time, I met Ziortza’s parents, Maribel Eginoa and Josemari Echeverria (women don’t change their surnames now when they marry there). I was welcomed, fed and shown to what was to be my room during my stay. It was Ziortza’s, who moved in with her parents – the other two sisters lived in their own apartments with their partners and children. I was fed wonderfully every day too.
I was stunned by the depth of the hospitality from people I did not know, a trait I have encountered again and again among many Basques I have met. Nor was that all. Ziortza took me on her days off on excursions to some different places and towns and her sister Gurrutze and husband Gorka took me on a tour along the Bay of Biscay before turning uphill to iconic Gernika (Spanish spelling “Guernica”). Ziortza also gave me instructions on how to get to Algorta by local train, where my hand-drawn map could take me to where my mother had lived, a trip I preferred to make alone.
The next occasion I returned to Bilbao, this time to begin to know the southern Basque Country, I stayed in their apartment again, in the same room, but this time without discommoding them, since Ziortza had moved out to her own place.
THE UNEXPECTED ONE
Maribel and Josémaria were fairly comfortable and retired when I met them but they had some hard times behind them. Josémari’s father had been a Basque nationalist and fought against Franco, a fact that did not escape the victorious Franco authorities. When it came to time for the Spanish military service obligatory for males (much resisted in the Basque Country and now
abolished throughout the State), they sent Josémari to one of the worst places to which they could send the son of a Basque nationalist – Madrid. His superior officers took pleasure in reminding him of his father and of what they thought of Basque nationalists (or even Basques in general). For the couple, it was a difficult separation but they married as soon as he was finished with the Spanish Army. Maribel was 21 years of age.
In their early years together they often travelled to Iparralde (“the northern country”), the Basque part under French rule, with a Basque dance group called Dindirri. The French state has no tolerance for notions of Basque independence but does not harry the movement as does the Spanish state in Hegoalde (“the southern country”). Maribel was fluent in French as well as in Castillian.
Born ten years after the most recent of another four siblings, Maribel was the result of an unexpected pregnancy. “It was destiny,” commented one of her daughters. “The unexpected one would be the one to take care of everyone in the future.” One of Maribel’s siblings had died after a few days, another at the age of 19 due to surgical negligence, another had cerebral palsy. Maribel’s sister herself had an intellectually challenged boy and, when she emigrated with her husband and daughter, left him in Maribel’s care. As Maribel’s mother grew old and infirm, she took care of her too. Her brother with cerebral palsy, although in a home for his specialist care, spent weeks at a time in the family home. And another relative came to stay with them too, for awhile. Maribel looked after everyone.
Of course, her husband Josémari helped, as did her daughters. And they all accepted that this was how things were. And to add to that, the couple visited friends and neighbours in hospital.
LANGUAGE AND POLITICS
When I met Maribel and Josémari, I heard them speak to their daughters in Euskera — the Basque native language. But they themselves had not been raised speaking it – they went to classes to learn the language and raised their children with it. Speaking or learning Euskera was illegal under Franco except for some dispensation to Basque Catholic clergy. It was the latter who founded the first illicit “ikastolak”1 to teach Euskera and later these were set up by lay people too. The ikastola, teaching all subjects except language through Euskera, is now the school type attended by the majority in the southern Basque Country and is mainstream in the Euskadi or CAV administrative area, encompassing the provinces of Bizkaia, Alava and Guipuzkoa.
Under Spanish state repression the old Basque Nationalist Party was decimated and although still in existence, its youth wing became impatient with what they perceived as the timidity of their elders. The PNV youth found a similar impatience among leftish Basque youth who had picked up on the vibrations of the youth and student movement of the 1960s. These youth brought to the table the narratives of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles, mixed with socialist ideas of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions. Thus was Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Homeland and Freedom) born — doubly illegal, as they espoused Basque self-determination and socialism. And so they were spied upon by the Guardia Civil, harassed, arrested, tortured, jailed … after nine years of which ETA took up arms.
Of the Spanish state’s main political parties today, the ultra-right Partido Popular and the social democratic PSOE, the first receives very little electoral support in the CAV administrative area and the second always less than the total of Basque parties. Maribel and Josémari, like most of patriotic Basque society, were presented with the choice of supporting the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) or the Abertzale Left, the broad political movement of which ETA was a part. The PNV was known for jobbery and corruption and collusion with the Spanish state so of course Maribel and Josemari raised their family in loose allegiance to the Abertzale Left, attending many marches of the movement, public meetings, pickets and now and then hearing gunshots and explosions, hearing of people they knew going into clandestinity and others arrested, tortured and jailed. Everyone knew someone who became a political prisoner (and that is still largely the case) — a neighbour, work colleague, a past pupil. One of Maribel’s daughters saw most of her quadrilla – a small circle of Basque school friends who typically stay close throughout life – go to jail; part of her life is now organised around making visits to jails throughout the Spanish and French states, thanks to the cruel dispersal policy.
At the funeral service in the packed Iglesia del Karmelo in the Bilbao district of Santutxu, I remembered Maribel’s warm personality and hospitality. In fact it was around that hospitality that I unwittingly caused a rift between us. By the last time I returned to stay with them, I had become active in Basque solidarity work in Ireland. Beset with communication difficulties with the organisations in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) and desperate for regular sources of accurate information, I was essentially based at their home while seeking out and establishing contacts every day. Maribel, as a considerate Basque hostess, wanted to know in advance whether I was going to be available for meals and I sometimes forgot to tell her when I was not. I also didn’t get into the Basque rhythm of lunch, supper and main meal. In my focus on finding needed contacts I just didn’t appreciate the distress I was causing and that it might have appeared, as one daughter told me, that I was treating her parent’s apartment as an hotel. In subsequent annual visits to Bilbao, staying with others, I tried to make amends but though we remained friendly, it was never as before. Some rips you can darn but the fabric is never what it was.
In Maribel’s funeral service, the daughters led the singing of the “Agur Jaunak”2; I had the words printed out but didn’t recognise the air at first so by the time I caught on, was unable to find the place to join in. The first time I heard it, sung in performance by Maribel and Josemaria in their choir in another church, the song brought tears to my eyes. The couple belonged to two choirs and had even performed abroad; for many years choirs had been a big thing in the Basque Country but are not so popular now. The Agur Jaunak is a moving piece of music and the final words of farewell, now laden with additional meaning, brought forth my tears at the funeral too (and in fact bring some to my eyes now even recalling it).
When I got back to Dublin I decided to write an article dedicated to Maribel. And to the Basque love of mushrooms. Maribel and her husband were both mycologists (students of fungi) and she was a great cook too. At the time the urge to write struck me, it was autumn, the optimum time for fungi, when the weather is still fairly warm in much of Europe, but also damp.
MOUNTAIN PEOPLE AND MUSHROOMS
The Basques imagine themselves in many forms but the most enduring is probably as a mountain people. Not all the country is mountainy, of course – it has lowlands along most of its coastline (yes, they sometimes see themselves as mariners too) and even some highlands are plateau rather than mountain. But. Mountain people, nevertheless. My mother told us that Basque patriots when they died were often cremated and their ashes carried up the mountains inside the ikurrina, the Basque national flag. On reaching the top, the flag would be shook out, consigning the ashes to the winds. The Basque irrintzi cry, like yodelling, is typical of methods that use the voice to communicate from mountain to mountain. Climbing is a popular sport and so is hill walking, often also done as a form of youth political and social activity.
Even among Basques living on the coast or other lowlands, it is hard to meet a native who has not been to the mountains and high valleys and many go there regularly, sometimes in organised groups. One of the reasons they go, apart from reinforcing their cultural affinity, is to pick edible fungi. I am told that there are 100 edible species known in the Basque Country and that “between 40 and 50 varieties are eaten regularly”.3
As opposed to other regional administrations, a fee does not have to be paid in the CAV administration (three of the southern Basque provinces) to collect these mushrooms, although breaching rules can cost between 30 and 250 euros in fines. The regulations specify a collection limit of two kilograms per person per day and one is obliged to use a knife to remove and a wicker basket to store.
Sadly, illegal commercial operations have cashed in on the love of mushrooms in the Spanish state and gangs have been discovered recruiting poorly-paid migrants or unemployed natives to collect without a licence in administrations where such is a requirement, breaching conservation rules and running the risk of arrest. These gangs are less likely to succeed in the southern Basque Country, a society highly organised on a voluntary and local basis and in general quite conscious of the importance of conservation.
Further northwards, 25 km. from Iruňa (Pamplona), is the Harana (valley) Ultzama, a natural reserve, over half of it thick woodland. It is in Nafarroa (Navarre), the fourth southern Basque province.
“A mycological park over 6,000 hectares has been marked out, a great luxury for mushroom-lovers. …. The park’s information point, in the municipality of Alkotz, indicates the routes where these mushroom can be found as well as information about the species and how to identify those that have been collected throughout the day.” The collection permit costs €5 per day and is available from the information office or on their website.4
The Basques go in family groups or groups of friends, knowing the edible types (or accompanied by at least one who knows) and they bring baskets, not plastic bags. The idea is that the spores of picked mushrooms will drop through the weave as they walk and so seed growths of new mushrooms further away from where the parent fungi were picked. It is actually illegal to go picking with plastic bags and though there are not many of them, the forest police will arrest people who break that law. In a nation overburdened with police forces, that force is the only one that seems free from popular resentment.
The best mushroom sites are kept secret by those who know and the location of those sites is sometimes handed down through generations. In a peninsula renowned for its types of food and preparation styles, Basque cuisine lays claim to the highest accolade. Yet it uses hardly any spices or herbs. Sea food is high on the cuisine list of course but so is the ongo, the mushroom.
On a Sunday in October 2010, I was present in Bilbao when Maribel and Josemari’s mycological group had an exhibition in a local square, where they also cooked and sold fungi. Josemari and Mirabel worked all day in the hot sun and then had their own feast with their group afterwards, though by then I imagine many would not have had a great appetite.
I was staggered by the number of different species of fungi native to Euskal Herria and their variety of shapes and colours — I was told by the couple, and can well believe it, that their association had exhibited just over 300 species in that exhibition, between edible, inedible and poisonous. This figure was down on the previous year, when they had exhibited 500! Apparently there are over 700 species known to the country.
I tried to imagine how many Irish people would attend such an exhibition in Dublin, even on a sunny day such as we had there — perhaps 20, if the organisers were lucky. The square in that Santutxu district of Bilbao was full, as were the surrounding bar/cafés. There were all ages present, from babies at their mothers’ breasts to elderly people making their way slowly through the crowds. The food was all centred around cooked edible fungi: shish kebabs of mushroom, peppers, onions; burgers made of minced mushrooms and a little flour; little mushrooms with ali-oli on top, served on small pieces cut off long bread rolls; big pieces of brown mushroom almost the size of the palm of one’s hand.
The people queued for the food and those selling it couldn’t keep up with demand. And the people also, including children, queued to see the fungi being exhibited. Unlike the Irish, who doubtless also have varieties of edible native fungi in their land but have largely shown an interest in only the common white cultivated kind and, among certain groups of mostly young people, the ‘magic’ variety, the Basques love their fungi.
I ate some there in that square and again, with other food also, down in the Casco Viejo (the medieval part of Bilbo city), where some new friends took me de poteo (from bar to bar) and wouldn´t let me buy even one round. Many bars serve pintxos, small cold snacks, some plain enough and others more involved – normally one eats and drinks and pays the total before leaving. But some of those bars have a room upstairs or to the side where meals are served and one had an excellent restaurant where we ate well and, of course, my friends wouldn’t let me pay my share of that either. True, I had organised some solidarity work for one of their family in prison but all the same ….. When it comes to hospitality, in my opinion the Basques deserve the fame even better than the Irish, who have been justly known for that quality too.
Some of the company had been the previous day in the town of Hernani, where a rally convened to call for Basque Country independence had been banned by the Spanish state. Despite the judicial order, thousands of young people had participated in the rally and had been planning to attend the rock concert afterwards. The Basque Region Police had attacked the peaceful demonstration with plastic bullets and then baton-charged the young people. Many were injured by the plastic bullets, by batons, and by being trampled in the narrow streets when people tried to flee the charging police. It was an object lesson in the drawbacks to regional autonomy or “home rule”. However, the resistance had been so strong that the police eventually had to retreat and allow the rock concert to proceed without further interference. But that too is another story.
AGUR — SLÁN
But five years later, outside the church after Maribel’s funeral, I waited with my two brothers on the margins of the crowd. I saw some youth among the mourners, including Goth and punk types, presumably friends of Maribel and Josemari’s daughters. Most in attendance were of older generations, however. It was noticeable how prominent the women were – garrulous and assertive. There were of course representatives of various branches of the movement, who knew the couple personally.
Inside the church I had already conveyed my condolences to Josemari, who had seemed amazed, amidst his grief, that I had travelled from Ireland for the funeral. I was surprised, in turn, that he would have expected any less; for me, there was no question – I’d have borrowed the money to go if necessary. His son-in-law burst into tears when I hugged him and that was it for me, my composure crumbled and we cried in one another’s arms. Now I waited for the crowd to thin so I could hug the daughters, the two who live in Bilbao and Maider, who lives in Gastheiz (Vitoria).
I stayed in a friend’s house a couple more days, renewing contacts and making a few new ones, meeting some old friends and then it was back to Dublin once more. Agur to Euskal Herria and agur to Maribel Eginoa – a loss to her family, to her nation, to me and to humanity.
1 “ikastola” = school or college; plural “ikastolak”
2Agur translates as “goodbye” butcan also be a greeting. The Agur Jaunak’s lyrics are short and simple; the song is performed usually a capella, in giving honour to a person or persons and traditionally everyone stands when it is sung. The provenance of the air is a matter under discussion but it is only the Basques who are known to have lyrics to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNMaMNMpYEk is one of the best versions I could find on the Internet although there is a somewhat cheesy bit by one of the performers in it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7Z8E-xhYTU is vocally another lovely interpretation sung unusually high although I dislike the crescendo at the end which is not the traditional way of singing it, which is to end on a low note.
The historic ruins of Hasankeyf, which may have been settled more than two thousand years BCE, are threatened by a Turkish dam along with the homes of Kurdish, Armenian and Arab people. A number of archaeologists and historians believe that the fortified town was referred to in inscriptions on the Mari tablets (1,800-1,750 BCE). The rocky outcrop also contains many human-made caves.
As well as being the site of an ancient town, it is also an urban and outer settled district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Turkey, with a recent combined population approaching 70,000.
The project that threatens to submerge much of Hasankeyf is the Isilu Dam being built by Turkey. Despite the foundation stone being laid as late as 2006, in 1971it was already being actively considered as one of the sites for a number of dam projects for hydro-electric generation and number of other purposes. A study by an international team between 1980 and 1982 recommended the building of the Isilu dam despite the 1981 declaration by the Turkish Government itself of Hasankeyf as a natural conservation area.
Opposition to the dam
The project had run into funding difficulties over the years. Due to international protests on environmental, archaeological and human rights grounds, and also protests within Turkey and from inside Hasankeyf, a number of international funders backed off. The British Government refused $236 million in funding in 2000 and in 2009, a consortium of Austrian, Swiss and German credit agencies withdrew their offer of $610 million.
The consortium had suspended the loan in 2008 and had given the Turkish Government 6 months to comply with international standards, which they had failed to do. However in July 2010 the Austrian firm Andritz Hydro announced it was lifting its suspension and would provide the six huge turbines specified for the power plant.
Excavations for the main body of the dam began in May 2011 and the Turkish Government projected that all works would be completed this year. A 250m (820ft) permanent steel-girder bridge with concrete supports has been constructed just downstream of the dam andconstruction of new villages is currently underway. The diversion of the Tigris River began during August 2012. According to Government figures, by April 2014 the project was 60% completed while 73% of the Hasankeyf population had been resettled.
Protests continue within the area, peaceful and not. According to the Government, in January 2015 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) threatened the lives of workers and anti-Government sources confirmed that a number of workers left the site. On 3 February 2015 a convoy of supplies for the dam was attacked, injuring three persons and several days later a worker was killed in his home, according to the Government by suspected PKK militants. Peaceful protests have included pickets and demonstrations (see photos) and some of these have also taken place abroad, including recent ones in England (see photos).
The completion of the Ilısu Dam will cause the flooding of the ancient city of Hasankeyfand about 185 villages and hamlets will be fully or partially affected by flooding, according to the Kurdish Human Rights Project. From 55,000–65,000 people will be forcibly resettled, says the KHRP, while even the Turkish Government estimates 40,000. According to a statement released on the 24th August by a solidarity group protesting outside the Austrian Andritz company’s facility in England, the completed project will reduce water flow to Syria by 40% and Iraq by 80% and the dam also provides the facility for political control of those areas through further restriction of water supplies.
Turkey is a member ofNATO and extremely important strategically to the the military alliance, as well as having some significant natural resources. However its regularly-renewed applications to join the EU have always been turned down because of its human rights record, both in the course of recent wars with its ethnic Kurds as well as with regard to protest movements among ethnic Turks. Recently Turkey came in for adverse international publicity again as it was seen to be blocking Kurds trying to get through the Turkish border with Syria in order to defend areas under attack by ISIS (Islamic State), while Turkey has also been accused of more directly assisting ISIS in its attacks. Although the state has Moslem fundamentalist political parties which occasionally come into government, Turkey itself has been secular since it became a republic in 1922.
COURT HEARS OF INTIMIDATION OF FAMILIES OF ACTIVISTS BY GARDAÍ AND SHELL SECURITY MEN WEARING BALACLAVAS
By Pat Cannon
I was present in Castlebar court house for most of the ten-days of the trial of Gerry Bourke and Liam Heffernan who are Shell To Sea supporters and activists. I witnessed at firsthand how tax-payers’ money can be wasted at will by the agents of the state i.e. Gárdaí (the Irish police), State solicitors, the Dept. Of Public Prosecution, the Judge, court officials, State barristers and other hangers-on.
( 1 ) Judge ( 1 ) courtroom user ( 2 ) Stenographers ( 1 ) Prison officer; ( 1 ) Gárda on video evidence ( 2 ) State Solicitors ( 1 ) Senior Counsel for the State ( 1 ) Junior Counsel for the State; ( 2 ) Solicitors for the Defence ( 2 ) Senior Counsel for the Defense ( 2 ) Junior Counsel for the Defence; ( 12 ) Jurors ( 12 ) witnesses at least. Also the secretarial staff of all parties, including the DPP Office staff working on the case, also the cleaners and the other Court staff.
First of all if the State and the oil companies had initially negotiated with the locals, probably there would have been no need for these quiet citizens to have to rise up in protest against this project. A much safer and easier route for the pipe line would have been found as the locals have an extensive knowledge of this area. If the state (and its Government) had negotiated a reasonable deal with oil companies then there would be much less protestors. If proper health and safety regulations backed up by staff and equipment were in place from the start, people would feel much safer and secure in their homes. BUT NO! THE SHARKS DON’T NEGOTIATE — there is no room for compromise in a shark’s make-up.
Right from the start, the Government, the oil companies, the Environmental Protection Agency, County Council, media, Judiciary, Gárdaí and every other arm of the State treated the local people with disregard, contempt and as a complete irrelevance. As far as all the above-mentioned were concerned there was big money to be had and no small fry was going to get in the way. THERE WAS BLOOD IN THE WATER AND THE SHARKS WERE IN FOR THE KILL.
Thankfully there were 2,500 years of tradition and history still alive and well in this area, there was a quiet shy population but of people with a strong backbone that were well hardened into hardship, neglect and resistance to outside dictatorship and who were not going to be bullied or pushed about by anybody.
It was this stern backbone that caused a middle-aged primary school Principal teacher and her two daughters, backed up by less than a half-dozen other locals to take a stand and start protesting against the potential desecration of this EU Environmentally Protected Area and their local pristine environment. Of course they were ignored, the media never mentioned them; the oil company’s employees and officials looked the other way and probably had a good laugh as they passed, the Council and all the other arms of the State treated them as non-entities. As far as all these groups were concerned the local people were of no significance.
However, the time came when these officials had to get into closer proximity with the local people; they had to enter the local people’s land and they thought they could do this without permission, by bullying and using threats but soon discovered how mistaken they were. They learned that they were not just dealing with a few individuals or a few head cases but instead that there was a whole community in this locality and that this community was close-knit and resolute in their opposition to outside intimidation and coercion.
With little or no advance warning the oil companies’ employees entered the farmland of six local farmers without the owners’ consent and proceeded to dig trial holes, knock down boundary fences and block access to and from the land in question. Naturally enough the farmers contacted their legal advocates and very quickly they were in court for the first time in their lives.
Of course the Courts and Judiciary are also an arm of the State and are also commercial enterprises just like the oil companyies and they ruled in favour of the foreign multi-national companies. After all small local marshland farmers can’t afford to give big financial enticements to Court judges, politicians and Government officials but on the other hand the oil company will be very generous as has transpired since.
JAILING OF THE ROSSPORT FIVE
The six farmers, five men and one woman were found in “contempt of court” and the five men were jailed until they “purged their contempt”. This lead to an outcry all over the country and hundreds of thousands of people came to the assistance of what became known as “the Rossport Five”. Ninety-four days later the Courts had to capitulate and release all of the five innocent men.
However the scene was set for what would become a marathon David and Goliath battle between a small close-knit indigenous rural Irish community and three foreign multinational oil companies, one of which had a larger turnover than that of the whole Irish State even though the latter was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom.
Thirteen years after the middle-aged school teacher and a handful of supporters stood outside the local council offices in protest the struggle is still going on and the oil companies and Irish Government are still trying to bully their way through the Irish people.
However, the Government’s economic boom has disappeared and the people now realize that if they still had their oil and gas that was fraudulently misappropriated by the Irish Government and the oil companies, we would have NO EVICTIONS, NO CENTENARIANS ON HOSPITAL TROLLIES, NO EMIGRATION, NO UNEMPLOYMENT AND NO STEALTH TAXES.
IN THE COURT RECENTLY
So in these last two weeks I witnessed the State trying to criminalise two more supporters of the struggle; we saw video evidence showing that the men had to use considerable force to gain entry to Shell’s site and when confronted by Shell’s private army (security force) the protestors had to stand firm and use a variety of tactics to get past them. We heard State witness after State witness tell lie after lie or refuse to answer or evade answering questions when they were put in the witness box, then the Defence were not allowed show their video evidence and some of their witness were not allowed on the stand.
I heard how Shell’s private army drive around the villages at night in two jeeps with blacked-out windows and shine their lights through the windows of activists’ homes, whilst if anybody comes out of the houses then four men wearing balaclavas step out of each jeep in an act of intimidation. We heard how the Gárdaí constantly drive past the people’s homes very slowly and then turn around a mile or two up the road just to drive past again five minutes later and hjow each time they pass, they stare into activists’ homes.
I heard how the Gárdaí punched, pushed, kicked and beat with steel batons men, women and children, how many activists spent long terms in prison on trumped-up charges while Shell plied the Gárdaí with over €35,000 worth of alcohol. I also heard how a Gárda made derogatory remarks of a sexual nature about a protestor’s wife to the protestor and how five Gárda were unwittingly recorded on a female prisoner’s video camera planning how they would interrogate her when they got her to the Garda station by threatening to rape her and laughing at the different ways they would word the threat. ALL of them got away with ALL these misconduct events.
I heard how while car tyre contains on average 2 bars of air pressure per square inch, that this gas pipe had 345 bars of highly inflammable gas pressure per square inch, that the seas and sea bed are highly vulnerable to currents (the second most volatile currents in the World).
I also heard the accused man’s wife state how for 13 years while she was rearing her family she could think of nothing from once she got up in the morning till she fell asleep at night but this dangerous gas pipe line that would be practically going by their front door and over which she had to take her children to school every day.
In a statement to the Court, one of the Rossport 5 gave evidence that Michael D. Higgins (now Uachtarán of the Irish state) had been on the protest and had addressed the other protesters, also participated had the father of the State Solicitor prosecuting this case. He also said that Enda Kenny had visited the Five in prison and had told them that life was “very cheap in Ireland now” and that “you can get a man in Dublin to do a ‘hit’ on someone for €500.”
In his summing–up the Defence counsel stated that the State agencies had rubbished themselves in the eyes of the world in their dealing with the situation, that the terms that our oil was given away were the second best in the world for the oil companies, that they stated that there were no emergency plan in place if an accident or act of terror did happen and that the protestors had rendered a magnificent service to their fellow citizens at much expense and hardship to themselves by standing up for what is right and correct.
The Jury of eight women and four men was out for just about one hour when they returned with a unanimous verdict of “NOT GUILTY of violent disorder” on both Liam Heffernan and Gerry Bourke. A further malicious charge of “criminal damage” was dropped by the State because despite there having been 28 cameras on site and up to 30 security men and later a number of Gárdaí, there was no evidence to support the charge.
Just more waste of tax-payers’ money. I have reckoned the tab that the tax-payer will pick up will be in the region of €150,000 and Shell won’t be paying a penny of it.