Sunday 4 December 2016

A plea for calm on the unquiet sea

As a hunger strike over the Corrib gas row ends, there are calls for the Government to bring 'peace to Mayo', writes Maeve Sheehan

Published 21/09/2008 | 00:00

MAURA Harrington should have been enjoying her first week of retirement from her job teaching children at Inver National School in Mayo last week. Instead, she was on hunger strike. Hardly normal behaviour for a pillar of the community in the rural north Mayo village. But locals are used to such extreme behaviour from the 55-year-old gaelgeoir who, as spokeswoman for the Shell to Sea campaign, has led the protests against Shell EP Ireland's plans to bring gas onshore. When a ship arrived last month to begin laying pipes that would bring gas from the Corrib field onshore at Mayo, protesters took to their kayaks and Maura Harrington declared she would starve herself to death if it didn't leave.

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Embedded in her car parked at the gates of Shell's compound at Glengad for 11 days, she claimed that not a morsel of food had passed her lips. Her only concession was water mixed with salt. By day, she made occasional visits to use a neighbour's washing facilities, when necessary. By night, she wrapped up in her car. "I have a delightful, gorgeous woolly blanket that was given to me by a neighbour of mine who makes gorgeous soft woolens. Her label is Fastnet, so you could give her a plug," she said last week. "I sleep quite contentedly."

Her hunger strike ended at 3pm on Friday after the Solitaire was dispatched from Irish waters. It didn't seem to matter that retreat of the Solitaire had to nothing to do with Maura's fast. The ship was damaged during pipe laying, had been resting in Donegal, and on Thursday was sent for repairs to Scotland. That didn't stop Maura and Shell to Sea from claiming the intervention of "Divine Grace".

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