Last week’s Climate Camp in Shannonbridge drew around 150 people to a site right beside the Shannonbridge peat-burning power plant. The week, which included workshops, bog walks and practical sessions on sustainability, culminated in a Day of Action on Saturday 22nd. In Shannonbridge, this involved a noisy, colourful but entirely good-humoured affair up through the village, over the bridge, the back towards the camp.
The procession instead proceeded to a cordon the Gardai had set up a couple of hundred metres from the plant. From here, things degenerated into a scuffle of sorts (see my video clip below) with various protesters storming the Garda lines and running towards the plant. They met a very well organised resistance, with several white vanloads of reinforcements being delivered to back up the Gardai on the front lines, including members of its public order unit. There were also plenty of kids caught up in this scuffle, which I didn’t think was all that smart on the part of the organisers.
Call me an old fogie, but I’m still at a loss as to what can be gained by so confrontational a stance towards the Gardai, who had otherwise maintained a low-key and non confrontational stance. If you go charging headlong into a Garda cordon during an event for which they had at least a week’s prior warning, what, other than a melee, can you possibly expect to gain from it? A daring dawn raid into a power plant, sure, that makes perfect sense. You achieve the same end, but avoid the scuffle.
I personally don’t see the Gardai as the enemy here; the enemy is bad political planning that leads to travesties such as Shannonbridge being built in the first place. Groups such as the IFA are experts at direct action, often confrontational, but almost never involving bust-up with the police.
Maybe others, who’ve been involved in other camps on other issues, don’t see it that way; I respect those standpoints, but don’t share them. Allowing the anti climate change movement to be pigeon-holed as troublemakers itching for a scrap certainly doesn’t advance the battle for hearts and minds, nor does it do anything to challenge media stereotyping of activists as being “green loons”, etc.
Anyhow, and for the record, here’s a couple of minutes of video I recorded on the day, just as some of the protesters decided to ‘have a go’ at Garda lines: