Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 7. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 100-108.

Tíocfáidh Ár La

Pixies Reclaiming Ireland


The restlessness of some pixies who magicked onto a Carlow farm to rearrange some genetically-engineered sugar beet belonging to Monsanto has focused the debate on direct action in Ireland, and has exposed the organised green movement for what it is - arrogant, loud, ineffectual and inconsistent. Green MEP Nuala Aherne showed her true political colours and a large dose of egotism to denounce the Carlow weeding on national radio, because it was "violent" and "done at night", while the Green Party's other MEP Patricia McKenna announced proudly and enthusiastically: "If Monsanto, which was carrying out the sugar beet trials and the Environmental Protection Agency which licensed the trials, insist on playing games with the Irish environment, then fair play to those who challenge them through peaceful direct action."

Aherne's stance has managed to confirm opinions from many quarters about those who call themselves environmentalists in Ireland. Ever since the occupation of the woods in the Glen of the Downs in north county Wicklow became a media event in September 1997, highlighting the Dublin state's plans to widen the present two-lane road through the Glen into a four-lane highway, she has been vociferous in her criticism of those whose actions speak louder than the political theatre of the organised greens. "I would hate people to get the impression that we need foreigners to save our trees," she told some media heads who wouldn't know an acorn from a rugby ball. "We have never wanted trees to come down and the Green Party has worked very hard on this issue, which I brought up myself back in 1991. A lot of people feel that the compromise that has been achieved is the best possible option."

Aherne, who lives a few miles from the Glen in Greystones, (a salubrious seaside retreat for Dublin's nouveau riche), was joined in her moral justifications by the local paper, The Wicklow People, who triumphantly decreed that "ecowarriors" were "not wanted here". By foreigners she obviously meant people not from the local environs of Greystones, Delgany, Kilquade, Kilpedder and Kilmacanogue, because she couldn't possibly mean people with English accents. Aherne's ignorance of the issues is thankfully not shared by local people, who have been keen to get involved and provide support. Food and timber and rope was dropped in by local sympathisers soon after the occupation of the Glen began. In one three hour period 23 people came up to the camp. They listened intently to the arguments for the protection of the woodlands of the Glen and the wetlands of Kilmacanogue, and why the 26-County state's1 decision to go ahead with the road widening is an indictment of a system that ignores its own laws when they become 'inconvenient'. By mid-January following an appearance on Irish television of a campaigner and some supporters, 2,000 people attended the Glen.

The locals, unlike Aherne, know that the people who started this occupation have Irish accents and that it is an Irish campaign, albeit with support from all over the globe. And if you believed what the mainstream Irish media has said about this protest you'd have the impression that it was about feisty unclean youth, a few furry animals, a large dose of utopian idealism and a flying squad of English ecowarriors. But as anyone who has ever been on an action knows, it is the fact that people are prepared to occupy an area of land to defend it that really bothers the state. In Ireland, particularly and significantly, this protest at last raises the issues which are at the heart of our capitalist society - unfettered growth, the omnicompetence of the machine and the failure to provide alternatives to globalisation. Perhaps Aherne has somehow missed the fact that the car is a symbol of 20th century capitalism, which for many represents an obsessive display of individualism, for others a sorrowful dependence. It produces a car culture that feeds the oil, chemical, steel and construction companies who are responsible for much of the damage being wrought on the planet and its inhabitants. Perhaps she has missed the fact that vehicular traffic is also responsible for the massive rise in respiratory illness and cancer among the people of the western world.

The image of Ireland as a country somehow immune from these questions is now being shattered, whether Aherne wants to acknowledge it or not, and direct action - which has always been part of Irish culture - has at last got a distinctive green and red tinge with strong undertones of anarchistic black. Green, pleasant and friendly Ireland might be if you believe the southern state's tourist propaganda, but the reality is different.

Since the occupation of the Glen became establishment news, the state and apologists such as Aherne have stressed that the new road will do minimal damage, but even the site engineers find it hard to support this statement. "There's no way you can put a road through anywhere without causing some damage," as one acknowledged, and, according to the County Council, at least 1700 trees will be felled. Even Ove Arup, the consultants who prepared the 1991 environmental impact statement, stressed that the widening of the road will have a serious impact on the oak-beech and ash-hazel woodlands of the Glen. "A long-standing naturalised woodland such as that of the Glen of the Downs is an extremely complex and sensitive ecosystem and cannot be artificially replicated in periods of less than 100 years".

As a consequence of Arup's original study and following the initial, albeit cursory, opposition from Aherne and her friends (if they are to be believed), the 26-County Department of the Environment requested a further study from Arup, to examine the option of widening the road on the western side of the Glen, instead of the eastern side. This is the option Wicklow County Council have gone for, "to minimise as much as possible the impact on the natural habitats". This is Aherne's compromise! However the Office of Public Works expressed its concern about both options. In 1992 they said both options were inconsistent with their role in the protection of ecosystems. Three years later the OPW dropped its objections. If construction is allowed to go ahead the chainsaws will still destroy beech, oak and ash-hazel woodland and the diggers will still encroach on the northern edge of the stream which runs through the Glen. Birds, insects and animals will still suffer as a consequence. This unique ecosystem will be no more. Unless the construction is stopped! And despite the popularity of the campaign that may not happen. Major mistakes have been made. Despite warnings that the state was ready to destroy the Glen, it wasn't until a team of workers wielding chainsaws started cutting down trees that the necessary support was provided to stop them. A court injunction prevented further destruction.

Now that the campaign to save the Glen has gathered popular support - despite the presence of greens who are trying to build careers on the back of the protest - the power brokers are going to great lengths to get their Super Highway built through the garden of Ireland. In 1991 the local group made a plea to the European bureaucrats to save the broadleaved Glen. They wrote to DGXI, the EC's environment section, complaining that the proposed road would contravene ecological and environmental legislation. DGXI told them that the habitat directive was not in force and the environmental impact statement complied with the environmental impact assessment directive. DGXI noted they were aware of the potential environmental damage and said they would refer their concerns to DGXVI, the EC's funding section. The EC are providing 85 percent of the road's costs as part of the Trans-European Road Network (TERN) scheme.

PictureBy 1996 it was obvious that Dublin were determined that the road should be built. The local opposition faded away, believing no more could be done. Several people equally determined to stop the destruction planned a direct action campaign. It took them a year to get the campaign going. A permanent camp was established in the Glen.Propaganda and lobbying followed. The Irish Department of Environment were requested to release, under the Freedom of Information Act, the documentation relevant to the planning application. The state department refused. One campaigner wrote to DGXI, complaining that documentation that should be in the public domain was being withheld by the Irish state. In response DGXI said it would contact the Irish government to learn why the documentation had not been supplied. DGXI also said they would investigate the effects of the construction of the road on the Glen's habitat.

It is probably a small mercy that Aherne's party is not in agreement with her on this issue (and perhaps on many more). Ciaran Cuffe, the Green Party spokesperson on public transport, announced publicly that he supported the presence of the protesters in the Glen and the campaign they are waging.

But it doesn't really matter what the Green Party thinks of the actions in Wicklow and in Carlow. What is happening just now in Ireland - road building and the planting of GE-seeds - is just another consequence of capitalist growth, and just as direct action has been a factor in the opposition to this growth in America, Britain, Germany and other countries, so it is in Ireland. Anti-road campaigns have not been a feature thus far of Irish environmentalism, largely because the social and economic factors [in Ireland] have obscured most of the arguments used in Britain, and because virtually none of the new dual carriageways and motorways being built in Ireland have threatened ecologically sensitive areas. That is, until now - and if Aherne and her media friends think that we are going to sit back and allow Ireland to be destroyed then her ignorance of radical green politics is even sadder than her arrogance.

Direct action has been a feature of the opposition to capitalist development in Ireland since the state decided in the late 1950s that it wanted a semi-industrial/pollution haven for the global corporations, and a post-modern utopia for the acolytes and apologists who attach themselves to their corporate machine. And this direct action has always been controversial and effective.

Back in February 1989 it was so effective that Padraic White, (the former chairman of Ireland's Industrial Development Agency (IDA) ), warned that those who were protesting against the industrial projects his agency was trying to promote were threatening new jobs. At one stage the IDA, spilling crocodile tears, moaned that it would have to stop advising chemical and pharmaceutical corporations to locate in Ireland.

Following the defeat of Merrell Dow's plans to locate a drug factory in east Cork, the bold Padraic announced that small undemocratic groups were blocking industrial development. As one observer put it at the time, "there has been a superficial tendency that has tried to write off the opposition to Merrell Dow purely as a response to the victory of the Hanrahan family against drug company Merck Sharp and Dohme in the Supreme Court in 1988"2. They emphasised however that the campaign against Dow cannot be dismissed as a one-off opposition sparked by the Hanrahan victory. "It was in fact part of a major resurgence over the past few years in community opposition to development plans for their local areas that the communities considered toxic or hazardous. This opposition was not confined simply to the chemical industry but also included opposition to extractive industry such as mining and quarrying, to intensive mariculture such as fish farming, to proposed toxic waste dumping and to other developments as varied as broadcasting masts, high power lines and meat factories."

This opposition has continued throughout the nineties, and from time to time tales about little bands of pixies doing "violent" things in the middle of the night have entered the folklore. And from time to time these pixies have adopted the human form to protest publicly about the issues the organised greens can't seem to deal with; like the morning Limerick farmer Liam Somers decided enough was enough. When he heard that the Irish EPA had given a licence to chemical company Syntex (now Roche) to operate a toxic waste incinerator, he got some paint out and composed a banner on a bit of cloth. Less than an hour after leaving his farm in east Limerick the man whose herd has been killed by toxic pollution was standing outside the gates of Syntex's chemical factory in Clarecastle with a banner letting everyone know what he thought of the EPA: "How can you licence these people when you don't even know what killed my cattle?"

"I was overwhelmed," said one of the protesters who had been fighting Syntex's plans to build the incinerator for the best part of a year, "that a 60 year old man whose livelihood has been destroyed can do something like this. We got up there to join him along with a rake of children". That morning, in turning down the community's appeal against the incinerator, the EPA had effectively dismissed their fears about the health effects from toxic pollution. "We're being poisoned and the state doesn't care," one protester lamented.

In west Cork - which has a tradition of direct action - attempts to plant environmentally damaging spruce and sitka in one of the most beautiful parts of the county were resisted by a few hardy souls who treated the drivers of several JCBs to a display of the subtle sport of digger diving. The developers had originally agreed to talk, but then tried to move in early one morning, mistakenly believing that they could level the land while the community was asleep. Also in West Cork, the state's attempts to re-establish an oil terminal on Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay were left high and dry when, barely a few months after the single-buoy mooring was completed, the oil pipes disintegrated. Apparently they blamed poor work by the welders. (West Cork pixies can swim!)

PictureIn Donegal equipment belonging to the Electricity Supply Board was mysteriously destroyed - probably by the pixies who live on Barnesmore Bog and weren't too keen on the state's £15 million windfarm for Barnesmore. In Dublin, while state ministers pranced around in delight at the opening of another section of the ring road which is supposed to relieve the city's traffic problems, a few souls unfurled a banner and refused to move. In Clare, where the battle to build a centre in Mullaghmore in the heart of the ecologically-sensitive Burren [one of the largest areas of rare 'limestone pavement' habitat in the world] left the state bruised and bloodied throughout the early nineties, the pixies are not asleep. They have at least one eye open for the new battle for Mullaghmore, following Clare County council's decision to grant permission for a building on 110 sq. metres and a car park on 1.5 acres at Gortlecka.

In Cavan engineers attempting to work on a telecommunications mast were thwarted by a crowd of at least 100 locals who had set up camp to protect the mountain of Lough an Lea. The mountain already has 11 such masts and there are plans to erect about 700 such masts all over the country. When the engineers arrived supported by a convoy of police they were faced with a road block put up by a few people. The police started to take names, but were suddenly engulfed as people started appearing out of ditches and fields to swiftly outnumber the contingent of engineers and cops. The police gave up on the idea of taking names and the engineers retreated. There are now two caravans on the site, with a round the clock watch by residents, ready to call a mass mobilisation of locals when needed. They never have needed the help of pixies in Cavan! The campaign against the masts gathered momentum through the winter of 97/98. In some areas angle grinders have been used to fell masts.

Through the eighties and nineties direct action has been a factor in environmental campaigning in Ireland but it has never been a movement, it has always been isolated and fragmented - a reaction with a single focus, without a strategy. While this kind of spontaneous action has slowed industrial development down, and occasionally even derailed the corporate juggernaut, it has been unable to direct the focus onto the reasons why a radical opposition must exist, and why that opposition needs to challenge and change capitalist society. Without any kind of integral ecological, economic, social and political analysis, communities fighting undesirable development find themselves fragmented and confused, unable to take their campaigns beyond the parochial.

Successfully marginalised in this way community groups gradually become powerless, their energy reduced to the flickering flame of single issue campaigns, with burn out inevitable. In the midst of all this the issues are left among the debris, while the cause of environmentalism becomes another aspect of capitalist society. That the organised green movement is unable to understand this has much to do with its origins - which are the same as those who work for the state and industry. Each comes to the battlements from a comfortable, elitist world; essentially because those in industry are paradigmatic of western capitalist development, while those in the mainstream green movement are paradigmatic of western liberal or romantic bourgeois society. Both are products of western industrial development. By failing to consider this flaw in their character the organised greens have lost their way and have become subsumed into the same culture they are supposed to be attacking.

Significantly the greens have struggled to identify with the communities they are supposed to be saving. Instead of retaining the anarchistic politics it began with, the green movement has become part of the mainstream political and economic culture, abetted by strong hierarchical, authoritarian and bureaucratic systems. Rather than helping to empower communities in their challenges against industry, the green movement has attempted to usurp what little power communities have by placing themselves in the vanguard of campaigns, seeking instead the power and the glory. In simple terms this negates any self-empowerment. The emancipatory logic they may have started with is warped into aborted, subservient, and conventional ideologies of the status quo, an argument made by social ecologist Murray Bookchin. "The problem they face is the need to discover the sweeping implications of the issues they raise; the achievement of a totally new, non-hierarchical society in which the domination of nature by man, of woman by man, and of society by the state is completely abolished - technologically, institutionally, culturally and in the very rationality and sensibilities of the individual."

So while the likes of Aherne and a few fascistic editors believe that we don't need ecowarriors in Ireland, a few us actually know that it's not 'ecowarriors' we need but genuine radicals who understand why the corporate machine must be stopped in its tracks. For the moment Ireland is dominated by nice liberal greens who think they are doing a good job, even if it does involve a bit of compromise here and there. That is changing.

The actions against the road in Wicklow and the GE-sugar beet in Carlow are an indication, (and for the time being, nothing more), that a radical direct action movement is beginning to form in Ireland. Wicklow and Carlow were carefully planned actions, even if their execution was anarchistic. The decision to establish a camp in the Glen of the Downs was made in the summer of 1996. The decision to remove unwanted weeds from Carlow was made when the 26-County state allowed Monsanto's seeds to be planted. But other actions, eg. against the hitherto undisturbed Irish workings of McDonalds, against Shell petrol stations (as part of the '100 days against Oil' campaign), against the foreign chemical companies (as part of End Corporate Dominance) and against the EPA (for loads of reasons), were never realised, and this is the problem facing those who want to stop the destruction on this little piece of the planet: there aren't enough of us. And until the movement grows there'll be little pixies running all over the place doing 'violent' things in the middle of the night, just for the craic. That's great fun but it won't mean anything more than that.


Listening to Nuala Aherne and Patricia McKenna slagging each other off on the radio is a hint that a revived radical green sensibility is being awakened, but the green movement in Ireland needs to consider its history and wonder why it's no longer being written. Anyone looking at Irish society and the role that environmentalists have played over the years could be forgiven for believing it has been a great success story - especially if they only listened to those who made Ireland nuke-free, and to a lesser extent to those involved in campaigns highlighting specific ecological destruction and the protection of endangered species.

This is easily put in perspective. Asked how effective the greens are as political lobbyists, one of Ireland's most prominent politicians answered: "Not as effective as SPUC, thank God." (SPUC is the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child who initiated anti-abortion campaigns during the eighties and nineties.)

If the qualification was meant to imply that the green movement could have an enormous social, economic and political impact on Irish society if it got its act together, there are many who would agree with him, and they are not all on the Left. The reason for this ineffectiveness has much to do with the Irish green movement's tentative beginnings and its present nebulous existence in Irish life. In Ireland the emergence of the modern green movement had more to do with industrial and governmental policies of the late fifties, and a lot less to do with the global issues which forced it onto the public agenda in America, Britain and Germany. Anti-toxic and anti-mining groups evolved out of the anti-nuclear movement of the mid-seventies. Friends of the Earth set up in Dublin in 1974 and offshoots sprung up around the country, concerned largely with the proposed Carnsore nuclear power station in county Wexford.

While the campaigns of the seventies were primarily about nuclear issues, (Windscale/Sellafield, Carnsore, radioactive waste dumping, uranium mining), a general concern about environmental degradation prompted some people to drop out of society altogether. Rural parts of Ireland became green havens for foreigners and Irish alike. One of the most successful initiatives of this era was 'Common Ground', a magazine started in 1977 as 'The North-West Newsletter' by a group of people living alternative lifestyles. According to Charley Langrish, one of the present editorial team, "Common Ground has always been run by a free floating editorial group, with people coming and going at will; a fairly anarchic set up which works well most of the time. The magazine relies unashamedly on pieces sent in by readers. Nobody is paid a dime … It began as a fairly practical publication, a platform for the exchange of personal experiences concerning the writers' various endeavours towards living their lives as far as possible divorced from the capitalist system."

By the end of the seventies alternative living and environmentalism were sexy terms, and more and more groups began to form. Those who believed it was possible to work within the capitalist system and still raise the green agenda began to move, as academic Sue Baker put it, "towards life-style issues, alternative energy sources and what may be called 'green politics'". This progressive institutionalisation of the green movement culminated in the formation of the Green Party in 1988. Within a year it had its first TD (MP), representing Dublin South. The party now has two TDs, two MEPs and a good van load of councillors.

As the green movement continued to grow throughout the late eighties, An Taisce [Ireland's more campaigning version of the National Trust, founded in 1948] lost its mantle as the only 26-County body stating the environmental issue. By 1986, Earthwatch had developed out of a west Cork group formed in 1980 to oppose radioactive dumping, subsequently becoming a member of Friends of the Earth International. In May 1987, former green activist John Bowler was appointed Greenpeace Ireland's national co-ordinator. By the turn of the decade the green movement was a chameleon-like creation, with local and national groups pushing their specific ecological agendas. In 1979 the Irish Wildlife Federation grew out of the Irish Wildbird Conservancy (formed in 1968), seeking "to broaden out to general wildlife issues instead of concentrating on bird life". Various individuals personified specific environmental causes. The preservation of broad-leafed trees became the obsession of Australian Jan Alexander and she formed CRANN in 1986. German Karin Dubsky fought to increase awareness of the state of Ireland's coastline - her Dublin Bay Environmental Group launched its Coastline survey in September 1987, followed by 'Coastline Europe' two years later. Both large and small Non-Governmental-Organisations (NGOs) quickly began to integrate with one another, and in November 1990 Deonoibrithe Caomhantais (Conservation Volunteers Ireland) was established by 16 voluntary NGOs, including An Taisce, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council and others. In April 1991, following a conference at Trinity College, Dublin titled 'Women and the Environment: What can we do?', an Irish Women's Environmental Network was founded to empower women to act on the environment.

With all this activity it's impossible to quantify the impact the green movement has had on Irish society, significantly in the 26 Counties. An Taisce has certainly had the most impact, particularly in raising public awareness, yet former chairman Philip Mullally still feels that "…we have not yet linked into the real needs of the country and its people." Likewise, David Hickie (formerly An Taisce's environment officer) feels that its influence has been "slow and gradual", rather than dramatic. He adds: "One could say that the strength of conservation organisations in any country is proportional to the problems experienced. Irish people still have a low perception of the environment compared with continental Europe, although it's gradually getting better." Jeremy Wates, Earthwatch's former co-ordinator, takes a more cynical view: "Not that many years ago, Irish politicians were not embarrassed to stand over bad environmental policies. The environment was simply not an issue. Then they began to be embarrassed but they did not do anything to improve the policies. The only thing they did was learn to talk green." But the public, if not the politicians, are environmentally aware. When asked in a 1992 Dublin government survey if the protection of the environment and problems of pollution were "an urgent and immediate problem; a problem for the future; or not really a problem at all", 76% of the general public and 91% of companies said it was an urgent and immediate problem.

When Fine Gael's Jim Mitchell stated that the green movement was "very active and articulate with lots of sensible ideas" he was repeating a general belief, but the Progressive Democrats echoed another sentiment - that the public perception of the green movement is that it is "well meaning but idealistic".


There has been a strong argument that the green movement will not evolve if it continues to use established social, economic, legal and political modes of activity. But the argument in support of small, local and autonomous green groups working outside the system, which first surfaced during the anti-nuclear campaigns in the mid-seventies, did not immediately find favour with the myriad green and eco-community groups spread around the country. While some groups have remained small and anarchistic, others have formed into regional alliances, like the Cork Environmental Alliance and the Derry/Donegal Alliance, which, according to some critics, has diluted their power. It has given them a combined regional strength, which they have used to their advantage, but it has also given them the same headaches as the national NGOs: lack of funds, inadequate resources and few professional full time workers.

The ideal that concentrated power lies with a mass green, social movement developing outside traditional parliamentary politics, which also was first expressed during the anti-nuclear campaigns, has to a degree been shattered. An example of this has been the relative failure of anti-toxics campaigns of recent years, which brought back some of the same activists involved in the anti-nuclear campaign. In her 1990 study of the Irish ecology movement, Sue Baker argues that the anti-toxic movement remained "nebulous" and because of this was unable to develop "to successfully launch campaigns of opposition to industrial development strategies for their area. Lacking a national organisational dimension, longer-term and planned goals, being reactive rather than primarily pro-active in nature, they are in a weak position in terms of their ability to influence the direction of a national industrial development policy so rooted in the ideology of all the main political parties since the 1950s".

Since she wrote this there has been much change and no change at all. The anti-nuke movement is resting on its laurels, convinced it has won the war. The anti-toxic movement has become fragmented, with only the Cork Environmental Alliance a force to be reckoned with by local government and industry. Those concerned with conservation and cultural heritage have become soft and complacent, believing that by raising the green agenda to a higher level of prominence they have achieved their aims. The alternative living types are no longer seen as hippies because nearly everyone under 30 looks like a refugee from Woodstock, albeit with nothing more than a superficial awareness of green issues - and I don't mean the increase in vegetarianism and veganism. The animal rights people have been vocal and violent on occasion, but without a focus for their anger - that is, why the ruling élites and power brokers need to be taken out instead of the fox - they have made no real impact. In general the organised greens have taken their place in capitalist society, believing they are contributing to the debate about ecological destruction.

In essence, environmentalism in Ireland has been one big game played out by people with bourgeois sensibilities, liberal politics and careerist ambitions - the winners being those who gain enough points to acquire a ticket to ride on the capitalist machine. Defending the earth was never going to be easy. Now at last, in a rude awakening for Nuala Aherne and friends, it is no longer a game or even just political theatre.


1. When I refer to Ireland I mean the 32 counties, though this essay is based largely on the history of the green movement in the 26 counties (aka Eire or the Republic of Ireland) and less so on the 6 counties (aka 'Northern Ireland').

2. Merck Sharp and Dohme arrived in Ballydine in county Tipperary in the mid-70s against a background of inadequate planning and pollution laws, giving insufficient enforcement and compensation. In 1976 their factory opened. Two years later local farmer John Hanrahan began to complain about pollution from the factory. Everyone ignored him and regarded him as a crank, even though his nightmare was obvious to anyone who took the time to visit his farm. From 1980, animals began to die of a strange wasting disease, cattle miscarried, twin births and deformities increased and milk yields dropped. The problems were not confined to the Hanrahans'; other farmers complained. Metal was seen to rust and corrode in the farmyards and houses closest to the factory.

The farmers believed that MSD was the problem, but Merck controlled virtually everyone and everything as far as the eye could see. Fortunately they didn't own the Hanrahans, who took them to court in 1982. Over the next 8 years, as they pursued the case all the way up to the Irish Supreme Court, they came close to financial ruin. They faced legal costs of £1m, their livestock and machinery auctioned off, and their water supply disconnected by the council, (the family having refused to pay rates until they could be guaranteed clean air.) "This is the valley of tears," Mary, John's mother, said after the settlement in December 1990, acknowledging the location of the farm in the picturesque Suir Valley in South Tipperary. "Our story was true, you see. We were very pleased that in the end we got, I suppose you could say, justice. But at what price? That is something none of us can say."

There has been a price and the Hanrahans and their neighbours are slowly paying it - irreparable damage to their health, as evidenced by a dramatic increase in cancers in their area. Seline Hanrahan, for example, has endometriosis, which has been identified with dioxin contamination. (A September 1991 appeal by the Hanrahan family and Greenpeace against an air emission licence granted to MSD was rejected.) Those who studied the Hanrahan case believe that the total cost to MSD was around £5m - but for a company that records its profits in billions it was a small price to pay. (During the court case they admitted that their profits from Ballydine amounted to £1m a week!) Barristers in Dublin have claimed that the Hanrahan family got a total of less than £1m in compensation. But the sum of money doesn't really matter; the price to the Hanrahan family is incalculable. The greater price is the effect on public opinion, which is exactly what MSD wanted to minimise when they placed conditions of secrecy on the settlement. These conditions helped to sweep the issue of health and toxic contamination back under the carpet - and draw a veil over the suffering of those in the "valley of tears". (Refs: High Court and Supreme Court records; documents held by O'Keeffe & Lynch, Molesworth St, Dublin D2; Interviews with Hanrahan family).

This essay is based on the author's own experience and is strongly opinionated. Anyone who wants references contact him via DoD, enclosing an SAE).

Irish Environment Contacts

Pobal an Dulra is a non-profit publication designed to empower people by providing them with information on eco-social issues. It needs donations to survive. Contactable via DoD or by email:

An Talamh Glas is committed to protecting Ireland's wild places, to encouraging communities to build eco-futures that serve their basic needs without detriment to the natural world, to gathering and disseminating information on all aspects of society which impact on eco-systems, to acting as catalysts for empowerment, and to asking people to wake up! This is not to suggest that we are misanthropic, but we certainly oppose the capitalist world's anthropocentric view of the nature. It is our belief, perhaps our philosophy, that the environmental problems of the 20th century have their roots in the hierarchical, authoritarian, bureaucratic and domineering structures imposed on society by ruling élites. We firmly believe that the core ideals current in eco-anarchism, eco-socialism, eco-feminism, eco-philosophy, social ecology, environmental ethics and deep ecology - although diverse in theory and application - offer realistic utopian futures in both rural and urban society. Wake up you lazy bums or you won't enjoy the third millennium! An Talamh Glas can be contacted c/o Pobal or by e-mail at: Picture

Santry Woods, a mixture of native and tropical trees in north Dublin, is being threatened with destruction. Fingal County Council have voted for the re-zoning of the majority of the 300 acre woodland so that developers can build apartments and offices. Once known as the Dark Wood, because it was so dense, Santry Woods contains groves of Spanish chestnuts, Californian redwood, Italian walnut plus hazelnut and cedar among its native trees. Preservation orders were imposed after a campaign in the eighties to protect the trees but the latest move by the council threatens all this. The Save Santry Woods Campaigners want to see the wood maintained and argue that as part of the regeneration of Ballymun, a nearby high-rise housing estate with drug problems and high long term unemployment, the woods should be turned into an organic farm and eco-centre. Monthly marches from Ballymun to the woods began in March. An open air concert in the woods will be held in the summer.

Ballyseedy is eight acres of pure woodland in Ballyseedy, north Kerry in the south west of Ireland. It will be destroyed if the local council are allowed to go ahead with their plans for an EU funded road. By all accounts, it is one of the dumbest, most unnecessary projects of recent times. For more information contact: James Kennedy, 33 Ashgrove, Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.

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