When I first joined the Save Our Skibbereen Campaign I rang Polly Higgins Award Winning Author barrister and Ecocide Law Expert. She warned me , “Don’t even get into this if you aren’t prepared to be in it for the long haul. This is a marathon not a sprint”. We went on to talk about various campaigns that she had either been involved in or had run and how the law does not protect the environment or communities well enough and favours commerce. That is indeed why she started her long and dedicated campaign to protect the earth and communities. As we finished the call she said to me, “You have a mini ecocide waiting to happen; now you have to decide whether you join the campaign or you walk away.”
Since that time I have talked to quite a few people who have been involved in other groups working to protect their community including Mary O’Leary who has been the Chair Person of CHASE for 15 years.
Each Group I talk to tells a similar story of meeting apathy or disbelief at the start, some hostility even from the very community they were trying to protect; of doggedly continuing and so gradually adding a few more dedicated individuals to their group until eventually their message started to gain traction and the community began to recognise the threat to their health, livelihood, environment, way of life or all of the above.
Each group I talk to tells a similar story of how the campaign started with a very few people who put in hours and hours of work in their free time, often putting aside family oriented or money earning activities for a time in order to research and find the detail, dissect the planning documents, work out what it all meant, set up social media campaigns and spread the word to alert the community.
At that point, I have been told, despite having greater support the work gets harder rather than easier, as the task changes from one of simply informing the community to one of instigating and inspiring action and holding together and staying firmly focused on the end game despite different people who have joined that campaign at different times having different drivers, different approaches and different ideas about what the campaign strategies should include and what tactics should be pushed.
Many of these campaigns, like CHASE, have now been running for many years have lost some battles and won some battles; slowing the progress of the developers or temporarily blocking that progress time and time again, only to curve around the spiral to start again on the next phase of the campaign.
These campaigns can either divide a community or bring a community together.
The Save Our Skibbereen Campaign is in it’s infancy despite how it may feel to those who have been working on it since the first notice of planning application went up.
Having researched and dug into the whole, we have been fast tracked into a greater understanding of the environment, of chemicals, of polymer compounding and plastics manufacture, of health and safety and of planning process and of the agreed Local Area Plan.
We are once again asking the question, which was answered within the community consultation period before finalising the Local Area Plan.
“What do the people of Skibbereen want for the future of Skibbereen and the surrounding area?”
Consultation in planning decisions is written into planning law precisely so that the people in any community can indeed have a say in their own future and can build an environment and community that they are proud to pass on to their children and grandchildren.
That so many communities across West Cork are fighting for their right to have this say and are working to block planning decisions that are processed in such a manner as to take that right away is testimony to the willingness of people to stand up for their communities.
That such campaigns can run for so long, the CHASE campaign has been running for 17 years, is testament to the resilience of the communities involved and the strength of feeling.
Mary O’Leary from CHASE claims Indaver Ireland boss John Ahern said at a public meeting about 15 years ago that the “one thing” that would get the project over the line “is apathy”, however it seems opposition to the incinerator is growing and is “now part of (their) everyday lives”.
Members of CHASE celebrating the planning refusal against Indaver in Monkstown in 2011. Picture: Eddie O’Hare
We in Skibbereen need to envisage a better future and summon up just such resilience to move towards it.
⦁ Please take some thought about how you would use 7 acres of land on the Baltimore Road to develop a better future.
⦁ Would you set out to attract technology companies?
⦁ Would you add offices for a small business start-ups?
⦁ Would you build a craft village?
⦁ How would you create jobs?
⦁ What do you want to build for your future, your children’s future, your grandchildren’s future?
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your vision for The Jewel In The Crown of West Cork’s Wild Atlantic Way