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Erris community in despair


Community of Erris is ‘in despair’ and ‘divided’ due to standoff

Áine Ryan

A community development worker has accused the Government and Shell ‘of plunging Erris into the depths of despair where families are divided and neighbours now perceive each others as enemies’. 
Ms Rose Conway Walsh, of Iorrais le Chéile – the Erris Community Development Project – told The Mayo News, that politicians were hindering, rather than helping, the ongoing impasse by pontificating and throwing out sound bites. She  has also claimed that Shell’s hiring of people they perceive to be influential in the community is as destructive.
“On the other hand sniping and delivering torrents of abuse to anyone who does not agree with your viewpoint is also destructive,” argued Ms Conway Walsh who narrowly failed to gain a seat for Sinn Féin in the last local elections. She is a member of the party’s Árd Comhairle.
“Do you think our children will want to live in a community where families and neighbours don’t speak?” asked Ms Walsh. In her opinion, the perceived attraction of the gas providing employment for the youth of the region may yet turn out to be the cause, ‘the very thing’, that drives them away.
“It is time that our politicians stopped putting their heads in the sand and took positive steps to unify our community. They were elected to represent people in bad times as well as good times, and this is about as bad as it gets,” said Ms Conway Walsh.
She conceded however that ‘we are all part of the problem and we now need to be part of the solution’.
“What is a community if not the sum of people living in it?  The anxiety, stress and depression felt by many people in Erris as a result of this project cannot be compensated for. Nor can the reality be justified of children watching their mothers cry because they can no longer take the stress of day to day living, which requires them to be on one side or the other,” she continued.
Rose Conway Walsh said ‘the remarkable resilience’ the people of Erris had shown during decades of official neglect through social exclusion and marginalisation was diminishing. Quoting Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she argued that everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
However, she also revealed to The Mayo News that she was seriously concerned ‘about the control the Government has exerted on our Gardaí’. Ms Conway Walsh said that ‘a focussed, genuine effort’ by government, politicians and Mayo’s County Manager was urgently needed to resolve the issue, otherwise it was time to seek international assistance.