Merthyr to Mayo Cycle Arrives in Ireland


Cork hosts arrival of solidarity cyclists destined for Rossport

Nearly thirty cyclists who had started off from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales the previous day arrived in Ringaskiddy on the ferry early on Monday 24th of May.  They passed through Cork city on their way up the west coast to Rossport, Co. Mayo, and were joined by a dozen-strong cycle contingent from Spain, who had cycled all the way from Madrid, also linking struggles around fossil fuel extraction, refining and nuclear power in Spain with those in Wales and here in Ireland.

On a weekend when Pat O'Donnell and Niall Harnett spent their 100th day and one month in prison respectively for opposing Shell's Corrib Gas project, a weekend of activities happened to anticipate the arrival of the Merthyr to Mayo cyclists and to celebrate the arrival of the Madrid to Mayo cyclists to Cork on Thursday.

From Saturday to Monday a camp was set up at the site of the proposed (and hopefully never to be built) national toxic waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy.  On Saturday night there was a beach party to celebrate the arrival of the Madrid to Mayo cycle tour, which was an enjoyable (if raucous) affair.  On Sunday morning, the campers planted trees on the Ringaskiddy site – it is intended to become a 'people's forest' over time, and the trees already planted these last five years are doing very well – and took a walk around the never-to-be-built incinerator site, from the hill above which excellent views of Cork Harbour can be seen.

On Sunday night at the Cruiscín Lán on Douglas St., Cork Shell to Sea organised a benefit cabaret with a galaxy of musical and spoken word acts whic went down well with the very supportive audience.  The gig raised a good deal of much-needed money for the cycle and the local Shell to Sea group.  Many thanks are due to the management of the Cruiscín Lán for hosting the gig, and for defying local Garda pressure on them to cancel the gig.

The Merthyr to Mayo cycle contingent arrived at Ringaskiddy Ferryport at about 5a.m. On monday morning, and were met by the overnight campers, who first brought them to the campsite for bowls of nourishing porridge, to join up with the Madrid to Mayo cyclists, and a formal welcome to the Irish leg of their journey.  From there it was on to Ringaskiddy community centre, for an early breakfast and to meet the local campaigners against Indaver's plans for a toxic waste incinerator right next to Ringaskiddy village on a site prone to flooding.

The cycle tour reached Douglas Street just before noon, where lunch was ready for them in the beer garden of Fionnbarra's, across the etreet from Solidarity Books.  After food, rest and chat, the cyclists saddled up again to cover the very short distance to the peace park on the Grand Parade (aka Bishop Lucey Park), where the cyclists gave out newspapers explaining the puepose of the Merthyr to Mayo cycle ride, did a quick bicycle repair workshop, and also performed a quick piece of street theatre.

At just after 3p.m. the fifty-strong cycle contingent assembled at the gates of the park for a final photo-call and to prepare for departure.  After some final words of thanks from local Shell to Sea campaigners, the cyclists took a Critical Mass-style circuit of Cork city centre before heading west to Macroom in the blazing afternoon sunshine.

In Merthyr Tydfil in the valleys of South Wales the local community is opposing the creation of a massive open-cast pit coal mine, which will have a devastating impact on the local environment and air quality.  The Madrid to Mayo cyclists also have encountered and lent solidarity to local campaigns against proposed oil refineries and nuclear power plants on thir route from Madrid to Santander on the northern Spanish coast.  And when they all arrive in Rossport in time for the June Bank Holiday Weekend Gathering, they will have given much-needed solidarity and publicity to the ongoing community struggle against Shell's unwanted and unfair Corrib gas project.