Journey to Lofoten Islands, Norway, 16th Oct 2013

Pat 'The Chief' O'DonnellAbout a year ago a Norwegian fisherman, Bjørnar Nicolaisen, from the breath-taking Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway visited Rossport with his wife. He had seen my doc ‘The Pipe’ and wanted to see for himself what was happening in Ireland and talk to fishermen, especially Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell who almost single-handedly took on the worlds largest pipe-laying ship ‘Solitaire’. Although Norway has managed its natural resources very competently on behalf of its people, it is not without its problems, and fishermen like Bjørnar are now at the centre of a raging debate in Norway on whether to extend drilling further north around the environmentally precious Lofoten Islands or whether to focus on conservations, fishing and tourism.

Getting up to Andenes in the northern tip of the islands has been quite an adventure in itself. Cyril O Regan, of Riverside TV, put together a beautifully compact lighting kit for me and drove late at night half way across the country to a secret rendezvous point in Roscrea in time for my flight the next morning. Getting through security for 3 different flights with a camera, mobile lighting kit and whiskey (for Bjørnar, ironically bought in Oslo duty free!) has been fun. Then when I get to my accommodation in Oslo I find that my ‘European’ plug adaptor doesn’t work in Scandinavia – which leaves me screwed for charging batteries and laptop (and I am loathe to buy yet another overpriced plug adaptor in the airport!) Remembering the good auld days watching McGuiver I get some sticky tape, a penknife and a close hanger and construct a new plug that even Mary Kennedy would be proud of!

Try getting that through Ryanair!Don't try this at home kids!

Now that I am back in business and coming to terms with the price of everything here in Norway, I can concentrate on communicating with the people at home who are helping me to put the website and social media platform together – by the way if anybody can offer any suggestions or help in this area, please contact me on drillireland@gmail.com. We (along with Aine Ní Fhaoláin and Mic Hennessy) are trying to put together a team of web developers, graphic designers, web optimisers and social media guru’s in order to make this whole project accessible and beneficial to everybody who cares about these issues. I will be writing a regular blog but also invite contributions from people on any aspect relating to the project. The aim is to open up this discussion to the people it will ultimately affect and for ordinary people take ownership and responsibility of our resources, and not just leave it up to our fine upstanding elected representatives!

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Norway is important in the context of Ireland’s Oil & Gas story, giving us an insight into how to best manage a potentially massive, and corruptible, resource. It is also important to show how conflicts between the resources of energy and fishing are being dealt with in other countries, and whether they can operate hand in hand, or whether one can only survive at the expense of the other. When I interviewed former Energy Minister Justin Keating for this documentary in 2008 (this has been on the boil for quite a long time), he was adamant that the Norwegian way of governance and resource management was the right path for Ireland. Sadly his attempts, along with his Dept Secretary Joe Holloway in the 1970’s, to introduce Scandinavian style resource management policies were dismantled by successive Fianna Fáil administrations. It is crucially important that I tell this political story, but also important that I go to Norway to see how their system is working both socially and environmentally, and if Keatings vision is still relevant and applicable to the Irish situation. I don’t know what to expect in the Lofoten Island’s and am a bit nervous as I don’t have a plan for shooting with Bjørnar. But by spending time with him in his fishing community I hope to get an insight into how they are dealing with the dilemma of the economic benefits of oil versus its social and environmental impacts on coastal Norwegian communities.

At the time of writing I am flying into Bodo and then to Andenes where Bjørnar will meet me. I will post regular updates on my progress and hope that people who read this can help share this blog around and become involved in the project, whatever their perspective or background!

email me at drillireland@gmail.com or join our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/drillireland

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