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Controversy over Corrib Gas

Irish Times letters

Madam, – Gerry Gregg’s diatribe (Opinion, February 23rd) against opponents of the Corrib Gas project in Co Mayo is an insult to peaceful and principled protesters. It is also deeply inaccurate.

Mr Gregg says that An Bord Pleanála has not rejected the onshore pipeline route, but has merely requested that Shell explore an alternative route. In fact, An Bord Pleanála stated that Shell had failed to establish that its proposed route for the pipeline “does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public”.

Mr Gregg says the protesters are not “open to compromise”. In fact, most local people have backed a compromise proposal that would have seen the gas refined onshore, but that would have obviated the need for a dangerous, onshore pipeline carrying raw, unrefined gas through the heart of the community.

Mr Gregg says protester Maura Harrington was engaged in a “secret police”- style surveillance operation against workers. In fact, Judge Raymond Groarke made clear that both sides in the dispute had engaged in filming of each other. This is not, in my opinion, an unreasonable thing for protesters to do when they are trying to gather evidence of illegality and State-corporate abuses. (As for the judgment that fisherman and protester Pat O’Donnell is a “bully and a thug”, such a characterisation is difficult to reconcile with his heroic sea rescue efforts – including the saving of a Garda’s life).

And human rights abuses against the community do exist, despite Mr Gregg’s claims that there is no evidence thereof. For example, a report by the US-based NGO Global Community Witness in 2007 concluded, “There is evidence from videos of youth, women and the elderly being pushed and beaten by gardaí without provocation”.

The community in Erris has been criminalised and demonised for standing up to the bullying tactics of a powerful corporation and the state. There are, as Mr Gregg says, “distortions and lies at the heart of the Corrib story” – and many of them are repeated in his article. – Yours, etc.



Belfield, Dublin 4. 

Madam, – I am a member of the community Gerry Gregg refers to in his article (Opinion, February 23rd) in which he publicly judges us a community “browbeaten into abject, sullen submission” by a “vicious minority of self-styled militants”.

Mr Gregg is quite entitled to write his journalistic opinion piece even to the point of misreporting facts. However, he is not entitled to insult people of this community in such a way. Somehow I don’t think Shell E P Ireland, new neighbour and part of the community (for good or evil, depending on view taken), will take kindly to be described as abject, sullen and submissive.

The Corrib gas pipeline has been for 10 years part of the community, some believe for good, and some believe for bad. An informed, even controversial, article in The Irish Times is welcome. Insults and denigration of people of this community are not. – Yours, etc,



Ballina, Co Mayo.

Madam, – Gerry Gregg accuses Fintan O’Toole of “agenda-rigging” and of misleading readers over the Corrib gas project. Could this really be the same Gerry Gregg who made The Battle for the Gasfield for TV3, arguably the most one-sided and misleading documentary ever seen on Irish television? His article is similarly inaccurate and evasive with the facts.

To take just a couple of examples, he states, “the planned route is considerably farther from the nearest dwelling than is the norm across Europe and North America”. This is true of transmission pipelines carrying treated, odorised gas at low pressure. However, production pipelines such as that proposed for Mayo, pumping raw, odourless gas directly from the field at ultra-high pressure, are only to be found under the sea or in uninhabited areas.

His assertion that “over 90 per cent of the 10,000 people on the peninsula support the political parties and organisations that back the exploitation of the gasfield” falsely implies that campaigners are against the exploitation of the gas field and simultaneously ignores the fact that every opinion poll on the issue conducted in Mayo has found that more people support offshore processing than Shell’s proposed inland refinery. – Yours, etc,


Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4.