"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
AMNESTY International and Front Line have appointed a full-time human rights monitor for the Corrib gas project in Erris.
Sarah Bassiuoni, an Australian, has taken up the post, funded jointly by the two groups, and will work with a team of trained voluntary human rights observers in north Mayo. She will start work in the region this week.
Ms Bassiuoni, who has a law degree and an MA in human rights and democratisation, has extensive experience working in other jurisdictions, specifically in relation to community policing and policing of protests. Amnesty and Front Line said the joint Corrib monitoring initiative was based on issues raised by Front Line’s previous research.
In April last year, the Front Line group published a report analysing a number of incidents which occurred during the Corrib gas dispute in 2008 and 2009.
The report, carried out by barrister Brian Barrington, recommended that a human rights observer be appointed in the event that planning permission for the pipeline was given, along a contested route.
Mr Barrington’s report also recommended that the gardaí would co-operate with monitoring and that they should appoint a trained lawyer with relevant experience in human rights advice to review garda policies and practices and assist with planning.
It was revealed last month that Shell Ireland has received a further cash injection of €60m from its parent company to complete the Corrib gas field project.
This brings to €190m the amount Shell E&P Ireland Ltd (SEPIL) has received in additional cash in recent months as it prepares to wrap up the final phase of the project, including the construction of a 5km tunnel to bring gas ashore in North Mayo.
Documents recently filed with the Companies Office show this has brought SEPIL’s share capital to €614m.
The field has one trillion cubic feet of gas and the final spend on developing it is expected to top €2.5bn – more than three times the original estimate of €800m.
An Taisce and two local residents have initiated legal action in the Commercial Court against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to give the on-shore pipeline the go-ahead. The case has been adjourned until October and doesn’t impact on Shell Ireland’s ability to proceed with the work as no court injunction has been sought or granted.
Shell does not expect gas to flow until at least 2013 and construction of the tunnel will take about 22 months. The company is expected to make an announcement soon on the number of people to be employed in the final phase of the project.