"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.”
12th march 2012
The daily lives of me and my family continue to be severely and intolerably affected by the ongoing construction works related to the Corrib Gas Project.
I would like to bring the following observations to your attention and demand that you act immediately on it as is your professional duty.
1. I object to the absence of any meaningful community consultation and involvement to which I am entitled according to the Aarhus Convention.
The role of Mayo County Council
Unsightly and distracting road signs were erected along the western side of Sruth Fada Con without
consultation with the local community and on private property without the landowners permission. There was no notification of planning permission for these signs and they relate to the haulage traffic by Shell exclusively and symbolise the commandeering of the public road, for which people have to pay road tax, to the private use by Shell who are assuming priority over the public.
The road from Glengad to Glenamoy is designated in several areas as being of high scenic value and the erection of “Haulage Road “signs is unacceptable.MCC should hold public meetings when it intends to carry out or allow to carry out changes to road use that will affect the local people and schools.
People’s private hedgerows that fence off their land have been deliberately destroyed by council operatives/private contractors employed by MCC. These acts were often carried out when the landowner was not at home. Trees that have been growing for years in an area in which trees struggle to survive due to severe weather were carelessly slashed causing their destruction. Land which was keeping in livestock was left open to the road due to the slashing. Landowners were neither consulted nor kept informed and the destruction was carried out covertly.
In the area of the refinery hedges and road edges were cut outside the designated time (between March and September) to facilitate Shell. If local people broke the law in that way they would be prosecuted, so the perpetrators should also be identified and prosecuted by MCC.
MCC hosts the PMC and EMG and other “monitoring” groups. The rules relating to the make up of these groups appear entirely random and self serving. Some so called“ Community representatives” are well known Shell apologists, have not participated in any oral hearings and do not represent the people affected by the works.
MCC supports the creation of so called “local enhancement schemes” and the distribution of Shell money to dubious groups and into works that are being carried out against the wishes of the affected community and without public consultation.
When dealing with MCC many people experience an attitude of arrogance towards and dismissing of people who are directly affected and critical of the Corrib Gas Project. Phone calls are not being returned and enquiries are not properly addressed and dealt with. There seems to be a tendency towards punishment by association.
‘Monitoring’ of the Proposed Corrib Project.
There are two groups/committees which purport to monitor the proposed Corrib project; the Project
Monitoring Committee (PMC) is currently chaired by Mayo County Manager Peter Hynes and the Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee (CCMC) is chaired by Ciarán Ó hÓbáin, a Principal Officer in Pat Rabbitte’s Department, DCENR.
According to reports, there are two people who live in Rossport – resident Ms Monika Muller and
Environmental Consultant Mr Peter Sweetman – who apparently sit on both groups/committees; neither Ms Muller nor Mr Sweetman claim to represent the proposed receiving community; both act in a discrete capacity. Rumour has it that there are ‘local community representatives’ on both the PMC and the CCMC.
At no time, from resumption of proposed project to present date, March 2012, has the local or wider community been informed by either the State or Shell who those ‘local community representatives’ may be – through either the Parish Bulletin, notices in local shops, schools, Post Offices, public houses, local or national press (Western People, Mayo News, Irish Times, Irish Independent), local radio (Mid West Radio) or Shell’s occasional glossy public relations production. The so-called community representatives could well be a
figment of the imagination since they have neither been identified publicly by the chairpersons of either the PMGC or CCMC nor, if they exist, have they made themselves identifiable and/or available to the community they purport to represent. It is clear from the above that, should these ‘community representatives’ sit on the PMC and CCMC they quite demonstrably were not selected by the proposed receiving community in any manner that could be deemed open and transparent.
In addition, the minutes/reports of such meetings clearly show the disconnection between community issues on the ground and what is actually raised (if anything) at these meetings. This information invariably appears on the MCC/DCENR websites several months after the event and long after any difficulties have been encountered.
There has been absolutely NO public contact at any time between PMC/CCMC ‘community representatives’ and the people of Kilcommon Parish and/or the Barony of Erris.
SEPILs complaint procedure
Coinciding with the beginning of haulage traffic to Glengad, SEPIL sent a letter to some households outlining the “Complaints Management Process”. This is a highly misleading, patronising and discouraging piece of correspondence. The impression is created that this is the only avenue open if people have a complaint, and the fact that SEPIL ultimately decides when to close the complaint makes the whole exercise futile. No consideration is given to the fact that many people have always objected to any use of the L1202 as a haulage road in the first place.
2. I also object to the continuous deterioration of the quality of my life, sense of safety and privacy caused by the scenario created in connection with the ongoing construction works
The presence of IRMS, Shell’s private security firm has lead to enormous and unrelenting stress in the community. IRMS personnel are ever-present, day and night, and wherever in the vicinity of my home I go. The physical appearance and behaviour of the IRMS employees is threatening ,and learning that former employees of IRMS were apparently involved in an assassination attempt on the Bolivian President Evo Morales, and that others come from military and extremist backgrounds, and are not vetted by the authorities, confirms my fears.
Vehicles used by IRMS are patrolling the locality day and night, even parking outside people’s houses. They are also parked up on the church car park, intimidating people who want to enter the church. We are under constant surveillance; the movements of individual people and visitors are being recorded. Occasionally people are being blocked from travelling along the village road by IRMS, and there is video evidence of this..
Some residents in Glengad have to keep blinds shut to stop cameras looking into private residences. There is a feeling of being watched which is both sinister and disturbing. Overall, the private security operation employed by Shell effectively undermines the police service of this state.
This cannot be allowed to continue.
The haulage of materials and machinery along the L1202 presents a constant source of intimidation, concern and interruption to the area.
Contrary to the picture drawn in the media and information leaflets the impact of haulage is much more severe than is outlined in the so called Traffic Management Plan (TMP).
For example, there are not up to 3 but at least 3 convoys per day doing round trips, that means they pass 6 times and there is a lot of associated traffic not accounted for in the TMP.
There is seriously increased noise, vibration and pollution levels near houses and places of congregation, such as the church in Aughoose and the National School in Pullathomas.
Contrary to SEPIL’s information leaflet, large articulated trucks are now being used to transport stone to Glengad which may be overloading the roads and bridges along the L1202.
The public road is frequently being blocked by police for extended and repeated periods to keep the road free from all but Shell’s traffic. These stoppages add up to significant delays every day and are not limited in any way or justified.
Many vehicles associated with the haulage are not clearly identifiable as such.
As there are no set times given for haulage, people find themselves estimating and trying to work around roadblocks and convoys to go about their daily business.
The local road is already showing signs of cracking, and is clearly over- used and is now dangerous to walk or cycle on.
Convoys have been recorded passing Pullathomas National School very close to 3 pm which is pick up time for students and there is no time specified in the TMP for drop off and pick up.
Other school related traffic has not been taken into considerationand parents are frequently delayed or stopped by both, Shell workers and An Garda Siochana
There has also been use of the village road from Glenad to Bellmullet for works traffic. Several vehicles have been seen to use this route, contrary to the traffic management plan.
Since the Corrib project arrived in the area Gardai have acted with malice towards local people, and there have been many examples of their ill-treatment of people with genuine concerns. The events that led up to the jailing of the Rossport Five were co-ordinated by Shell and the Gardai; Rossport farmer Willie Corduff was attacked on a Shell construction site and hospitalised, while Garda members looked on; fisherman Pat O'Donnell was denied Garda protection for himself and his property, and was instead repeatedly arrested for simply going about his business; the McGrath family in Pollathomas had their property broken into by the Gardai to assist illegal Shell work in the estuary, leaving dozens of local people injured. The list could go on and on...
Since October 2006 Gardai have operated a policy of intimidation, assaulting and maliciously prosecuting local people and visitors to the area who have either take a stand against such tyranny, or just simply happen to be in the vicinity of their brutality.
Garda members openly and regularly take instructions from un-licensed and un-vetted security guards on how they decide members of the public should be dealt with.
People are regularly subjected to "random" checks on the local roadways. They are prevented from going about their lawful business, and are instead forced to make endless journeys into the local Garda station to produce documents not demanded of Shell workers on the same roads. Numerous vehicles associated with the Corrib project travel the local roads without tax or insurance on display, and have even been seen patrolling the area at night with their number plates removed, yet nothing is ever done to prevent such law-breaking when reported to the Gardai, who very often refuse to record the complaint or incident.
Parents are delayed by Gardai when picking up their children from school, farmers are stopped when moving animals and machinery, walkers and cyclists are ordered off the public highway and even manhandled by Gardai to make way for construction vehicles. Some people have been prevented from leaving their homes, and have been subjected to night-time visits to their property by both Gardai and so-called security personnel, and most recently the Gardai smashed someone's car window with a baton and threatened them with arrest and pepper-spray, for doing nothing more than driving on the local road.
It is obvious that the Gardai have been led to believe their superiors will not hold them accountable for their actions; in fact, this is something that Garda members regularly boast about in the locality.
This has been repeatedly borne out by the inability of the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) to hold members to account regardless of clear recorded and eyewitness evidence of wrongdoing. As a result, most people now feel that it is a waste of time even reporting Garda abuses to GSOC any more, and this is inevitably leading to a state of anarchy, where vested private interests are given priority over the public good, and is doing untold damage to the reputation and moral authority of An Garda Siochana.
Impression on visitors to the area
On a normal weekday, leaving the local B&B or Holiday Hostel for a short walk or a jog to the beach, the shop or along the estuary one must expect to encounter several Garda patrol cars, Police, wagons and Jeeps cruising or actually speeding along the L1202 or casually parked up on the road side or parking spots at the graveyard, church, picnic area. Frequently a cluster of Gardai are to be found standing right in the middle of the road, chatting, kicking stones and gazing at passersby. They tend to move reluctantly out of the way of an oncoming car or bicycle.
Reaching Glengad Beach or the SAC at Leenamore, there is high steel fencing and concrete boulders, heavy machinery, flickering lights by day and bright halogen lighting at night, security cameras and members of a private security gang in obscure outfits lurking from the roadside or behind fencing or driving around in SUVs.
Noise and the amount of traffic have increased considerably, access to local amenities is cut off and the whole atmosphere of the formerly quiet, unspoilt and hospitable community has changed, which is highly disturbing to locals andespecially to visitors who have come to the area for many years.
3. finally I want to complain about the environmental and archaeological carelessness and breaches that seem to be the norm since construction of the project began
Noise and light pollution
The noise and light from the compound in Aghoose are immense. Metal clanking and machinery working can be heard by residents in Aghoose and Rossport all day long. It is causing upset, stress and anger with no opportunity during daylight hours for respite from the constant noise and large number of halogen lights shining all night. According to Environ's report dated 16/12/11, 21% of days that the noise monitors were operable were over the 65 dBLAeq (1hr) limit. Since this report residents have noticed no reduction in noise levels and therefore Sepil is not meeting its requirements as regards to noise.
Residents in Glengad, some of whom live more than 100 yards from the Glengad compound gates are also being seriously disturbed by the noise and light from this compound. Firstly generators are making noise all night long depriving residents of sleep and their right to peace and quiet. Before 7am there is unnecessary noise from vehicle engines revving up. From 7am all day long there is the noise of diggers working and noise from the heavy traffic starts at 7am. We were told that the compound would cause 'no disturbance'. This is absolutely untrue. Residents of Glengad are facing a bombardment of noise and light 24hrs a day. This is unacceptable.
The EIS stated that work on the LVI will be carried out between mid-April and Mid- Nov due to the brent geese. The brent geese are over-wintering in the bay and their feeding grounds are near the current compound being built. Fencing has been built right up to the shoreline making lots of noise with the metal clanking of the fencing. There are concerns that this noise along with generators running all night and excavators working all day will be affecting the brent geese and scaring them off the area. Working in this area is in direct contravention to the EIS which stated that the LVI compound will only be worked on when the Brent geese have left. Surveyors carrying out surveys for Birdwatch Irelands wetland survey can confirm that the geese are still in the area and have not yet migrated for their breeding grounds. We ask for this work to be stopped immediately.
The noise and lights from the Aghoose compound has to be affecting local wildlife. It is constant and unrelenting. Sruth Fada Conn Estuary is home to many wintering birds as an SPA, such as brent geese, redshank, oystercatcher, ringed plover. Otters also have holts nearby and the so-called noise barriers are either non-existent or completely useless as sound is carried at least 1km away.
The EPA states that: 'Amphibians present within affected portions of the route options will be removed under Wildlife Licence No. C025/2011 (Wildlife Acts1976 to 2010) prior to construction proceeding and translocated to alternative suitable habitats in the locality.
During construction, frogs and spawn will be moved (under licence) from any standing water affected by sedimentation or pollution. There are many dead frogs on the haulage road alongside the Aghoose compound demonstrating the inadequacy of this mitigation measure.
There are two recorded monuments (ID-IDA 1 @ IDA 2) in the town lands of Glengad and Aughoose respectively highlighting the archaeological potential of the area but in the PMC's reports there is no mention of archaeology and its importance in Shell's scheme of things prompting the doomsday scenario that we are to be the generation to witness the final end of this living part of our heritage in North Mayo
There is no provision made for archaeological considerations in the PMC report dated 18/1/2012 for the Srahmore site and nothing for the Mesolithic site at the Aughoose compound!
There have been no archaeological reports on the Aughoose site since work began there on the 22/7/2011.
If there are 12 excavators working on an archaeological site how many archaeologists should be on site?
What happens here is a blatant disregard for the archaeological importance of the Sruwaddacon Estuary cultural heritage.
To address this intolerable and deteriorating situation all works must be halted immediately and genuine change must be striven for.
Please acknowledge receipt of this complaint to
Eamonn Murphy Glengad, Ballina, Co. Mayo
Betty Schult, Pullathomas, Ballina, Co. Mayo