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€3 million to-date spent on policing Corrib terminal site

Current Publication Date: 02/02/2007
€3 million to-date spent on policing Corrib terminal site
Independent deputy says money should have gone into ailing health system
by Fiona McGarry
The cost to date of policing operations at the site of the proposed Corrib gas terminal at Bellanaboy is just over €3 million, a Mayo Dáil deputy has learned.
Independent Deputy Jerry Cowley received information, in response to a parliamentary question, showing that the taxpayer faces a bill of €3.14 million for the Garda presence at the terminal site from the start of October 2006 to the end of January 2007. Deputy Cowley has described the situation as “the height of nonsense” when Royal Dutch Shell has revealed huge profits, beating all of the analysts’ predictions. He said the burden on the Irish taxpayer was excessive at a time when the health system is facing a funding crisis. In response, Shell E&P Ireland has said a Garda presence in Bellanaboy would not be required if protesters were not obstructing staff and contractors from going about their work.
The €3.14 million bill for Garda services includes all salary, overtime, temporary transfer, and “other related costs”, Minister McDowell’s response to Deputy Cowley said. The minister also told the deputy that the total personnel strength of members of the force on duty last Friday (January 26) was 49. Statistics which Deputy Cowley requested on the total number of gardaí deployed to the terminal site since last October, and the length of each deployment, was not provided. The minister said it would take a “disproportionate expenditure” of Garda time to compile this information.
Deputy Cowley told the Mayo Advertiser that while the bill for policing the Bellanaboy terminal site breaks down to around €750,000 a month, Royal Dutch Shell is making profits of approximately €2.25 million per hour. He said the situation is “abhorrent” when vital finances cannot be found to support the health service and the care of cancer patients in particular. Deputy Cowley pointed out that banks pay the costs of their security, but he stopped short of calling on Shell E&P should do the same. Deputy Cowley said: “Three thousand beds have been taken out of the health system and never put back. The fact that the taxpayer is asked to foot the bill for security for a multinational company is totally and utterly wrong.
“I am now calling on Shell E&P Ireland to fulfil their moral responsibility and bring about a resolution to the issue,” Deputy Cowley said. He said the gas terminal and pipeline project had “no community consent” and that protests would continue until the concerns of the people of the area were allayed. The Independent deputy said he was growing increasingly worried about the safety of local people and workers during daily protests. He said he believed it was “a miracle” that nobody had been injured so far.
Deputy Cowley said he was now calling on all of his Dáil colleagues to support him in finding a resolution to the on-going conflict between Shell E&P and local landowners in Erris. “They can’t wash their hands of this very dangerous situation,” Deputy Cowley said.
In a statement to the Mayo Advertiser, Shell E&P said “it is not up to Shell to comment on security, this is a matter for the gardaí”. The statement also said that “once the gardaí judge that the protests are peaceful and that people can go to work unhindered, the continuing Garda presence at Bellanaboy will no longer be required.”
Responding to news of the policing bill, Dr Mark Garavan of Shell to Sea said: “The revelation that the Garda operation in Bellanaboy has to date cost over €3 million is further evidence of the unprecedented nature of the Corrib gas project. No Irish industrial development has proceeded in this manner with gardaí being deployed to facilitate a project against the wishes of the majority of the local community. Sadly, the real cost of the Garda operation is not only financial but also lies in the damage to the reputation of the gardaí and in the grave deterioration in Garda-community relations in what has always been a peaceful and law-abiding area.”
Yesterday (Thursday) Royal Dutch Shell revealed net fourth quarter profits of more than €4 billion. This represented a net increase of 21 per cent and was well ahead of analysts’ forecasts. A number of protests by lobby group Shell to Sea coincided with the company’s announcement of its profit statement. The company’s full-year report makes no reference to the Corrib gas field project.

Posted Date: 
5 February 2007 - 12:35pm