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Corrib gas campaign is the mainstream view in Mayo

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Corrib gas campaign is the mainstream view in Mayo
March 30, 2007 at 9:56 am | In Articles | No Comments

It might be worthwhile briefly taking stock of where stands the campaign to reconfigure Shell’s project in North Mayo. Despite a concerted and coordinated effort to marginalise those opposing the current project by attempting to portray them as isolated and unrepresentative the reality is otherwise. Take the key issues raised by the campaign.
First, where should the gas be processed?
On this key question, the latest Red C / Western People opinion poll showed that 55% want the gas processed off-shore and 7% want the project halted. 34% support the current proposal. This poll shows the same finding as all four previous local polls on the issue carried out by The Irish Times, TG4, The Mayo Advertiser and RTE. In other words, a clear majority in Mayo support off-shore processing.
Second, why do we have the Corrib gas conflict?
The Red C / Western People poll showed that 60% blame either the government or Shell and 30% local protesters. This is a clear ratio of 2:1.
Third, are there benefits arising from the current Corrib gas project?
It is clear that all fair observers now aknowledge that the financial deal under which Corrib is being developed is unfair and wrong. On last night’s Vincent Browne programme on RTE radio, all the election candidates from all the political parties present condemned the deal as disgraceful. In addition, Mayo County Council, Westport Town Council and Castlebar Town Council have voted in recent weeks unamimously in support of motions calling for a renegotiation of the deal. Ballina Town Council is due to do the same next week.
Clearly, the campaign to change the Corrib gas project is supported by a majority. The campaign is the mainstream view in County Mayo. The argument has been won. We now need political leadership to implement the will of the people on this matter.

Related article
The Western People - Tuesday March 27th 2007
44 per cent blame the Government for Corrib NOTHING is ever black and white in the Corrib Gas controversy and the findings in the Western People/Red C opinion poll do little to clarify the overall public position in Mayo on this very contentious issue.

Perhaps the most interesting finding is in the area of responsibility for the Corrib Gas problem with the public in Mayo showing no hesitation in pointing the finger of blame at the Government. A total of 44 per cent of the 511 people surveyed believe that the Government is responsible for the crisis that has developed in Erris in the last two years with 30 per cent laying the blame at the doorstep of the local protesters. Only 16 per cent believe that the company behind the project - Shell E&P - are responsible while the remaining 11 per cent claim that ‘Others’ are to blame, although it is not clear who these ‘Others’ actually are.
Interestingly, a majority of people - 55 per cent - want the gas to be processed offshore with a low pressure pipeline to the gas terminal at Bellanaboy. Only one-third of those surveyed wanted the project to continue in its current format while just seven per cent said they did not want the project to go ahead at all.
What is clear from this survey is that there is a desire amongst Mayo people to see the Corrib Gas project reach fruition, although there is a reluctance to give a vote of confidence in the existing proposal to process the gas onshore. There is also a considerable amount of anger at the Government over its failure to deal with the Corrib Gas controversy. Indeed, the poor showing of Fianna Fáil in the county - with only 27 per cent of the total poll - may be a reflection of this anger, although it is not clear if Corrib is a major factor in the minds of most Mayo voters.
When asked if Corrib was likely to bring economic benefits to Mayo, a significant majority of the survey group (68 per cent) answered in the affirmative with only 21 per cent stating that it would not bring any economic benefits. Interestingly, voters between the ages of 18 and 25 were more likely to be positive about the economic benefits of Corrib than those in the 25 to 45 age bracket. Males were also more likely than females to see the positive economic benefits of Corrib. What is most surprising is the poor performance of the two election candidates who have been most vocal in their opposition to the Corrib Gas project. Sinn Féin’s Cllr Gerry Murray fails to make any impact on the poll and is harshly criticised by the electorate in the section dealing with Satisfaction Ratings. Whether this criticism is related to his stance on Corrib is difficult to ascertain as voters were not asked to cite specific reasons for their dissatisfaction.
The Independent TD, Dr Jerry Cowley, also fares poorly in the opinion poll and actually loses his seat in the seventh and final count. His vote looks set to fall substantially, though, again, it is unclear whether this is directly related to the Corrib Gas controversy. The fact that he benefits substantially from Murray’s elimination would suggest that the two men are drawing from the same pool of voters - namely, those who are vehemently opposed to Corrib.
However, Cowley and Murray will hardly fail to notice the high approval ratings of Michael Ring, Enda Kenny and Beverley Flynn - three experienced politicians who have all distanced themselves from the Corrib Gas row in recent months. The success of these three candidates would suggest that Corrib is not really an issue amongst the Mayo electorate and it may actually be a controversy that is better avoided from a political point of view. Perhaps it is too late now for Murray and Cowley to distance themselves from the Corrib dispute but the findings of this poll would suggest that the electorate in Mayo have more pressing matters on their mind than the never-ending and deeply frustrating row in Erris.

Posted Date: 
2 April 2007 - 9:51am