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€5.4m bill for six-month Corrib Garda operation
By Daniel Hickey THE TOTAL cost of the Garda operation in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo has cost €5.4 million for just over six months – “a total waste of money” according to Belmullet-based Independent Cllr Michael Holmes.The bill from October 3rd, 2006 to April 17th this year includes Garda salaries, and breaks down as an average daily cost of €27,550.The figures were released by the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell last Thursday in a written Dail reply to Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley.“The money could help to sustain the rural communities in Erris but the way it’s been spent has divided the community,” said Cllr Holmes.Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle said that €5.4m would help develop a new sewerage scheme in Belmullet, the estimated cost being €16m.“It is a must for a thriving town,” he said. “It was supposed to have been started in 2005 but has been put on the long finger and still hasn’t been started”.What else could €5.4m, spent on Garda operations in Bellanaboy, fund in the barony of Erris? It could fund the improvement of approximately two and a half miles of the R312 from Castlebar to Belmullet, often regarded as one of the worst roads in the country. Total funding necessary for the road has been cited at €50m.“If there was proper access to the area we could get our tourist trade going,” said Cllr Coyle. €5.4m could fund a marina in Blacksod, which would help develop the tourist industry in Erris.Census figures revealed by the Central Statistics Office last week revealed that of the nine parishes north of the line from Killala to Ballycroy, eight have seen a decline in population.“These communities could badly do with €5.4m,” said Cllr Holmes. “It would do the world of good for infrastructure in the region”.Dr Jerry Cowley and Dr Mark Garavan, Seanad candidate for the general election, said, in a joint written statement, that the expenditure is “a further symptom of the Corrib gas problem”.“The Corrib gas conflict has gone on for far too long and needs urgently to be resolved. That requires political will and leadership,” they said.If the project had the backing of the community, as Shell was claiming, Garda security should not be required at all, Dr Cowley added.Drs Cowley and Garavan said their proposal for an Independent Commission offers “the only viable solution” to resolve the Corrib gas conflict.“Such a Commission would examine the optimum development concept for the Corrib gas project according to the criteria of best technology and community consent,” they said.The proposed commission is backed by Labour, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and Independent TDs and Senators.The grouping believes that commission would represent the first examination of the project in its entirety, as up to now it had been the subject of “project splitting” to gain various State consents. It would examine the “optimum development concept” for refining gas from the Corrib field off Mayo with emphasis on community consent. Last Wednesday, Dr Cowley led a multi-party delegation for discussions with four senior executives of Statoil on his and Dr Garavan’s proposed independent commission.The Norwegian energy company said that it cannot support political calls for an independent commission to evaluate the entire Corrib gas project.Dr Cowley said that it was “essential to find an acceptable solution, given Statoil’s plans to drill north of the Corrib field this summer and to tap into the existing Corrib gas infrastructure”.Company spokesman Kai Nielsen said that the meeting was “very open”, but Statoil could not see the value in a “further investigation of this project by some committee”, given the delays it had already encountered.Dr Cowley said there had been a “very frank exchange of views”, but said that he was under the impression that Statoil “was not ruling out an independent commission”.The company made it clear that its primary responsibility was towards its shareholders, he added.Terje Nustad, head of the Norwegian energy workers’ union SAFE, has pledged support for the Shell to Sea campaign and has called on Statoil to withdraw from the project.SAFE represents 7,000 workers in the Norwegian energy industry.

Posted Date: 
4 May 2007 - 7:35pm