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Is the Corrib project back in deep water?

PEOPLE POWER ?A convoy of vehicles left a rally at Belmullet and drove along the coast through Barnatra to the terminal at Bellanaboy, in support of the Rossport Five while they were in prison. Support for their stance still remains in the community, according to opponents of the Corrib roject. ?Pic: Peter WilcockIs the Corrib project back in deep water?De FactoLiamy MacNallyThere was an important meeting last Wednesday between the Minister for Energy, Marine and Natural Resources and members of Shell to Sea. Eamon Ryan was brave in hosting the meeting in Leinster House, especially after Dublin Shell to Sea members tried to belittle him with a cheap skit on the internet auction site, e-bay. Photographs of the Minister holding Rossport Five posters, taken when the men were in jail, were offered for sale, with the implication that Eamon Ryan had ‘abandoned’ the Corrib project to the vagaries of his corporate-loving Government partners. This infantile action reduces the deep-rooted community concerns of people in north Mayo to a momentary smirk for people who might think their e-bay stunt funny. Eamon Ryan has something else in his favour. He made a visit to Rossport in early August and met people directly affected by the Corrib project. He was the first minister honest enough to do so. He had frank discussions with local people. The Minister has also announced revised terms for exploration companies. What Fianna Fáil could not appear to do in power up to this was done in double-quick time by a junior coalition partner. From now on the State will also benefit from any oil and gas find. And there is plenty of oil and gas out there, regardless of the poor mouth cries emanating from the trans-national exploration companies. A LETTER FROM THE PRIESTSFollowing the meeting with Minister Ryan it emerged that a letter had been handed over to him on behalf of the priests of the parish. The three priests in Kilcommon (the ‘home’ of the Corrib project) signed a letter to the Minister. It stated clearly and simply the views of what they claimed was the majority of the people in the parish. It said that the majority opposed the project as proposed at present. Shell can line up any or all of their usual cohorts, from statutory bodies to those who will make a buck out of the project, and the bottom line is printed in that letter: “The project as planned for Bellanaboy does not have consent from the community.” The language is plain enough. One does not need any PR gurus to interpret it. Community consent is the central point in this dispute in north Mayo. The national interest, the western interest, the Mayo interest, the jobs interest and even the Erris interest all play second fiddle to the local community interest. Their cause remains, regardless of the history of unrest at the Shell sites. A Google alert on Shell will reveal that trouble with local communities is not confined to north Mayo. Shell appears to suffer from the lack of consent from local communities in several communities, from America to Africa. In other parts of the world Shell’s statutory compliance also leaves a muddy trail.THE LETTER The letter from the priests is dated October 16, 2007. It is signed by Fr Michael Nallen, Fr Michael Gilroy and Fr Seán Noone. It reads as follows: “The issue of the Corrib Gas Project continues to be a source of much unease for people we work with in the Parish of Kilcommon. Others who live in the wider catchment area have concerns also.“We believe most people are not opposed to the gas coming ashore and seeing the area benefit. The opposition relates to the way it is being done. The question of raw gas, the technicalities and practicalities associated with it, the location of pressure reduction valves, and the proximity of the pipeline to dwelling houses and schools is what alarms people. The project as planned for Ballinaboy does not have consent from the community. Indications are that the majority of the people in the parish are opposed to it. They are the receiving community whose lives and future are at the centre of the negative impact and potential risks.“Some areas or individuals in Erris or Mayo used in promotional material by the developer cannot validly claim community status in relation to this project. Moreover, some negotiations and consultations about key problems associated with this project were, and are, with people in areas sufficiently distanced from the hazards associated with such an industry. Health and safety, environment, and quality of life will not necessarily be enhanced or protected by attempts on the part of the developer to win support through sponsorship of sporting organisations, scholarships, and multiple appointments of public relations staff with their photos circulated periodically. People find such approaches both disturbing and antagonistic, while the real difficulties remain unresolved. Those who have serious concerns are encountering the withdrawal of facilities through which their voices can be heard. There are some examples of this in elements of the media. The Centre for Public Enquiry suffered such a fate when it analysed the Corrib Gas Project and highlighted its inadequacies and hazards. Given the need for industry, employment, and infrastructural development in North Mayo, a more equitable distribution of National and European Funds would contribute to the achievement of these goals.“People who have lived here over generations must be permitted to continue to have quality of life and environment into the future. We hope your involvement will enable progress to be made in reaching a situation where the genuine concerns of people are understood and dealt with in a meaningful and constructive manner. Only when this is achieved, will the circumstances exist whereby the project can proceed with the acceptance and support of the community.” FURTHER ACTION REQUIREDThe letter merits a response, in other words, action. Minister Eamon Ryan must lead that action, however he will plan to do it. Even Solomon in all his wisdom would be tested to resolve what appears to be more and more intractable. Solomon had God on his side to help him. One can presume that the priests of the parish are also in touch with the same God. They are speaking on behalf of their people. It is a difficult time to find a voice that yearns for justice but they have done so. Their action demands a generous response, based on the same principles that they have adopted, none of which is selfish or self-centred. Their honesty is commendable.Now is not the time for the PR Hymacs to bulldoze their way into deeper mires. The priests’ letter has precedence over all reports. This is now the ‘working document’. Only when the concerns raised in this letter have been dealt with can people say that the Corrib project has community consent. Until that time claims of statutory compliance are hollow. Too often we hear the cry of the ongoing cost of the project. It is time to listen to the cry of the forgotten people – the local community. The value rather than the price of Corrib is what is important. Community consent cannot be bought, it can only be earned. That day is still some way off. Dr Mark Garavan has been saying it for years: “The project needs to be reconfigured.” The people of Kilcommon have spoken. How many more voices are needed before this Government realises that the Corrib gas project is in a mess?

Posted Date: 
24 October 2007 - 8:57pm