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Shell spin reaches a new low

Shell spin reaches a new low
mayo | arts and media | opinion/analysis Thursday January 24, 2008 20:23 by Rudiger
Shell recently launched another cynical attempt to buy off opposition to their Corrib Gas project by offering grants to community groups that will be closest to Bellanaboy and their proposed raw gas pipeline.
Investment in Lies
In the last number of months, it has been noticeable that Shell has concentrated their PR blitz on the population of Erris with a raft of propaganda noting the benefits and safety standards of the Corrib Gas Project. Presumably this is an attempt to soften up the area for when Shell & Co try to install the raw gas pipeline, which still doesn’t have any consent from the majority of Kilcommon parish. Along with the usual monthly Corrib Gas Update leaflet, there has also been a DVD published in which two Erris residents (one of who is a member of the Pro Erris Gas Group - PEGG) visit gas plants and pipelines in Holland, a report from Goodbody Stockbrokers on the economic benefits of the Corrib Project as it stands, a leaflet on the enhanced safety that the proposed pipeline would have and one of the most infuriating documents that I have read in a long time, the “Investment in the community” leaflet. Now all of these propaganda pieces could be very easily picked apart but the sheer audacity of Shell & Co releasing a leaflet entitled “Investment in the community” with a front page picture of a lovely field full of daisies and a clear blue sky is particularly galling. The leaflet is to advertise the new Local Grants Programme in which voluntary and community groups can apply for funding of up to €10,000 a year. If you were casually browsed through the 12 page leaflet without reading it, you might think it was a leaflet for a nice holiday in rural Ireland with pictures of the Rossport area, a lady doing yoga, a lad playing football and a few people running in beautiful country side. However it doesn’t take long for the cynicism behind the leaflet to reveal itself. In the section entitled “What is our approach to Social Investment” the Corrib Gas Partners state that they recognise that with regard to social investment, local groups and organisations “are best able to identify the needs of their own communities”. This of course begs the question if communities can best identify the social investment needs of their own community why it can’t best identify the health, safety and environmental needs of their own community? On the same page the Corrib Gas Partners claim that their overall vision is “to be a good neighbour in the areas in which we operate”. A quick call to any of the five men who spent 94 days in jail would surely clarify how far they still stand away from their stated vision. Also I’m sure many of the literally hundreds of people who have been beaten, pushed and shoved while peacefully opposing the Corrib Gas Project must surely wonder what exactly would constitute a bad neighbour. Indeed in faraway Port Arthur, Texas the Motiva Refinery in which Shell is also the majority shareholder has long been referred to as “the neighbour from Hell” [1]. In a health survey carried out by the University of Texas it was found that 70% of the Port Arthur community complained of health problems while only 9% of a control community in the town of Galveston, 75 miles away complained of similar problems. While the Corrib Gas Partners claim that they are “not replacing the role of the Government” in local social and economic development objectives, it should be pointed out it seems that local community have actually replaced “the role of the Government” in actually monitoring a lot of the project. So far the local community have found Shell & co illegally laying part of the pipeline, illegally drilling on an environmentally sensitive area, illegally constructing a septic tank as well as alerting the authorities about diesel spills and increased aluminium in the drinking water supply. The Key Criteria to be used in assessing the local groups’ eligibility for the grants are: Sustainability, closeness to Kilcommon parish and Inclusiveness. Ironically under the “Inclusive” heading it is stated that projects to receive the money “should demonstrate benefits to the community as a whole, and not just to a few individuals”. Well that sounds like a Shell to Sea press release! One of the aspects that Shell to Sea has been highlighting is that our national resources should benefit the communities and country “as a whole, and not just to a few individuals”. For these grants the Corrib Gas Partners however state that the support can’t be given to businesses, individuals or projects with a religious or political purpose. These restrictions must be a newly installed as the Corrib Gas Partners have been handing out money to both businesses and individuals and I’d be pretty sure with political purposes too. In 2006 Ciarán Ó Murchú who owns a local water-sports centre stated that the Corrib Gas Partners had offered him €15,000 and all that was required was his silence. I would like the Corrib Gas Partners to clarify whether the restriction to giving support to political purposes was active at the time when oil & gas executives met Ray Burke in the absence of his department officials. Subsequently of course Ray Burke changed the terms of oil and gas finds, abolishing all State participation in the finds and giving a 100% tax write-off against cost [2]. Presumably these grants and subsidies that are given to try to buy off the people of the area will be calculated as costs associated with the Corrib Gas Project. Therefore all this funding given by Shell & Co is actually coming from the Irish taxpayer, given that this is money that can be written off against tax. So not only is the country losing out with the giveaway of our national resources, we are also losing out because of Shells’ stubbornness in proceeding with project that doesn’t have the backing of local people. [1] Shell Shock - The Secrets and Spin of an Oil Giant by Ian Cummins and John Beasant [2] The Great Corrib Gas Controversy - CPI report - http://www.publicinquiry.ie/reports.php#ld196
Related Link: http://www.shell.com/home/content/ie-en/exploration_and....html
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Repeat the mantra - Everything is OK

Posted Date: 
31 January 2008 - 9:42pm