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Shell to Sea picketers accuse Údarás of aiding dangerous project - 12/01/2007

by Fiona McGarry, Mayo Advertiser
Lobby group Shell to Sea will stage a picket today (Friday) at the headquarters of Údarás na Gaeltachta in Furbo, Co Galway, in protest over the decision of the authority to allocate one of its premises in Erris to Shell.

Members of the lobby group, who are opposed to Shell’s plan to build a €200 million on-shore gas terminal at Bellanaboy, have accused Údarás of aiding a project they believe could endanger the lives people living in the Gaeltacht. They also argue that this support for Shell will not create any new jobs in the Gaeltacht but will help subsidise the transfer of Shell staff from Dublin to Mayo. Shell to Sea has asked supporters from across Gaeltacht areas to join the protest, which organisers say will be peaceful.
In response to news of the proposed picketing of Údarás headquarters, CEO Pádraig Ó hAoláin pointed out that no direct funding is being provided by the authority to Shell. He said the decision of the Údarás to offer premises to either Shell or the Gardai, as it has previously done, is well within its remit. The lease arrangement will allow Shell to use the old Carraig Donn factory unit for seven years, at a conversion cost of around €1 million to the company.
Commenting on the decision to allow Shell to use the Údaras factory building protest, FF councillor and Údarás board member Tim Quinn said that he himself had abstained when the matter was put to a vote. He said he had had “no wish to add fuel to the fire”.
Cllr Quinn said the Corrib gas issue had been “very messy and distasteful”, and had created ill-feeling in the Erris community. He said that aside from members of Shell to Sea, other local people had serious concerns about gas emissions when the terminal became operational. He said it was his hope that those agencies responsible for safeguarding the public — Mayo County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency — would fulfil their duties.
The protest in Furbo is the second of Shell to Sea’s demonstrations to be staged this week at locations other than the site of the proposed terminal. Proceedings at a meeting of Mayo County Council were disrupted last Monday when members of Shell to Sea staged a picket inside the chamber. Protesters were asked to desist from addressing the council after some them accused the county secretary of misleading council members.
Half-way through a lengthy meeting on the estimates for 2007, around 15 members of Shell to Sea entered the public gallery and numbers swelled to over 40 during the course of the afternoon. The group maintained a silent presence until the meeting adjourned over two hours later. Placards with the slogans “Shell to Hell and its friends as well” and “Shell’s planning permission is deeply flawed” were held aloft at various stages.
Later that evening standing orders were set aside temporarily to address the protest. Cathaoirleach Gerry Coyle told the chamber he had received a letter that day from Shell to Sea and had forwarded it to the secretary. He said he understood a reply would be issued as soon as possible.
The FG councillor also said there was “some confusion” over long-running correspondence between members of Shell to Sea and Mayo County Council on the subject of planning permission for Shell’s proposed €200 million terminal at Bellanaboy. Cllr Coyle asked that this be clarified to the chamber by the county secretary, John Condon.
John Condon said there had been a series of letters exchanged between Shell to Sea and Mayo County Council, dating back to October 2006. That letter, seen by the Mayo Advertiser, challenged the validity of planning permission for the Corrib gas terminal, saying that information on the ‘cold venting’ of gas had not been included in the original EIS submitted with the company’s application. Mr Condon told the chamber that the most recent letter had been sent by Mayo County Council on December 18. He said that the letter received by the council that day would be replied to in due course.
Sinn Fein Cllr Gerry Murray then asked whether or not the council would reply to a request from the Environmental Protection Agency for comment on an amended EIS from Shell. Mr Condon said the council was not obliged by law to reply and would only comment if it had concerns. Mr Condon refuted any suggestion that the EPA had only asked the council to comment because it had reservations itself over the EIS. It was similar, he said, to situations where the council would request comment on planning applications and there was no statutory obligation to respond.
Just as the statutory meeting looked set to resume, with another suspension of standing orders to discuss the refuse privatisation issue, protesters began to shout from the gallery. Ed Moran of Erris accused the county secretary of giving misleading information to the chamber. He was asked to stop by the cathaoirleach who said that no comments could be taken from members of the public. Mr Moran persisted, however, saying the council had told him he would not get any further comment on certain of his queries. Another protester, John Monaghan, then addressed the cathaoirleach, saying: “Are you happy Gerry we will get another letter to fob us off?”. Cllr Coyle replied that as far as he was concerned the protesters would get a reply. The group continued to address the chamber however, asking when they could expect an answer.
At this point, Cllr Gerry Murray intervened in the row and said the council had clarified the position with regard to its obligation to respond to the EPA. FG Cllr Paddy McGuinness seconded a request for an early reply to Shell to Sea’s letter. He asked that the situation regarding the relationship with the EPA be clarified in writing “to give an overview of the statutory situation”.
At this point protesters left the chamber and the proceedings of the meeting resumed.
Meanwhile, the case involving a number of Rossport residents and Shell E&P Ireland resumes in the High Court on Monday January 16. An application by the company to drop legal action against a number of Rossport residents will be heard, as will counterclaims against Shell E&P brought by Brendan Philbin, Bríd McGarry, Willie Corduff, and Philip McGrath.#

Posted Date: 
15 January 2007 - 9:38am