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Liamy MacNally on the matters of fact and the facts of the matter

De Facto The Rossport Five - ninety-four days on Apparently prison staff did all the door opening that was necessary for the men known as the Rossport Five. It was one of the points Brendan Philbin made along with Philip McGrath after they were released from prison last Friday. Both men also worked in the kitchen. It helped to have a routine, they said. The five, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath, Mícheál Ó’Seighin and Willie Corduff, will have to adjust to living back with their own families and in their own communities. They will also have to live with the tag – one of the Rossport Five. Sometimes it will be a blessing and at other times, no doubt, it will be a curse. They will still be in a euphoric state as they meet well wishers and people who genuinely wish to welcome them home.The men are under no illusion that the real battle begins now. There is still no pipeline in Rossport but the plans to install one remain. All those plans will not alleviate the concerns of the men and their families for whom safety is the issue. Mícheál Ó’Seighin said that they are duty-bound to leave the environment in as good if not a better state than it was handed on to them by previous generations. Respecting a legacy is something that runs through the blood. There are people who cannot understand that. They think it can be bought. Blood is thicker than euros.
The Corrib developers have options. They can plug the gas wells in the hope that future developments in the industry will allow the gas to be extracted more easily. They can examine the offshore option – either deep water or shallow water developments. They can examine other route options – there has been mention of bringing the pipeline up the bay. They can go back to the drawing board and make alternative landing site proposals because this project as proposed at present has been flawed on so many levels. There is very little confidence in the bodies that have statutory duties in the handling of this project from Mayo County Council to the Department of Marine and Natural Resources.
The advantage of adopting the wait and see approach is that the value of the gas will not decrease. One of the bonuses of the delays that have dogged the Corrib project is that the value of the gas has increased so much. When that is balanced against the delays, it makes the outcome more tolerable for its advocates, Shell, Statoil and Marathon. These trans-national companies can also choose to examine the processing at sea option. They have consistently stated that this is not an option, yet if negotiations are on the table with the Rossport Five and the other people who have concerns about the upstream pipeline, then the offshore option has to be discussed. Why should the financial concerns (because of the increased cost of the offshore option) of Shell and their cohorts take precedence over the safety concerns of Irish citizens? Granted, there is an argument to be made that this is an issue that should have been explored some years ago rather than now. What must be acknowledged is that the concerns of the local people in Rossport (and Bellanaboy) were ignored years ago. Giving precedence to Shell’s concern over increased costs for an offshore option now appears redundant. Shell’s argument over the safety of workers on an offshore rig raises the question about how they value the safety of people who live along the pipeline route. There are numerous offshore developments. Processing nine kilometres inland through peaty land is not the industry standard. It is unique.
One thing that the dropping of the injunction has taught us all is that Shell can change. They were so insistent that they could not withdraw the injunction against the Rossport Five citing legal advice. Did they go against their legal advice or did the advice of other parties take precedence over the legal aspects?
Simple question
The one simple question that has not been answered adequately in any of the so-called safety reviews and quantified risk assessments undertaken centres around the proximity code. That is the safety distance between the pipeline and the nearest house. Arguments based on the safety per se of the pipeline are not the issue. Obviously the pipeline will be designed and constructed in the best way available but this is missing the point. What has to be allowed for is that something might go wrong. If this should happen how safe will the residents of the surrounding area be? At present the closest is 70 metres. One local Rossport man has plans to renovate an old family house that is less than 20 metres from the pipeline. These are the realities that have to be faced by Shell. Alleged attempts by some of their staff to inform this man that he would not be allowed to develop the house and that they would object to his plans show how out of touch they are on the ground in north Mayo. There has been no attempt to produce a matrix based on safe proximity distances to houses in the area. Whether Minister Noel Dempsey’s safety review group will deal with this remains to be seen. There is some concern locally that people are expected to make submissions ahead of the Minister’s proposed public hearing. Why would people do such a thing and show their hands when they have to present their legal arguments to a court hearing of the Corrib project within the next six to eight weeks?
One of the galling aspects of witnessing the release of the five men was the politicians who bobbed their heads this way and that to get their faces on television or in photographs. Who are they trying to kid? Where were they over the years when these fine men and their Bellanaboy neighbours needed people to open doors for them?

Posted Date: 
4 October 2005 - 4:39pm