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A coalition of the unwilling in Erris

Nobody’s fool

Minister Noel Dempsey would have looked foolish if he listened to the proposal from the Pro-Erris Gas Group (PEGG) not to dismantle the illegal Shell Corrib gas pipeline. PEGG told the Minister that they had the support of over 40 organisations whose wish it was NOT to dismantle the illegal pipeline. Nothing could have been further from the truth. This was an act of deviousness. It was devious because it misled people, especially Minister Dempsey. The Corrib issue is sensitive enough without a so-called representative group like PEGG being so misleading.
Many of the so-called 40 groups were unaware that PEGG and their associates were misusing their good names and offices. Those involved ought to be remorseful for attempting to compromise, not only a Government Minister, but also all the decent hard-working honest members of the organisations whose names they listed without consent. Minister Noel Dempsey is no-one’s fool, least of all the self-serving members of PEGG.
The Fine Gael failure
The PEGG list is a farce. ‘Mayo Fine Gael County Councillors’ is one of the names used on the list. The implication is that all Mayo FG councillors support the retention of the illegal pipeline. This is not so. Some councillors were keen but declined to take the lead in proposing such a motion at a recent meeting, yet the name ‘Mayo Fine Gael Co Councillors’ appeared on the press release. This is bad enough, but that the party did not move to correct it is worse. It is nothing short of a scandal for a national political party to be involved in such deviousness. For a party that hopes to lead the country after the next general election this is nothing more than bluff and blunder. Enda Kenny should move to stop this cheapskate rot at council level if he hopes to have any chance of being taken seriously as a leader. Council members opposed to such a hijacking of the party name in such circumstances should also move to distance themselves from this nonsense. Why did they allow the collective term to be used when they knew it was not true? It is time for Fine Gael to weed out those who allowed the party name to be abused in such a manner. This type of activity does nothing to enhance the ‘all clean’ image the party is attempting to portray. It has been stated before that Fine Gael would be more suited to dipping into the feelings of prospective supporters rather than allying itself with the trans-nationals. Shell and its ilk will not provide many votes for the party in the next election.
The list goes on
The same press release also included other groups, including the Glenamoy Community Angling Association. The officers of this organisation had voted NOT to talk to Shell personnel. They never voted on any proposal to retain the pipeline. The same is true for other organisations. In fact, of the 40 or so organisations listed as supporters, one would be hard pressed to find one group which had contacted all its members to hold a vote on the matter. Kilcommon GAA club members did not vote. Some members are opposed to what PEGG did and voiced their opposition. The Killala Community Council issued a press release distancing itself from the PEGG proposal. Who allowed their name to be (mis)used? The list of disgruntled members of so-called affiliated organisations continues to grow. Most journalists would not even bother to check with all the groups because the work of PEGG in issuing such a blemished press release has already been so discredited.
PEGG has betrayed what it stands for with this abuse of local organisations. For an officer of PEGG to state that they gauged the mood of the organisations by contacting one or two of their officers is to treat the people of Erris with contempt and to treat the media to whom they sent the press release with disdain. To make such a claim of support when it was so misleading is dishonest and deceitful.
Vested interests
Some of the PEGG members involved in this debacle have vested interests. They are direct beneficiaries of Shell’s Corrib project. There is nothing wrong with this but they should have had the decency to declare their hand when they reactivated the PEGG organisation and started issuing such press releases. There is nothing wrong with being beneficiaries but it should be stated, especially when these people ‘campaign’ in favour of Shell. These are sensitive times for the Corrib project. Wanting to retain the illegal pipeline is fine for them, but they should declare their hands. It is called honesty.
Members of the so-called 40 or so supporting organisations listed as supporters will debate their position, with some, no doubt, supporting the position of PEGG. What PEGG has done, aided and abetted by the likes of (some) ‘Mayo Fine Gael Co Councillors,’ is drive a coach and ten between an already divided community, which was attempting to heal the wounds already perpetrated by the colonial attitude of a trans-national.
Regardless of the position local organisations might have found themselves in with this press release and the obvious stupidity of Fine Gael by allowing itself to be misused in such a manner, there is a more worrying aspect - the position of the Council for the West. The Council has many fine members, people who have spent endless hours working selflessly to provide better facilities and services for communities in the west. What is most disconcerting is that some members of the Council spent time contacting people in north Mayo in an effort to gather support for the PEGG proposal to retain the illegal pipe. For an organisation that is steeped in the Developing the West initiative of the Western Bishops, it is time the Bishops re-asserted their authority or else let the Council for the West declare its hand as an organisation more interested in serving business rather than community.
Time for apologies
It is time for all concerned with this fiasco to apologise. Minister Noel Dempsey (who has at least tried certain initiatives with the Corrib project since he took it over), is certainly owed an apology. He could have been exposed to a howler if he had listened to the PEGG proposal. Organisations whose names were misused are owed an apology, as are media organisations that were expected to perpetrate the untruth. The best that could be said about the PEGG stunt is that it was a coalition of the unwilling led by the unknowing…

Posted Date: 
21 August 2006 - 1:09am