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Mixed local reaction to mediator’s report: Sunday Business Post 30th July 2006

There was a mixed reaction in north Mayo this weekend to the publication of the report by the government-appointed mediator Peter Cassells on the seven-month process, which has failed to find an overall resolution to the controversial Corrib gas issue.Shell to Sea has strongly challenged Cassells’ statement in the report that the majority of people in Rossport, north Mayo and the entire county are in favour of the project.The group claimed that a canvas of 2,000 households on the Erris peninsula in the last fortnight shows that the campaign, which is committed to forcing Shell to process the Corrib gas offshore, had about 97 per cent support. According to Shell to Sea spokesman, Dr Mark Garavan, the mediator’s report was disappointing and failed ‘‘to address the core problem which is that a high-pressure production pipe would run nine kilometres inland to the proposed refinery’’.Garavan insisted the whole project needed to be re-configured and that Cassells’ recommendation of modifying the route was nothing more than moving the problem to another community.The cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Gerry Coyle, a supporter of the Corrib gas project, welcomed Cassells’ recommendations.‘‘Any positive development that will bring this long-running dispute closer to a resolution must be welcomed. I particularly welcome Cassells’ recommendation for the provision of a front-loaded development fund and improved infrastructure, including increased broadband services for the major towns,’’ said Coyle.However, local councillor Tim Quinn said the only way forward was for the gas to be processed offshore. He claimed he told Minister for Energy Noel Dempsey a year ago, after the Rossport Five were jailed, that the pipeline would never be laid along the proposed route.‘‘Shell have said that the conditions are too dangerous to process the gas offshore on the site of the Corrib field.“Why don’t they identify a more sheltered marine site, closer to the shore, and process it there?” said Quinn.A spokesman for the Pro Erris Gas Group (PEGG), Micheal O Healaithe declined to comment on Shell to Sea’s level of popular support in the area.‘‘There is more that unites the people of north Mayo than divides them,” he said. ‘‘The fears of the people should have been addressed from the beginning by government and the companies.”O Healaithe, a secondary school teacher in Rossport, said that it was ridiculous that an alternative route, proposed by PEGG, through Sruwaddacon bay was not viewed as an option because it went through a special area of conservation.‘‘Surely people’s safety should be given precedence over the habitats of birds and worms,” he said.At 10am yesterday, a group of Shell to Sea activists left the proposed terminal site at Bellanaboy, in north Mayo, on foot for Dublin. During the 15-day trek they plan to stop in towns and villages to distribute information leaflets and talk to people about their campaign for the offshore processing of the Corrib gas field.‘‘The timing of the walk seems extremely appropriate now in light of the publication of Peter Cassells’ report on Friday,” said walk leader and local blacksmith, John Monaghan.Monaghan, a son-in law of Rossport Five member, Micheal O Seighin, said the report was generally greeted with a mixture of disappointment and anger in north Mayo.‘‘It is really important that the general public are informed of the real facts outside the restrictions of media reportage, and government and Shell spin. People need to be reminded that we are in favour of the project if the gas is processed offshore. Safety and health are our primary concerns,” said Monaghan.One of the Rossport Five, Willie Corduff said that Cassells’ report didn’t change anything.‘‘There is nothing new this weekend. The mediator didn’t propose a specific new route.“Shell are talking about moving forward, about partnership with the community. But there is nowhere to go,’’ said Corduff.‘‘We are angry but vindicated by the huge support we have in Erris. One thing about the people of this region, they are not hypocrites. They shoot from the hip. They have told us in their hundreds, they don’t want this project on their doorstep.“They are frightened of it.”

Posted Date: 
30 July 2006 - 7:39pm