Irish Republican News · November 5, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Vindication as pipeline plan is rejected

A ruling by the 26 County state planning board against most of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline has been strongly welcomed by north Mayo residents and environmental activists.

An Bord Pleanala found that Shell’s proposed route for its pipeline to a planned onshore gas refinery is “unacceptable” on safety grounds.

In its ruling yesterday, the planning board said the proposed high-pressure pipeline would be too close to housing in a number of areas, and suggested that another route be explored.

The houses were “within the hazard range of the pipeline should a failure occur”, the board said

The original Corrib gas project plan of development was approved by former minister for the marine Frank Fahey in 2002, along with compulsory acquisition orders to private land for the pipeline.

The developers secured planning permission for the refinery at Bellanaboy in October 2004, after a previous application was rejected by An Bord Pleanala in 2003.

Since then, Shell has aggresively pursued its pipeline plan and refuted all question marks over its safety, even seeking the imprisonment of local residents who attempted to halt the works.

Campaigners called on Shell to “go back to the drawing board”.

Maura Harrington, spokeswoman of the Shell to Sea campaign said: “What An Bord Pleanala have really shown today is that the Corrib gas pipeline is not safe to be routed through our community, or indeed any residential area.

“Shell have consistently shown their inability and unwillingness to make this project safe - what it needs is a total overhaul, with real consideration given to the genuine problems with the project raised by campaigners.”

Ms Harrington took issue with the board’s provisional approval if alterations, including a new route, were applied for, saying “Ireland’s real strategic interest would be in regaining control of our natural resources”.

Justice and peace group Action from Ireland (Afri) welcomed the acknowledgment of “legitimate safety concerns of local people”.

“Shell built a refinery in the wrong place and laid an offshore pipeline and they can’t connect one to the other - this was always a crazy approach to planning,” Afri spokesman Andy Storey said.

“For years, local people objecting to this project have been called ignorant and have been the subject of harassment and intimidation, but their position has now been vindicated,” Mr Storey added.

“It is not too late to review this entire project and to ensure that the gas, if it is to be extracted at all, be refined offshore or at a location acceptable to the local community, and that the deal with Shell be renegotiated to ensure the Irish people get a fairer share of the proceeds,” he said.

Pobal Chill Chomain spokesman John Monaghan and resident Mary Corduff also said that Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and his department had “serious questions to answer” in relation to their endorsement of the safety of the proposed modified pipeline route.

Ms Corduff said her community had “suffered intimidation over years” for their opposition, she said.

eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson said the findings proved that Shell was now unfit to carry out the project.

“Shell Oil has an atrocious international record, littered with human rights abuses and ecological vandalism. That it took An Bord Pleanala a decade to recognise the potential for this outcome in Ireland is an indictment on the body.

“The fact remains that, whatever route changes Shell make to the pipeline, the company has no right to extract the gas from the Corrib basin. The gas there belongs to the people of Ireland and should be exploited for their benefit, not by a multinational company that will sell back that gas to the population at full cost.”

* It emerged earlier this week that the Garda police ombudsman has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of the Garda in relation to the handling of a protest against the Corrib gas project in 2007. The recommendation has not yet been acted upon by the Garda Commissioner.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News