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Irish Times: Locals will go to jail over gas pipeline

Irish Times: Locals will go to jail over gas pipeline

Paul Cullen

Jun 21, 2005

A group of landowners in north Mayo has vowed to go to jail rather than let Shell E&P Ireland build an onshore pipeline for its Corrib gas field through their properties.

The group, which has defied a High Court injunction prohibiting it from interfering with the company’s preparatory work for the pipeline, came to Dublin yesterday to picket Shell’s Irish headquarters.

“I’ll go to jail if I have to. We’ll fight for years for justice, just like the McBreartys,” one of the landowners, Willie Corduff, told a press conference in Dublin.

“I’m not leaving, and yet there’s no way I can live in my house if the pipeline is built. Does the Government want us to be killed in our own farms?” he asked.

Mr Corduff said the high-pressure pipeline, which will link the offshore gas field to an inland terminal at Bellanaboy, will pass “right outside our door”.

The group, which received support yesterday from anti-Shell activists in the US and Nigeria, claims the pipeline poses a risk to health and safety. It expressed fears about an accident and claimed the pipeline would pollute the area with mercury and other elements.

Some 34 individuals own land along the proposed 9km pipeline, of whom 27 have signed agreements with the company. Six of the remaining seven landowners have rejected offers of compensation and called for an independent review of the project.

The company, which last week suspended work on the pipeline, is expected to ask the High Court shortly to take further action against the protesters.

Yesterday, it said the Corrib project had been exposed to “one of the most exhaustive processes of public scrutiny of any project of its kind in Ireland” and it was “unfortunate” some opponents were attempting to undermine public confidence in this process.

Shell said it remained available to meet and discuss issues with any local residents “who are prepared to come to a meeting with an open mind”.

Padhraig Campbell, of Siptu’s offshore committee, told yesterday’s press conference that Ireland was being “ripped off” by the multinational oil and gas companies operating in its waters. “Someone has to stand up and shout ‘stop’. We’ve given away the family silver and we’re being ripped off big time.”

Mr Campbell said there was no official scrutiny of the exploration companies and few jobs or other spin-offs for Irish workers and companies. The manner in which former energy minister Ray Burke had liberalised the terms for oil exploration companies in the late 1980s had never properly been investigated.

Sr Majella McCarron, who has campaigned against Shell in Nigeria, told the press conference there was a lack of coherence in Government policy. While the Department of Foreign Affairs last week brought a Nigerian activist campaigning against Shell to speak at one of its conferences, the Minister for Energy was “promoting” the company on Irish soil.

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