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Irish Times: Work on Corrib gas pipeline already started

Irish Times: Work on Corrib gas pipeline already started

“Shell and the Department of Marine and Natural Resources have declined to comment on apparent evidence that construction work has already started on the controversial onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline.”: “Ms McGarry believes that last Monday’s proposal by lawyers for Shell in the High Court could be interpreted as an admission that it has violated its own order.”

Monday 18 July 2005

Lorna Siggins

Jul 18, 2005

Shell and the Department of Marine and Natural Resources have declined to comment on apparent evidence that construction work has already started on the controversial onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline.

An estimated 700m stretch of assembled piping visible across the Glenamoy river where it enters the Sruth Mhada Conn estuary is one of a series of works carried out on Shell’s behalf which landowners attempted unsuccessfully to raise in the High Court last week.

Ten-metre steel-sheet pylons have been driven into the ground, topsoil and foliage has been removed, and cliff faces have been broken open in several locations at Glengad and under Dooncarton Hill.

Currently, Shell has consent only for “preparatory” work on the 9km onshore stretch of high-pressure pipeline linking the Corrib field to the approved terminal or refinery at Bellanaboy, according to Minister for Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey.

The company has now suspended all work on the pipeline at the request of the Minister, following his decision to commission another safety review. Shell E&P Ireland Ltd and the department said that as the matters were the subject of legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further.

The five residents who are in jail and landowner BrId McGarry compiled affidavits for the High Court listing the instances where, they claim, construction occurred. This was to back up their main contention that Shell E&P Ireland has itself been in breach of the injunction which it secured on April 4th last and over which the five men were sent to prison.

The assembled piping, photographed by The Irish Times, was welded in the Coillte-planted forestry area during the past month, according to Ms McGarry, who lives just a couple of hundred metres from the opposite riverbank. Dates of welding are on separate sections of the pipeline.

The company also drilled piles into the ground rock, resulting in sustained vibrating of windows at her home, where she lives with her widowed mother.

Speaking at a rally in support of her imprisoned neighbours in Ballina, Co Mayo, on Saturday, MsMcGarry outlined efforts to highlight this as a key aspect of the controversy.

When the five imprisoned men tried to bring their own injunction on this issue last Monday, president of the High Court Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan said it seemed to him a ludicrous proposition when they were in flagrant breach of a court order.

Ms McGarry told The Irish Times she reported the work to gardaI in Belmullet, Co Mayo, on June 18th.

Since her statement, she has had no contact from the Department of Marine and Natural Resources, which has sole responsibility for monitoring the pipeline development approved by compulsory acquisition orders in 2002.

Ms McGarry believes that last Monday’s proposal by lawyers for Shell in the High Court could be interpreted as an admission that it has violated its own order. Counsel for the company proposed it would only carry out works in accordance with ministerial consent under the Gas Act.

Prof Werner Blau, professor of physics at Trinity College Dublin, has obtained photographic evidence, seen by The Irish Times, which backs up Ms McGarry’s claims.

Prof Blau, who is a part-time resident of Rossport, said that all of this contradicted a statement to the Dail on June 30th by Minister for Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey, in which he said he was “evaluating” the company’s decision to install and commission the pipeline.

Prof Blau said the minister’s new safety review would be of no great benefit.

Mr Dempsey’s department was caught up with “design, construction and operation issues”, and not with the consequences of a pipeline failure, he said.

“They are afraid to ask the simple question: how many would die and what extent the damage would be,” Prof Blau said.

There was also the serious issue of the stability of Dooncarton Hill, which was subject to landslides in September 2003, he added.

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