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Irish Times: Council fails to adopt motion on Shell

Irish Times: Council fails to adopt motion on Shell

Tuesday 19 July 2005

Teresa O’Malley

In a dramatic twist at the end of a marathon Mayo County Council meeting last night, the cathaoirleach of the authority, Fine Gael’s Henry Kenny, overturned an earlier unopposed motion proposed and seconded by councillors to call on Shell to process the gas from the Corrib field offshore.

Four hours after Erris-based Fianna Fail councillor Tim Quinn had proposed the call for Shell to process offshore, and the motion had been seconded, another Erris-based Fine Gael councillor, Gerry Coyle, called for clarification from the cathaoirleach as to what motions had been agreed earlier in the meeting on the Rossport Five and the gas discussion.

Cllr Tim Quinn said his motion had been adopted, but Cllr Coyle said he could not support it and argued that the motion was not resolved by the cathaoirleach.

The discussion on the gas issue had taken place at the beginning of yesterday’s meeting, as standing orders were suspended to allow debate on the Rossport Five and Shell’s developments in north Mayo. An hour and a half into the meeting, standing orders had been resumed and the councillors moved on to their scheduled agenda.

But as the meeting was about to conclude at 6pm, and many councillors and press had already left the chamber, Cllr Coyle sought clarification on the motions passed under the gas debate. The debate raged for the next 45 minutes, many councillors insisting that the motion calling Shell to process the gas at sea had been resolved and adopted, but the Fine Gael side of the house was arguing that it had not been.

It was agreed that the motion had been raised and was seconded and unopposed earlier in the meeting, but it was argued that the cathaoirleach had not said the words “this motion is resolved”.

Eventually the Fine Gael whip, Paddy McGuinness, and Fianna Fail whip Pat McHugh agreed to adjourn the meeting for some minutes and talk the matter through. However, they returned with the matter unresolved.

Then, just before 7pm, the Cathaoirleach stepped in and ruled on the matter himself. He said the motion to ask Shell to process the gas offshore was not resolved by him and so did not stand.

The only agreed motion from last night’s meeting on the gas issue is that Mayo county councillors have called for an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach and other government Ministers and representatives of Shell to discuss all possible options to secure the immediate release of the Rossport Five.

However, Cllr Tim Quinn is adamant his motion stands and he will be considering the legal implications of the cathaoirleach’s call.

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