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The Sunday Times: And Finally … If Shell is driven away who else will invest in Mayo?

The Sunday Times: And Finally … If Shell is driven away who else will invest in Mayo?

“THE people of Mayo know all about boycotts, having coined the word in 1880…”: “In all the fuss surrounding the jailing of the so-called Rossport Five it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Shell is acting entirely within the law.”: “With the world’s media picking up the efforts being made to prevent Shell proceeding with its legally approved project we can’t see the region’s fortunes improving any time soon.”

Sunday 31 July 2005

Frank Fitzgibbon

THE people of Mayo know all about boycotts, having coined the word in 1880 following a famous confrontation with Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, a hated land agent for Lord Erne. Boycott, acting on behalf of the absentee landlord, refused to accept reduced rent from tenants as proposed by the Land League. The locals responded by shunning Boycott, refusing to work for him or serve him in the shops.

Today, more than a century later, a small number of locals and opportunistic politicians accompanied by the usual rag-tag of protesters, have decided that Shell, the oil multinational, is the modern-day equivalent of Lord Erne. Some are even trying to punish Shell by encouraging the public to give the company’s Irish interests Boycott-syle treatment. The company might have an earl on its board but with quarterly profits of more than €3.8 billion we don’t imagine the top dogs at Shell’s Dutch headquarters are quaking at the prospect.

In all the fuss surrounding the jailing of the so-called Rossport Five it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Shell is acting entirely within the law. The gas pipeline that it wants to build in Ballinaboy was approved by An Bord Pleanala in December last year and an attempt to challenge that decision was thrown out of the High Court last week.

Having exhausted the legal process protesters are taking heart from revelations that 3km of Shell’s pipeline was welded without permission from the department of communications, marine and natural resources. Well, hold the front page. Having invested seven years and more than €500m in developing the biggest infrastructure project in Mayo’s history, how will the majority of the county’s citizens react if this misdemeanour proves to be the catalyst that forces the company to throw in the towel.

The west of Ireland, as detailed in successive annual reports from the IDA, is a wasteland in terms of investment. With the world’s media picking up the efforts being made to prevent Shell proceeding with its legally approved project we can’t see the region’s fortunes improving any time soon.

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