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Irish Independent; Minister ‘is on Shell’s side’ over offshore pipeline path permit

Irish Independent: Minister ‘is on Shell’s side’ over offshore pipeline path permit

“Accusing the Government of being on Shell’s side, Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan said if proper time had been given to public consultation and design, the impasse could have been avoided.”

Wednesday August 03, 2005

THE economic benefits of the contentious Corrib gas pipeline were stressed yesterday as permission was granted for the latest section of the project.

Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey gave the go-ahead to Shell Ireland to begin work on a 75 kilometre offshore pipeline.

Just a day after ordering Shell to dismantle part of the onshore line, which was developed without adequate consent, Mr Dempsey said he was introducing a strict supervisory regime on the pipeline construction.

The decision was greeted with disappointment by opponents to the project and was criticised by opposition parties, who said he should wait until a safety review of the pipeline was completed.

The five Mayo men known as the Rossport Five remain in jail as a result of their protest against construction of the pipeline near their homes.

Mr Dempsey was joined by business representatives in emphasising the importance of the 900m project. He said it is the second largest foreign investment in the country, after Intel. When completed, it will halve the amount of gas needing to be imported to meet present demands. “This project is strategically important for Ireland in terms of enhancing security of gas supply,” he said.

The project will employ 500 workers during construction and provide 50 permanent jobs when the gas is in production. Employers’ group Ibec threw its weight behind the development. Director Brendan Butler said it was “vital to the economy”.

The minister said his consent for the offshore work was separate from the situation with the onshore line. As a result of the breach on the onshore line, he has set up a technical group in his department to monitor the work on the pipeline.

The consent for the offshore work is subject to conditions and Shell runs the risk of having to undo the work if the review being conducted concludes the project is not safe. The minister said he believed he had met concerns expressed by locals on safety of the project and monitoring of the work. The group opposing the development said it was disappointed by the minister’s decision. Shell To Sea Campaign spokesman Mark Garavan said it would be far wiser to suspend all work pending the safety review. Accusing the Government of being on Shell’s side, Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan said if proper time had been given to public consultation and design, the impasse could have been avoided.

Labour energy spokesman Tommy Broughan said the minister had to call a halt to offshore pipe construction. Constructing this without waiting for the latest health and safety review seemed “pointless”.

Fionnan Sheahan Political Correspondent

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