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Irish Times: Pipeline go-ahead for Shell condemned

Irish Times: Pipeline go-ahead for Shell condemned

“The five Mayo men who are in jail over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline have condemned the decision by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to sanction Shell’s laying of the offshore section of the pipeline.”

Wednesday Aug 03, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

The five Mayo men who are in jail over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline have condemned the decision by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to sanction Shell’s laying of the offshore section of the pipeline.

The Minister’s decision is “entirely unacceptable”, according to the five men, Willie Corduff, Philip and Vincent McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Micheal O Seighin, who are spending their fifth week in Cloverhill Prison.

Shell E&P Ireland has welcomed the decision and says it will decide shortly when to undertake the work.

Mayo Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley has called for the Minister’s resignation, while constituency colleague Michael Ring (Fine Gael) said it was an “insensitive decision at an insensitive time”.

Dr Cowley questioned how the Minister could issue this new consent when Shell had not even responded to Mr Dempsey’s request two days ago for confirmation of their understanding of the legal and regulatory obligations to which they are subject.

“The Minister seems to be totally spineless in relation to handling this company,” he said.

Mayo Fianna Fail councillor Tim Quinn criticised the Minister’s timing, and said he could not see any pipeline being laid by the company in north Mayo due to tensions over the imprisonment of the five men. Mr Quinn is in favour of an offshore terminal and says Fianna Fail councillors in Mayo are united on this approach now.

Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and for the Shell to Sea campaign in Rossport, Co Mayo, said the men were still resolute on the need for an offshore terminal for the project, in spite of the Minister’s decision.

“The Minister’s approval for the company to lay down pipes just a day after he has ordered them to break up pipes onshore demonstrates the complete lack of coherence by the State in relation to handling this project,” Dr Garavan said. “The real consent at stake is that of the people of Rossport, and they do not consent to this high-pressure pipeline.”

The Minister’s sanction for phase four of the 900 million project states that any findings of the new safety review of the onshore pipeline, which might have an impact on the offshore section, will be at the company’s risk.

Dr Garavan challenged the emphasis placed on the economic importance of the project by the Minister when making yesterday’s announcement.

“Mr Dempsey compared Corrib to Intel – yet Intel employs thousands of people, whereas 35 at most will be employed here on the Corrib field when construction is completed,” said Dr Garavan.

“An Bord Pleanala’s own inspector, Kevin Moore, also questioned the developer’s claim that Corrib would provide more than 50 per cent of the State’s gas requirements in his report of April 2003.

Padraig Campbell of the Shell to Sea campaign described the decision as “insane”. The new consent covers the offshore section of the 20-inch gas-export pipeline from the Corrib gas field 70km off the Mayo coast to the landfall in Broadhaven Bay, the water outfall pipeline to about 12.7km from the landfall, and the umbilical conduit to about 1.7km from the landfall.

Phase four is one of seven consents which the project is subject to, under the plan of development approved by former marine minister Frank Fahey in 2002. The Minister has approved phases one, two, six (the well head) and preparatory works of phase three (the onshore pipeline) to date.

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