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Irish Times: Corrib hearing aims for ‘post hoc justification’

Irish Times: Corrib hearing aims for ‘post hoc justification’

“Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey is trying to provide a “post hoc” justification for Government decisions on the Corrib gas project, according to the five Mayo men who spent 94 days in prison for their opposition to the onshore pipeline.”:”What is crucially important to understand is that our opposition to the proposed pipeline is grounded firmly on our analysis of the consequences of an accident, given the extraordinary proximity of the pipeline to our homes. We say that this would be catastrophic for ourselves and our community,” they said.”

Thursday Oct 13, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, in Geesala, Co Mayo

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey is trying to provide a “post hoc” justification for Government decisions on the Corrib gas project, according to the five Mayo men who spent 94 days in prison for their opposition to the onshore pipeline.

In a statement read at yesterday’s public hearing into the pipeline, the men acknowledged the principle of consultation and public engagement, but said it should have occurred before key approvals were granted.

The Minister called the non-statutory hearing, chaired by senior counsel John Gallagher at Teach Iorrais, Geesala, Co Mayo, as part of his safety review. His technical advisory group and Advantica consultants, appointed to conduct the review, attended.

The role of the two-day hearing was unclear other than “to attempt to retrospectively suggest that consultation has occurred”, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Philip and Vincent McGrath and Micheal O Seighin said in their statement.

The approvals included signing off the Corrib gas plan of development in April 2002, granting compulsory acquisition orders for the pipeline route without an oral hearing, and exempting it from planning permission, they said.

Only one of the five men, Mr O Seighin, was present yesterday to deliver the statement which was read by Shell to Sea campaign spokesman Mark Garavan.

Maura Harrington of the campaign could not attend as she has been barred from Teach Iorrais since 2002, when she objected to lack of public participation in the Government’s environmental monitoring group for the Corrib gas project.

Dr Garavan explained that neither the group nor Shell to Sea was participating because the men were constrained by Shell’s decision to continue to pursue a permanent injunction against them, which may involve a full High Court hearing, and by the impending mediation with Shell and its “Government partners”. The men were also recovering from their prison ordeal.

But the men believed the review’s terms of reference were too narrow and would not consider alternatives.

The Corrib gas project needed a thorough health and safety review so the best development concept could be used, and this could be best achieved through a shallow-water offshore process, their statement said.

“What is crucially important to understand is that our opposition to the proposed pipeline is grounded firmly on our analysis of the consequences of an accident, given the extraordinary proximity of the pipeline to our homes. We say that this would be catastrophic for ourselves and our community,” they said.

Earlier, Mr Gallagher said the hearing was focused solely on the 9km onshore pipeline from landfall to the gas terminal at Bellanaboy, and was not empowered to set aside the environmental impact statement associated with same.

However Advantica could make health and safety recommendations to the Minister.

Dr Mike Acton of Advantica said the review would examine the pipeline’s proximity to housing and the consequences of a pipeline failure, the pipeline route crossing areas of deep peat prone to movement, and risk mitigation options.

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