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Irish Independent: Protesters unreasonable, says minister

Published: Oct 17, 2006

SOME of the protesters opposing the Shell gas terminal and pipeline in Mayo made the likes of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley look like very reasonable men, a minister insisted yesterday, writes Brian McDonald.

The protesters who want Shell to process gas from the Corrib Field at sea had not moved an inch from their position and would probably still find something to protest at, even if the oil giant moved its operation out to sea, Noel Dempsey declared.

But in a response to Mr Dempseys comments, the Shell to Sea organisation said it was shocking he should still see fit to belittle and patronise people who had genuine concerns.

In his most trenchant criticism to date of the actions of the protesters in the Erris peninsula, the communications, marine and natural resources minister said there was an element in the area who just would not rest until they had put a stop to the Corrib Gas project.

Asked about the escalating cost of having more than 100 gardai in Bellanaboy each day to ensure a safe passage to work for the people employed at the terminal, Mr Dempsey said: “Thats a separate matter. Thats a case where a certain small number of people have decided they are going to try to take the law into their own hands – that they are going to try to prevent people going to work and the garda presence is necessary.

“Its a bit rich now for the people causing this problem to be complaining about the cost to the taxpayers.”

The daily protest at which it was “probably opportune” for protesters to block people from going to work could not be tolerated in any state, Mr Dempsey insisted.

Asked in an interview on RTE Radio about the possible intervention of the Taoiseach in the controversy as suggested by Fine Gael Deputy Michael Ring, Mr Dempsey queried what Mr Ring thought the Taoiseach might be able to do.

It was pointed out that anyone who had got Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley working together might have some prospect of getting Shell and the Rossport community to do likewise.

Said Mr Dempsey: “In comparison to some of the people that I think we are dealing with here, those two are very reasonable men.”

The minister added that he thought both Northern Ireland party leaders had shown themselves to be more prepared to give a bit and take a little bit and compromise.

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