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Irish Times: Most Mayo TDs tread a fine line: controversy created by the Corrib gas project…

By: Miriam Donohoe, Political Staff,
Published: Nov 27, 2006

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has had to view the controversy created by the Corrib gas project from two different perspectives – as a local Mayo TD and as a national political leader. He has been treading a fine line between the pro- and anti-camps and appeared to stay on the sidelines even when the “Rossport Five” were in jail.

Mr Kenny is not alone among Mayo TDs in his caution on the gas controversy. Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley is a high-profile presence in the protesters’ camp, but Fine Gael’s other Mayo TD Michael Ring, Fianna Fail’s John Carty, and Independent Fianna Fail TD Beverly Flynn are adopting more guarded positions.

Asked if he supported the Shell project, Mr Kenny told The Irish Times that he supports the harvesting of the Corrib gas field “but only in accordance with the highest standards of integrity and taking into account the necessity for absolute safeguards in respect of the health and safety of human life and having regard for best environmental practice”.

Asked if he agreed with the terminal and its location, Mr Kenny said he was happy the planning process had taken its course. However, he said he regretted that while the terminal needed to go through the planning process, the route of the pipeline did not. “It would have been better if both the terminal and the route had to go through planning, then concerns over the pipeline route could have been aired publicly and changes could have been possibly made at that stage,” he said.

Mr Kenny welcomes the fact that Shell is considering an alternative route. He says local people involved in peaceful protest should disassociate themselves from people from outside the region who have deliberately attempted to upset that balance. “I support the legitimate right of peaceful protest and the right to go to work without being impeded.”

He believes Shell handled the process very poorly initially but it has learned a great deal since.

Mr Kenny said it was untrue to say he had remained on the sidelines during the controversy. He says he had talks with Shell, spoken about the project in the Dail and visited the Rossport Five three times when they were in Cloverhill prison and made legal advice he got through Fine Gael available to them in relation to their contempt of court.

He denies that there is tension on the issue between himself and Michael Ring, and says he does not think the Shell controversy will be a big factor in Mayo in the general election.

Fine Gael lost one of its three seats in Mayo in the 2002 election and Mr Kenny says he is hopeful of regaining it with strong candidates next year. That third seat, held by MEP Jim Higgins, was won by Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley, now a leading figure in the Shell to Sea campaign.

Mr Ring told The Irish Times he opposed the Bellanaboy terminal at the very beginning because he didn’t think it was being located in the right place and he wanted an offshore terminal. “While I believe it wasn’t the right place for it, I am a legislator and the law of the land has to be supported. The process has taken its course and we must respect that.”

He said Shell should be encouraged to change the pipeline route from Rossport and he welcomed the fact it is willing to look at a new route.

Mr Ring said he was very unhappy with the violence at demonstrations in recent weeks. “People have the right to protest but the outside influence must stay out. ”

Independent Fianna Fail TD Beverly Flynn said she was “all for the gas” and wants to see the project work and the people of Mayo benefit. While there were legitimate concerns from the beginning, she said the project should go ahead now that the terminal has been through the planning procedures, including An Bord Pleanala.

In relation to a possible new route, lessons must be learned from the mistakes of before. “Even at this stage a lot of effort must be made to allay the concerns of local people.”

She said a lot of people in Bellanaboy and Co Mayo generally were happy with the project.Violence at recent protests was regrettable and she believed the protests should be confined to local people. She said she didn’t like to see gardaI with batons. “I am unhappy with aspects of the protests from both sides.”

She also said the Taoiseach should have spoken on the issue earlier. “The first statements from the Taoiseach came two weeks ago and could have been delivered quicker.”

Independent Dr Jerry Cowley said he supported bringing in gas but not the Bellanaboy terminal and he wants an offshore platform. A new route being looked at by Shell was irrelevant, as it would be dictated by where the refinery was located.

He described as “a load of baloney” suggestions that the protesters had been infiltrated by outsiders. “I have been there from the start and I chair meetings with those opposed to the terminal every Sunday night and I can assure you it is local people who are controlling this campaign. I have a problem where people can be put in any danger. I told people not to sit down and block the road. I am all for peaceful protest.”

He said he is not happy with how the gardaI have handled the protest and has written to the Garda Commissioner.

Fianna Fail’s John Carty, who lives 80 kilometres from Bellanaboy, agrees with the terminal. “It was great that gas was found and is good for the economy and for the county,” he said.He said that while people were entitled to protest, in a democracy people should not be prevented from going to work. and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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