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Irish Times: Garda security for Corrib costs 5.4m

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Published: Apr 27, 2007

Garda security for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo has cost 5.4 million for just over six months, according to Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.

The bill from October 3rd, 2006 to April 17th this year includes Garda salaries, and breaks down as more than 800,000 a month.

The figures were released by the Minister yesterday in a written Dail reply to Mayo TD Jerry Cowley (Ind).

In his reply, Mr McDowell said that it was not Garda policy and would “not be in the public interest” to disclose detailed information on numbers of gardaI deployed in the Erris area.

The special deployment of up to 150 extra gardaI was initiated last October when Shell resumed work on the refinery site, on the basis that Shell staff and contractors required escorts to and from work.

Shell to Sea supporters have been holding early-morning protests daily at the terminal site.

Shell E&P Ireland, lead developer in the Corrib gas project, had no comment to make on the figures, but Dr Cowley and NUI Seanad candidate Mark Garavan criticised the “extraordinarily high expenditure by the State” before the refinery was even constructed at Bellanaboy.

It amounted to an average daily cost of 27,550, they said, and was a “further symptom of the Corrib gas problem”.

“The Corrib gas conflict has gone on for far too long and needs urgently to be resolved. That requires political will and leadership,” they said in a joint statement.

If the project had the backing of the community, as Shell was claiming, Garda security should not be required at all, Dr Cowley added.

Dr Cowley and Dr Garavan said their proposal for an independent commission to examine the project in its entirety still offered the only viable solution to resolve the conflict.

“Such a commission would examine the optimum development concept for the Corrib gas project according to the criteria of best technology and community consent,” they said.

The commission proposal was rejected by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey last year, on the basis that he had already ordered a safety review of the onshore pipeline. That pipeline route, which was exempt from planning, is now defunct, following last week’s High Court ruling by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.

Shell has promised to modify the route on the recommendation of Government mediator Peter Cassells, but had also hoped to hold on to the consents for the original route.

These compulsory acquisition orders were granted to the project shortly before the 2002 general election by former minister for the marine Frank Fahey.

The proposed commission is backed by Labour, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and Independent TDs and Senators.

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