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Irish Times: Shell apologises for landowner’s distress

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent 

Shell E&P Ireland has apologised for distress caused to a north Mayo landowner during this week’s preparations for a Corrib gas marine survey.

However, the company says it is not apologising for its handling of the preparations on Monday, which resulted in 20 local residents and two gardaI being injured during a confrontation over the placing of a portacabin near Pollathomas pier.

In a related development, An Taisce’s consultant, Leo Corcoran, says the proposed alternative pipeline route options presented by consultants for the company this week must take into account the location of the gas terminal within a public drinking water catchment.

Company representatives visited Pollathomas publican and landowner Paddy McGrath on Tuesday night. This followed Monday night’s clashes which resulted in injuries and left Mr McGrath, who has not been well, in a very distressed state.

Mr McGrath maintains that the portacabin was placed without authorisation on his property, and he sought the assistance of neighbours and the Shell to Sea campaign when contractors, accompanied by up to 50 gardaI, arrived on the scene with the structure and a JCB digger.

His solicitor, who had tried unsuccessfully to speak to the Garda superintendent in charge of the operation in an attempt to resolve the situation, issued Shell with a notice to move the structure the day after the clash.

Mr McGrath’s legal representative also informed the Garda station in Belmullet that his property had been trespassed upon, and he did not know precisely who was responsible for the trespass. If it was not moved, Mr McGrath intended to take legal action to have it removed. If the Garda or other persons interfered with Mr McGrath’s action in defence of his property, legal proceedings would be taken without further notice, it said.

Shell E&P Ireland said it believed it had done nothing wrong, but planned to move the structure “in the interests of harmony”. It said it had been given written authorisation by Mayo County Council to place it on a temporary basis at the base of Pollathomas pier as support for a marine survey of Sruwaddaccon Bay.

The hydrographical and geophysical survey, which has been deferred, is part of the company’s work on identifying modified routes for the onshore pipeline. The Garda Sub-Aqua Unit had been assigned to provide security for the work.

The original pipeline route, which led to the jailing of five men two years ago, was set aside almost two months ago by the High Court.

P J Rudden, director of RPS Consultants, plans to narrow down eight potential route “corridors” to four within the next month, but says that there are technical and environmental difficulties with all eight. All eight cross designated areas under the EU Habitats Directive – including Sruwaddaccon Bay.

Mr Corcoran, a former Bord Gais engineer, says that any new routing will require a code of practice which must take into account the gas refinery’s location in a drinking water catchment supplying 30,000 people. The terminal’s location is central, and the project must be reviewed in its entirety, he has pointed out.

However, Mr Rudden, who is also chairman of the National Transmission Gas Standards Committee, said that this was not his understanding.

A pipeline code would apply regardless of the presence of the terminal, he said, but the role of RPS is “limited to the onshore pipeline and does not extend to the terminal or the offshore pipeline”, he said.

Published: Jun 14, 2007

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