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Irish Times: The Corrib project

Efforts are being made once again to advance the Corrib gas project in north Co Mayo and, once again, efforts are being made to frustrate it. The latest attempts at progress are focused on possible alternative routes for the gas pipeline, following the decision by Shell E&P Ireland, almost a year ago, to modify the Rossport route, on foot of a recommendation by the mediator Peter Cassells.

Related to the identification of possible alternative routes is the dispute this week over the placing of a portable toilet at Pollathomas pier for use by workers involved in surveying Sruwaddaccon Bay. The purpose of the survey is to assess the sea-bed and underlying geology for suitability, or not, for pipe laying. Anti-Shell protesters attempted to impede the placing of the toilet and a small generator and there were clashes with gardaI. A local landowner says illegal entry was made on to his land; Shell insist they were availing of a public right of way on to a public pier and that they were acting with the knowledge, in writing, of Mayo County Council and the approval, backed by a foreshore licence, of the Department of the Marine.

Where truth lies in such a hotly contested issue is difficult to divine. What is abundantly clear, however, is that a sense of proportion has long vanished from this entire saga. Clashes over the placing of a portable toilet on a pier call to mind scenes from Whisky Galore!, the 1949 film of the Compton MacKenzie book of the same title, a picaresque in which Scottish islanders try to plunder 50,000 cases of liquor from a stranded ship. But there is little that is amusing about the continuing clashes over Corrib, not least the injuries sustained by gardaI and protesters alike, and instances of intimidation of workers associated with the project.

There are among the protesters a core who will settle for nothing less than the abandonment of the Corrib gas project. This is not in the national interest and would have potentially far-reaching implications for the rule of law. For these protesters whose views were not endorsed at the general election, all efforts at mediation and compromise are rejected in favour of continuing agitation, pushed to the limit of what is legitimate in a democracy, with inevitable counter action by gardaI – leading to the suspicion that the resultant scenes on television news broadcasts is the desired outcome. Yesterday, a process of consultation over eight possible pipeline routes began among residents in Broadhaven. Consultants employed by Shell say the purpose of this is both to inform and elicit reaction. Constructive engagement is what is needed on the Corrib gas project; not street agitation.

Published: Jun 13, 2007

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