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Irish Times: Clashes over Corrib gas project

Published: Jun 18, 2007

Madam, – Your Editorial of June 13th on the Corrib project is unfortunately beset by factual inaccuracies as well as a rather skewed analysis of the opposition to the project in its current form. I would like to address the Editorial’s claim that the results of the general election somehow show a lack of support for the Shell to Sea campaign.

It should not be necessary to point out that the election was not a referendum on the Corrib issue. Moreover, I fail to see how you can divine the electorate’s view (or more correctly, the view of that percentage who bothered to vote) on a single issue from something as complex as the results of a general election.

Presumably you refer to Dr Jerry Cowley, the Mayo politician most closely linked with the campaign, losing his seat. To read this as a thumbs down for Shell to Sea is to miss the fact that many supporters of the campaign gave their primary votes to Michael Ring or another Fine Gael candidate as they believed this to be the best route to an alternative government with a Mayo Taoiseach who might back them.

It is not an opinion I personally share, but one I have heard expressed in the Erris area. One might equally well say that the success of the Green Party shows support for Shell to Sea. Of course this does not necessarily follow; I merely cite the example to show the flaw in this logic.

The Editorial refers to a “core [of protesters] who will settle for nothing less than the abandonment of the Corrib gas project”. The campaign chose the name Shell to Sea to reflect its fundamental demand: that there be no onshore refinery for Corrib gas. The campaign has consistently stated that it is not opposed to Corrib gas being refined, merely that it should be refined in such a way that does not endanger the safety of the Erris people. To talk about the “national interest” (in the context of the current give-away conditions for our hydrocarbons) and the “rule of law” (in light of the way the Garda and the Government have twisted the law to benefit multinationals over the ordinary citizen) is laughable.

It should be obvious how false are Shell’s claims about their commitment to “community consultation” in view of the fact that they did in 2007 in Pollathomas exactly what they did in Rossport in 2005: demand admittance to private land without any prior notice and refuse to offer any explanation.

Unfortunately, for those who attempted peacefully to protect their neighbours’ rights, they received a drubbing from a police force which is coming more and more to resemble a band of mercenaries in the employ of Shell. As to the consultants’ meeting your refer to, anyone in attendance can attest that the only people at the meeting who did not oppose the current form of the Corrib project were the consultants themselves.

Finally, the reference to the structure near Pollathomas pier as a toilet is misleading. It is in fact a 6ft x10ft metal container with a sticker emblazoned “security vault”. Neither its function nor the identity of its intended users were revealed to the landowner through whose property the delivery drivers intended to pass. I believe the decision by Shell representatives to refer to the object as a toilet in statements to the media was intended to make the landowner’s justified and legal objection to the trespass on his land appear farcical. – Yours, etc,

BOB KAVANAGH, Pollathomas, Co Mayo.

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