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Irish Times: Ryan ministry welcomed by Shell protesters

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Published: Jun 18, 2007

Shell to Sea campaigners in north Mayo say that the appointment of a Green Party energy minister offers a new opportunity to resolve the Corrib gas dispute.

In a related development, the Department of Transport says that a vessel hired for Shell E&P Ireland’s planned survey of Sruwaddaccon Bay cannot undertake the work until it is passed by its marine survey office.

The marine survey on finding an alternative pipeline route was due to start last week.

Shell to Sea spokesman John Monaghan said that the campaign intended to seek an early meeting with the new Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, and hoped he would pay a return visit to Erris to review the situation.

The Green Party had given its political support for an independent commission to review the gas project in its entirety before the election, but reportedly failed to win this concession from Fianna Fail during its coalition talks.

Mr Ryan has highlighted concerns of residents over the onshore pipeline as his party’s former energy and marine spokesman. He has visited the area and has also been a member of the Campaign for Protection of Resources, which was formed to lobby for a review of the State’s oil and gas licensing terms in Irish waters.

Siptu national offshore committee spokesman Padhraig Campbell, a founder of the campaign, said that he welcomed Mr Ryan’s appointment, given his “broad knowledge of all issues relating to oil and gas matters in Ireland”.

” Siptu’s national offshore committee urges the immediate updating of our oil and gas legislation and the scrapping of the seriously outdated 1992 giveaway deal,” Mr Campbell said in a statement last week. “Siptu also urges Minister Ryan to re-examine the whole development concept of the Corrib project and not sign off on any new raw gas pipeline route, as is Green Party policy passed unanimously at their 2007 conference.”

NUI Seanad candidate Dr Mark Garavan also welcomed Mr Ryan’s appointment and said it presented “an ideal opportunity for a fresh and positive outlook to be taken to the Corrib gas conflict”.

“This conflict has gone on for far too long and urgently requires political leadership to resolve it. I hope that Eamon Ryan, who is familiar with the detail of the issue and has a track record of involvement in it, will prioritise the Corrib gas conflict for immediate attention,” Dr Garavan said.

The Department of Transport has confirmed that its marine survey office has been undertaking a survey of the Blue Eagle, a vessel hired by Shell for marine hydrographical and geophysical work in Sruwaddaccon Bay.

The vessel was due to start work last Tuesday, but was initially delayed after 20 people were injured at Pollathomas pier last Monday night during a Garda/ contractor operation to place a portacabin at the foot of the pier.

The solicitor for the landowner who states he owns the property subsequently issued a notice ordering the structure to removed. The Department said that passenger boat regulations, including “plying limits”, had to be approved before the vessel hired for the project could work in the bay.

However, the company sought to play down the significance of this yesterday. A Shell E&P Ireland spokesman said that the survey would start as soon as the vessel had been “properly calibrated and has been passed by the survey department of the Department of Transport”, and he understood that this applied to all such vessels in Irish waters.

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