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Parish priest’s concerns over Shell security

Irish Times

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Parish priest’s concerns over Shell security

A PARISH priest in north Mayo claims he has been monitored by security personnel working for Shell at a location where work on the company’s controversial Corrib gas project is ongoing.

The parish priest of Kilcommon, Fr Michael Nallen, alleged that his parishioners were “prisoners in their own area”, and that the registration of his car had been noted.

He said he believed he had been photographed by security officials at Ballyglass harbour. However, he said he was not suggesting the personnel knew that he was a priest.

Shell confirmed they will investigate the priest’s claims if he contacts the company and furnishes it with more details of his allegations.

“I saw them [ the security personnel] with small cameras, running around the security hut. As far as I could see in my mirror they took a photograph and noted my car registration,” said Fr Nallen.

“It wouldn’t be specifically because I am a priest,” continued Fr Nallen, who ministers in an adjacent parish but regularly visits his sick mother in Ballyglass.

He observed that since the arrival of a Shell marine platform in Broadhaven Bay last May, he believed that security personnel based at the top of Ballyglass pier “appeared to be looking at cars” and “to be writing down registrations” even though it was “a public area”.

“The specific incident I’m referring to happened about six weeks ago. But I pass that way a few times a week and they usually come out to the door [of the security huts] when every vehicle passes by, and it would appear, I’m almost certain, that along with using binoculars, they write down the registration numbers,” Fr Nallen said.

“This is a form of intimidation and harassment with photographs being taken,” he added.

After a number of communications with Shell, spokesman Colin Joyce, said: “The details are so sketchy that we are not in a position to comment. If Fr Nallen has a complaint to make we would invite him to contact us directly so that we can investigate his concerns thoroughly.”

It is understood that the issues will be brought to the attention of the Bishop of Killala, John Fleming.

Fr Nallen wrote, with two other priests, to Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan last November and proposed an alternative onshore location for the refinery.

Shell dismissed the proposal as unfeasible.

� 2008 The Irish Times

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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