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Activists call for Corrib intervention

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LORNA SIGGINS, Western Correspondent

MORE THAN 20 recipients of the Goldman international environmental award have appealed to President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg to intervene in the Corrib gas conflict in north Mayo.

An open letter sent late last week to Mrs McAleese, Mr Cowen and Mr Stoltenberg has been signed by recipients of the prestigious award from North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Mr Stoltenberg has been urged to assist as the Norwegian oil company Statoil is one of three partners in the Corrib gas project.

Known as the “Nobel green prize”, the Goldman award is sponsored by San Francisco philanthropist Richard Goldman. It selects six people from the six continental regions every year who have taken great personal risk in the name of environmental protection.

First ever Irish recipient was Rossport farmer Willie Corduff, who received the accolade two years ago for his opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline.

The letter, dated May 1st, expresses concerns about an alleged assault on Mr Corduff on April 23rd last, and a potential “humanitarian crisis” in north Mayo.

“Both Ireland and Norway pride themselves on the depth of their democratic process. All that the people from Co Mayo are attempting is to exercise their democratic right to say No to the Shell and Statoil project, in a peaceful manner, as required from a democracy,” the letter says.

“The violence perpetuated against Corduff and lack of protection from the State sadly reflects a possible decay in both the democracies of Ireland and Norway,” it continues, and it “urgently and humbly” seeks intervention of the recipients of the letter in “what is becoming a humanitarian crisis”.

The letter notes that the Corrib gas developers – Shell, Statoil and Marathon – do not have planning permission for the onshore section of pipeline which would bring gas from the Corrib field off Mayo to the inland refinery at Bellanaboy. A Bord Pleanála oral hearing on the pipeline planning application is due to open this month.

The 26 signatories of the open letter include Sven “Bobby” Peek, who won the accolade in 1999 for environmental activism in Durban, South Africa; and 2001 award winner Jane Akre, a US journalist who lost her job with Fox News following her reports on genetically modified growth hormones injected into cattle.

Other signatories include Zambian Hammer Simwinga, who won the award in 2007 for his management of community initiatives designed to offer an economic alternative to elephant poaching; and Stephanie Roth, a French-Swiss campaigner against open-cast gold mining in Romania.

Former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday has already lent his backing to Mr Corduff. Afri, the justice and human rights organisation, and four community groups in north Mayo last week called for an international investigation into Mr Corduff’s treatment during his protests, stating a lack of confidence in the Garda.

Chief Supt Tony McNamara, head of the Mayo Garda division, said gardaí had called to Mr Corduff on several occasions seeking statements from him, but had not received one yet. Mr Corduff told The Irish Times he was still recovering from the incident and planned to make a statement.

Late last week, two Government Ministers, Éamon Ó Cuív and Eamon Ryan, attended a very heated public meeting in north Mayo hosted by the community in relation to policing by gardaí and Shell security. The Ministers urged all sides in the conflict to “remain within the law” and use available structures.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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