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Corrib pipeline

June 7, 2009

Briefing: Corrib pipeline

Opposition to the energy giant’s plan to tap gas field 83km off the coast of Mayo is becoming increasingly confrontational

Activists clash with Gardai as they try to pull down security fences at the Shell plant at Glengad beach in Co Mayo, Ireland.

Activists clash with Gardai as they try to pull down security fences at the Shell plant at Glengad beach in Co Mayo, Ireland.

ROCKING THE BOAT: The Solitaire returns this summer

The pipe-laying ship Solitaire is due to arrive in Broadhaven Bay within weeks to link the Corrib gas field to Glengad beach, near Belmullet. In September the pipe-laying was called off when a section of the ship’s apparatus became detached in high winds and heavy swell. Shell said: “The intention is to have the pipe laid by the end of the summer but it’s very weather dependent.” Protests will start as soon as the Solitaire looms into view. Last summer protesters in kayaks clashed with gardai; this year the Naval Service is to provide back-up. But Mary Sweeney of the Rossport Solidarity Camp said: “Resistance is building. We’re expecting waterborne activists from across Europe. The Solitaire will leave Irish waters once again with no pipeline laid.”

BACK ON SHORE: Shell wants permission for a pipeline

Following a mediation process, Peter Cassells, left, a trade unionist, recommended that Shell’s onshore pipeline route be changed in the Rossport area to address concerns about how close it runs to houses. Shell revised it slightly and says the high-pressure pipeline will now be twice as far from housing. Several landowners and householders are still not happy. Nevertheless, Shell has applied for planning permission for its onshore pipeline and it is under consideration by An Bord Pleanala, which is currently holding oral hearings in Mayo. A decision is expected in autumn. Even if permission is granted, the logistics of installing and securing an 8km pipeline from Glengad in the teeth of local opposition will be considerable.

SAFETY FEARS: Terminal is nearing completion

Shell’s project consists of the offshore pipe, onshore pipeline and a terminal in Bellanaboy. All are being resisted, but the terminal is “80% complete”, according to Shell. The company promises that 130 long-term jobs will be created once the terminal is operational. It claims to have employed 1,200 at the height of the construction phase. The Shell to Sea protest group maintain it would be safer if the gas was processed at sea. They have seized upon an incident at the An Bord Pleanala hearing last week when Shell consultants admitted that safe shelter in the event of a pipeline explosion has not yet been identified and that houses within 230 metres of the pipeline could “burn spontaneously” from heat radiation if gas was being piped at full pressure.

TROUBLE AHEAD: The clashes have become more violent

Since Shell restarted work this year, clashes with protesters have become increasingly violent. In the worst, masked men carrying chains and iron bars got into a construction site and damaged a fence. It fuelled speculation that republican paramilitaries are lurking in the shadows behind protesters. It also emerged that Integrated Risk Management Services, a security firm used by Shell, employed Michael Dwyer, the Tipperary man shot dead in Bolivia, and three others sought by authorities there as they may have information that could aid the investigation into an alleged assassination attempt on their president. While the cost to Shell is high, the burden on the Irish taxpayer is growing. Six-figure sums are being spent each year on garda overtime.



June 7, 2009

Hunt for two more Irishmen in Bolivian death plot probe

Bolivian authorities are seeking two Irish-passport holders, including a former member of the defence forces, who they say had links to the group accused of plotting to assassinate the president, Evo Morales.

Michael Dwyer, from Tipperary, was shot dead along with two others in Santa Cruz when Bolivian special forces raided their hotel on April 16.

The Sunday Times has seen copies of CVs held on the laptop of Eduardo Rosza Flores, the group’s leader, which security sources say were those of applicants to join his “private army”.

Two of the CVs are from Irish passport-holders, one of whom originally comes from Hungary. They are not among the three eastern Europeans known to have worked with Dwyer at IRMS, the security firm that protects Shell’s gas-pipeline project in Mayo.

Dwyer told his family he was going to Bolivia for a “training course”. At this stage police merely want to question the two Irishmen, who have not been accused of wrongdoing. They want to know what contacts they had with Flores and Dwyer and how they became aware of Flores’s recruitment process. One has a home address in the midlands and, according to his CV, served in the Irish Army in the 1990s. He then worked for a private security firm in the Middle East. An army spokesman said yesterday that the man is, in fact, a serving member of the reserve forces.

The second man is Erik Imre Benedek. His address was listed as Mayo, but yesterday he was in Hungary from where he confirmed he had known Dwyer. He worked as a security guard in Hungary, then for IRMS.

A senior investigator said: “[Flores] was trying to put together an elite armed organisation.” There is no evidence that these men had any knowledge of what he was planning.

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