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Only six fishermen out of 50 refused Shell compensation

independent.ie

Huge uptake reveals lack of local opposition to Corrib plan

By JIM CUSACK

Sunday June 28 2009

Only six of the 50 fishermen operating in the Erris coastal area where the Corrib gas pipeline is coming ashore refused the compensation package of up to €40,000 to avoid the pipe laying operation that began on Friday evening.

Despite claims by the protest group Shell to Sea, local sources say there is very little opposition among the people living in the Erris area to the €2bn operation that has brought 2,000 jobs to the area and will provide a major energy supply to the country in the coming decades.

The protesters did not stand in this month’s local elections and no candidate sympathetic to their cause was elected in Co Mayo.

Yesterday two naval ships with gardai and security personnel working for Shell were in place around the world’s largest pipe-laying ship, the Solitaire, as it began work laying the 83km pipe line from the Corrib gas rig.

The pipe-laying began hours after the latest Bord Pleanala hearing into the location of the pipeline and energy plant ended after 19 days of oral evidence. Planning applications and public hearings on the project have been going on for a decade and the latest 19-day public hearing is expected to pave the way for the pipeline to come ashore later this year.

At the end of the planning process Ireland will have the most stringent planning laws concerning gas pipelines anywhere in Europe.

Despite the public consultation process, the protesters appear determined to continue trying to disrupt the operation and 300 gardai are on duty to ensure that the operation proceeds.

Costs for the provision of the policing and naval operations are not known but are said to be running into the tens of millions of euro already this year.

On top of these State expenses, Shell has paid compensation for two years to all but six of the 50 crab and lobster fishermen who operate in the Erris area, a sum said locally to be far beyond the amount most would ever earn in a year. This year the fishermen, who are divided into two categories based on their projected earnings, will receive €40,000 at the upper end of the classification and €30,000 for those who are deemed only part time.

The six who declined the payment from Shell include the owners and operators of the trawler that was detained by the gardai after breaching the 500-metre exclusion zone around the Solitaire on Friday evening last.

Jonathan O’Donnell, who is charged with willful obstruction and loitering was freed on bail yesterday after a High Court application on Friday that his arrest was unlawful was rejected.

At around 10pm on Friday, a number of eco warriors circled the Solitaire in a fishing boat before getting into kayaks and attempting to board the ship with lock-on equipment. They failed to board the ship and returned to the trawler which had brought them to the scene.

On top of the multi-million costs incurred by the State and Shell to complete the project in the face of the protests — which has also involved dissident republican elements — An Bord Pleanala has had to hire Irish translators for its oral hearings at the insistence of the protesters. The cost to the State for the translators is understood to have been around €1,000 a day.

– JIM CUSACK

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