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Ballinaboy locals ‘hurt’ by jailing of fisherman

The Irish Times – Monday, May 10, 2010

LORNA SIGGINS Western Correspondent

THREE GOVERNMENT Ministers have been told the jailing of a Mayo fisherman for Corrib-gas-related offences has caused considerable “hurt” among residents who have never engaged in protests over the project.

Ballinaboy resident Jacinta Healy, who pointed out that her husband works with the project, told the Government’s North Mayo forum at the weekend that her community had been “let down” by handling of the project by both Shell EP Ireland and the Government.

The fact that An Bord Pleanála had recently found up to half of the modified onshore pipeline route to be unacceptable on safety grounds had exacerbated fears among residents living close to the gas terminal, Ms Healy said.

“If it’s not safe in Rossport, it is safe in Ballinaboy beside us?” Ms Healy asked. “Just because we are not out there protesting, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have concerns,” she said.

Shell may have given employment, but “we’d rather not see the gas coming in here” due to the impact it has had on the community, she said.

Ms Healy was addressing Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey, Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív and Junior Labour Affairs Minister Dara Calleary during a discussion on the forum’s future in Belmullet.

The forum, initiated in late 2008 to try and resolve difficulties associated with the Corrib gas dispute, has “not worked as well as it should have”, Mr Ryan and its chairman Joe Brosnan have acknowledged. Shell to Sea and two community groups in Kilcommon parish have refused to participate, due to its terms of reference.

Ms Healy told the Ministers and Mr Brosnan that the Government forum was “good for one reason – it is not leaving it to Shell to decide what they can and can’t do”.

She outlined how residents had objected to planning permission for the gas terminal, until “we had neither the energy nor the money”.

The jailing in February of fisherman Pat O’Donnell for seven months had put extra strain on the community, she said.

“While he may have lost the run of himself, it was with good reason, as the Shell project has had an awful impact on people,” she said, adding that Mr O’Donnell’s daughter was due to make her First Communion.

“He’s not a thug,” she said, referring to Judge Raymond Groarke’s description of Mr O’Donnell when he imposed a seven-month jail term on him for threatening behaviour towards a garda, and wilful obstruction of a peace officer.

Mr Brosnan described her input as “refreshing”, while Mr Ryan acknowledged it was “very hard” for community representatives to ask questions of the developers in the forum’s current format. Mr Carey said there was considerable community expertise in the area which could be engaged.

Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA) chairman Eddie Diver said afterwards that he endorsed Ms Healy’s comments. EIFA has written to the Castlerea prison governor seeking early release of Mr O’Donnell on compassionate grounds due to the onset of the fishing season.

Shell to Sea activist Maura Harrington and five supporters attempted to disrupt the session on Saturday with a loudhailer.

Mr Brosnan reconvened the session in a smaller room, where Shell EP Ireland Corrib operations manager Mark Carrigy confirmed the developers would submit a new route for the onshore pipeline through Sruwaddacon estuary to Bord Pleanála by May 31st.


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