Despite the decision by An Bord Pleanala yesterday (Jan 20) to grant permission to Shell to proceed with laying their onshore pipeline in north Mayo, campaigners against the plan have vowed to step up resistance in the weeks and months ahead.
This latest application by Shell, which follows two previous applications which were rejected on safety grounds, will see them construct a high pressure pipeline to carry raw unrefined gas from the landfall site at Glengad through Pollathomais, Aughoose and Leenamore to their refinery at Bellanaboy. Shell's application for a foreshore licence to construct a tunnel through Sruwaddacon estuary is still awaiting a decision by Green Party Minister John Gormley.
Reacting to the decision, Terence Conway who is a spokesperson for the Shell to Sea campaign group said it came as no surprise since An Bord Pleanala had moved from being adjudicators of this project into co-designers of it. He also flatly rejected their claims that the people of Mayo and Ireland would benefit from this decision.
Mr Conway said: “An Bord Pleanala commented in their report that this decision would benefit the people of Mayo and Ireland. However, the only people to benefit from this decision will be the shareholders of Shell, Statoil and Vermillion. The Government’s own estimates are that there is at least €600 billion worth of oil and gas off Ireland’s coast, but it seems hell-bent on ensuring none of the benefits go the Irish people.”
He added: “An Bord Pleanala recommends that Shell create an €8.5 million community fund. The board still seems to to think our community can be bribed into accepting a project that places us in danger. This bribery fund would also be fully tax deductible for Shell under Ireland’s current oil and gas exploration licensing terms.”
In conclusion Mr Conway pledged a continuance of protests against the plan. "In November 2009” he said “An Bord Pleanala turned from adjudicator into co-designers of this project, so it's no surprise they approved the suggestion they made to Shell. Of course protests will continue and given the current economic situation we see our support growing everyday”
According to the environmental protection group An Taisce, the decision to grant permission was “fundamentally legally flawed”. They said it was totally contrary to EU law and completely ignored the legislative requirements of the EU Habitats, Birds and Environmental Impact Assessment directives.
Also reacting to the decision was éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey who said that the twenty six county governments stubborn insistence on giving away to Shell hundreds of billions of euros worth of natural resources amounted to economic treason.
Casey said: “We are currently in the midst of probably the worst economic crisis ever endured by the Irish people. What passes for government in Leinster House have set about slashing the living standards of working class people. They have cut child benefit, social welfare and wages including the minimum wage, imposed new taxes and levies, increased the cost of fuels including electricity and slashed budgets for public hospitals and schools.”
“The lie repeated by Fianna Fáil and the Greens is that there is no option but to impose savage cutbacks that have resulted in widespread poverty, mass unemployment and the emigration of thousands of our brightest young people, the very people that should be the future of this island.”
He added: “Despite all this, the coalition insist on pressing ahead with giving away to Shell, and other large multinationals, the right to exploit our natural resources. The vast wealth located under the seabed off our shores could help eradicate poverty, make any excuse for cutbacks redundant and would ensure that essential public services such as health and education could receive proper investement enabling the creation of the first class public services that people deserve. It would also enable investment in creating long term sustainable employment, to cut the dole queues and reverse the flow of emigration from our shores.”
“The only people to benefit from this latest decision by An Bord Pleanala to allow this experimental pipeline to proceed, despite the obvious dangers it poses to the environment and the local community, will be the shareholders of Shell. It also condemns the people of the Erris peninsula to continued suffering under the reign of terror imposed on them by Shell and the state for the forseeable future.”
Casey concluded: “This is economic treason and must be resisted at all costs. For our part éirígí will continue to support the people of north Mayo in their struggle to prevent this monstrosity being imposed upon them without their consent. We will also continue to highlight the need to send Shell packing and take back our natural resources, refine the gas at sea and use the wealth produced for the public good and not to line the pockets of the shareholders of multinational companies.”