The site of the proposed Corrib gas refinery near Rossport in Co Mayo, the focus of a bitter dispute for years, will not be moved, Malcolm Brinded, the Royal Dutch Shell executive in charge of exploration and production, told the annual general meeting of the company yesterday.
He told hundreds of Dutch shareholders that the Corrib gas project would be realised. Shell had satisfied all regulatory requirements and the project was
very important for Co Mayo and Ireland, creating employment and enabling self-sufficiency by meeting 60 per cent of future Irish gas demand.
Referring to the violence which has accompanied protests, he thanked "the law enforcement agencies for their assistance."
New shareholders present included Willie Corduff, recent winner of the international Goldman Environmental Award, who with four other members of the Shell to Sea campaign and Rossport Solidarity Camp travelled to the agm.
They were entitled to attend and address the meeting only because they were donated 50 shares anonymously.
Mr Corduff, with John Monaghan, son-in-law of one of the jailed Rossport five, and Terence Conway delivered emotionally charged speeches. They wanted to inform Dutch shareholders about the issue, appeal to their consciences, and to the better judgment and wisdom of the 16-member Shell board, to move the site to an alternative location, they explained.
But the group came away disappointed, convinced, in the words of Willie Corduff, that "Shell will tolerate people even getting killed if necessary to get this project done".
"Our expectations were not that high, we knew what we were up against, but instead of moving forward, I had the feeling when I left the meeting that things had actually gone backwards; I felt we were dealing with bullies up there on the stage ". He was especially critical of Shell's public expression of gratitude to gardaí who were, he claimed, "harassing and intimidating opponents".
Mr Corduff said that after he left for Holland on Monday his wife had been visited by gardaí and ordered to hand over video footage she had in her possession or a court order would be obtained. "The aim was to frighten her when I had gone away", he claimed.
Mr Corduff, who stood behind a microphone waiting to speak for an hour in the auditorium at The Circus Theatre in Scheveningen on the outskirts of The Hague, said, "if this project is to go ahead as it is, then Shell will have more blood on its hands in Mayo. We are not giving up and if any of you think we should give up and let Shell drive us out of our homes, that's okay, but I want you all to know what Shell are doing to pay you your shares".
Earlier he told the audience, predominantly made up of middle-aged and elderly well- dressed couples, "I am very lucky to be here because with the reputation of Shell I should not be here. They only jailed me for 94 days for asking questions".
Terence Conway accused Shell of misleading its shareholders about the extent of opposition to the project, saying it was untrue that the majority of people in Mayo supported it, as was claimed yesterday . "Come and find out
for yourself, not on a Shell guided tour, but go and check out the facts for yourself", he challenged them.
Finnish-born chairman Jorma Ollila replied: "The Shell board has certainly been visiting there, we hear your concern and we will continue to engage".
Replying to all questions concerning the Rossport project, Mr Brinded said there was no question of the company reconfiguring the project, although they were going to look at the onshore pipeline route.
He was sorry that Mr Corduff and others had gone to jail and looking back to early events, things could have been done differently, he said.
© 2007 The Irish Times