The Corrib gas terminal in north Mayo. The bill for Garda deployment there has been running at €800,000 per monthSHELL EP Ireland has rejected a proposal by Erris residents that it should move its gas refinery to a coastal, rather than offshore, location.
"Moving the terminal is not an option," the company said in a short statement. "The issues raised in 2005 were around the perceived safety of the onshore pipeline - not the location of the terminal. We believe we have taken every reasonable step to address genuine safety concerns around the pipeline," it said, adding that it "has at all times been willing to meet and discuss with anyone their concerns about the Corrib project" and "this remains our position".
The rejection came just hours after a call yesterday by Bishop of Killala Dr John Fleming on the Corrib gas partners to "consider carefully" the compromise proposal made by Erris residents in relation to the €900 million project.
Welcoming the proposal made by seven Kilcommon residents - Mary and Willie Corduff, Philip and Vincent McGrath, PJ Moran, Pat O'Donnell and Caitlín Uí Seighin - Dr Fleming described it as "an important and significant attempt to resolve the ongoing difficulties which have surrounded the Corrib gas project in north Mayo".
Fine Gael Mayo TD Michael Ring and Labour Party president Michael D Higgins have already welcomed the move and have urged Shell and Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan to engage and "not let the opportunity slip". Mr Ryan was making no official comment yesterday.
However, Shell EP Ireland submitted an application to Mr Ryan's department yesterday for its modified onshore pipeline. A department spokeswoman said that his statutory role in relation to this may preclude any wider involvement.
Shell EP Ireland is also submitting its application to An Bord Pleanála and is seeking a direction from the board on the modified pipeline's qualification under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
Dr Fleming said he appreciated the courage of the seven in "dropping their demand that the refinery be located at sea and agreeing that it be sited onshore", and he invited the Corrib gas partners to "consider this proposal carefully".
The alternative refinery site at Glinsk, proposed by the seven, was first identified last year by RPS, acting as a consultancy for the Corrib gas project. "Since then an increasing awareness of the suitability of the site has grown," he said. The priests of the parish had recommended it to Mr Ryan and it had now been given further support. Dr Fleming suggested, therefore, that the Glinsk proposal be examined carefully as a viable alternative, with the potential to bring closure to this issue.
"I accept that substantial investment has already been made in the site at Bellanaboy and I realise that relocation to a new site will increase the overall cost of the project.
"However, I believe that the benefits of relocation will far outweigh the financial considerations involved," the bishop said.
"Importantly, a decision to relocate could significantly allay the fears that have plagued the people of this area in recent years. The process of healing the deep hurt felt within the parish of Kilcommon and the wider community in Erris could also begin.
"Furthermore, it is my hope that this may allow the Corrib gas partners to open a new and more peaceful chapter in their relationship with the local community," Dr Fleming added.