Friday 11 May 2007

Shell hearing told locals are terrified

The parish priest of Kilcommon in Co Mayo, Fr Michael Nallen, has called for an independent body to undertake "a root and branch" examination of the overall design of the Corrib gas project.
He was making a closing submission on the final day of the Environmental Protection Agency's oral hearing into the issuing of an integrated pollution prevention control licence for the north Co Mayo project.
"These people are really terrified; they're conscious of a changing climate and see the Bellanaboy site [ of the proposed refinery] as unsuitable.
"They see what happened in Glengad and Pollathomas a short distance away when they had the terrifying experience of the bog starting to move all over the place when the rain fell heavily," said Fr Nallen.
He was referring to landslides in the area on September 19th, 2003, which led to the evacuation of many houses and millions of euro in damages.
He said the community was in turmoil, trust had been broken since the inception of the project, and that the health and safety of the people should be prioritised.
"There will be no progress until we get [ back] to peace and harmony and above all trust; that which existed when I came there. To work towards this we need to get an independent body."
Senior counsel for Shell E&P Ireland, Esmonde Keane, said "a large number of submissions appeared in essence to centre on planning application issues which have already been fully assessed by Mayo County Council and An Bord Pleanála". They had already granted planning permission.
He conceded that Shell would be happy to expand its "robust monitoring" system of the marine environment around the discharge point from the refinery in line with proposals made by expert witness Prof Peter Matthiessen, who had appeared on behalf of a local shell fish group.
The chairman of the Erris Inshore Fishermen's Association, Eddie Diver, accused the Government of not acting responsibly and abandoning the community "to the exploits of a multinational corporation".
"It is time our Government re-establishes control of our natural resources, whether on land, sea or under the sea, and have them developed in the national interest with no adverse effect on local communities or indigenous industries."
Closing the hearing, chairman Frank Clinton said it may be two to three months before an outcome to his deliberations is announced.
Áine Ryan
© 2007 The Irish Times

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