Saturday 6 December 2008

Shell opposition groups boycott Mayo forum

Groups opposing the Corrib gas project boycotted a community forum attended by two ministers in Mayo today.

The Community Forum for Development meeting in Belmullet was attended by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív.

The gas project opposition groups Pobal Chill Chomáin, Pobal le Chéile and Shell to Sea intend to hold a separate public forum at the same time in the same location.

They have criticised the exclusion from the agenda of the proposed relocation of the Bellanaboy gas refinery and other issues.

Shell to Sea said it would not attend the forum because of its “refusal to deal with the manner in which the existing consents for the Corrib gas project were given to Shell”.

“This event should not be called a forum as attendance is by invitation only,” the group said in a statement.

It said the Ministers had “refused to address the substantive issues”, including the building of a refinery within the catchment area of a regional water supply, the imposition of Shell’s raw gas pipeline upon a “non-consenting community” and the “giveaway” of oil and gas resources to private companies at a time of great public need.

It said Shell to Sea would a attend a separate “people’s forum” today, which would be open to the public to discuss their views on the Corrib gas project.

“Shell to Sea would wholeheartedly welcome any open forum if it was willing to deal with Corrib gas project in its totality. Shell to Sea also object to the pressure various community and development groups in the area have been put under to take part in the Government sponsored event.”

Spokeswoman Maura Harrington said: “While Minster Eamon Ryan accepted that undoubted mistakes have been made in relation to this project, it seems that he doesn’t want these mistakes to be discussed and corrected.

“This forum is not allowed to address the health concerns of the people of the area, the unsuitability of Bellanaboy as a refinery site or the great giveaway of our gas and oil.”

Managing director of Shell E&P Ireland Terry Nolan will attend the inaugural meeting of the community forum.

“As a major company, with more than 900 people employed at Bellanaboy - the biggest building site in Ireland – SEPIL welcomes the opportunity to work with all groups and individuals to enhance the long-term social and economic development of Erris and Co Mayo,” he said.

“The Corrib Gas partners have always been committed to sitting around the table with any individuals or groups to discuss issues of concern relating to the project.”

Mr Nolan said the partners would work with the forum’s chairman Joe Brosnan and the other participants to “leverage the development opportunities that will flow from Corrib”.

A number of local groups, including Pro-Gas Mayo have welcomed the community forum initiative.

Forum chairman Joe Brosnan said he regretted the decision of the opposition groups not to participate.

The first meeting of the Government-backed forum was held behind closed doors in a Belmullet hotel by invitation only.

Mr Ryan and Mr O Cuiv insisted the Shell development would go ahead as planned.

Mr Ryan said Corrib would help turn north Mayo into an energy hub for the country.

“Ireland has some of the best ocean and wind resources in the world and North West Mayo has the best resources in Ireland,” the minister said.

“Renewable and gas energy go hand in hand. I believe that development of these resources will bring long term and sustainable economic development to Mayo.”

An Garda Siochana, which is the focus of numerous complaints over the handling of demonstrations over the gas pipleine, and several Government departments will be involved in the talks. Mayo County Council and some state agencies were also asked to take part.

Additional reporting: PA

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