Thursday 23 April 2009

Stand-off at Corrib site as gas work resumes

A STAND-OFF was continuing last night at the north Mayo landfall for the Corrib gas pipeline following Shell EP Ireland’s decision to resume work in the locality.

Rossport resident Willie Corduff lodged himself under a truck delivering security fencing to Glengad beach, and refused requests by gardaí and Shell security to leave.

Mr Corduff and fellow residents said they were questioning the company’s authority to carry out preparatory works for the offshore pipeline at Glengad without planning permission from Mayo County Council.

Terence Conway of Mayo Shell to Sea said that Mr Corduff had been injured and was in some distress.

Mr Corduff, who was jailed with four men for 94 days in 2005 over opposition to the pipeline, told The Irish Times he intended to stay where he was until he had evidence that Shell had authorisation for their work.

He said he was “very cold and sore”, and claimed he had been “badly abused” by local gardaí, who had used stones and verbal threats to try and remove him from under the truck. “It is very sad that our local guards should resort to this,” he said. “We are just asking for a bit of justice.”

However, gardaí denied residents’ claims that stones had been thrown by a member of the force at Mr Corduff in an attempt to remove him.

Chief Supt Tony McNamara, head of the Mayo division, said he would “refute such allegations”, and said the safety of all concerned was paramount.

He said he was satisfied that the preparatory work at Glengad was exempt from the provisions of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, following information received from Mayo County Council.

The Department of the Environment said that it was satisfied with the plans to erect fencing at the beach and netting to prevent sand martins nesting on the Glengad – which is a special area of conservation.

However, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said the netting was in breach of the EU birds directive. He said Minister for the Environment John Gormley had “no interest” in maintaining the independence and integrity of heritage, and specifically the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to ensure the environment was protected.

The stand-off began at about midday yesterday, six hours after Shell contractors and security returned to Glengad.

Shell EP Ireland did not respond to requests by The Irish Times to comment on the situation yesterday.

The company had indicated that it would resume work on laying the offshore pipeline following approval of an environmental management plan on April 9th by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan – several days after direct mediation talks involving Shell, two Government Ministers and two community groups collapsed.

However, actual notice of the return to work at Glengad was only given to the department late on Tuesday night, and a letter was delivered to local residents, also on Tuesday.

Residents, including Colm Henry whose house overlooks the beach, said they were woken at 6.30am by heavy machinery.

At about 8.45am, Mr Corduff and another resident attempted to stop one of the trucks transporting security fencing via an access route to the beach.

The two men then crawled under the truck.

One of the two men was removed by gardaí, but Mr Corduff lodged himself in and refused to leave.

Last year Shell abandoned attempts to lay the offshore pipeline from Broadhaven Bay out to sea following reported “technical difficulties”, weather factors and an uncertain legal situation involving fishing rights.

Protests had been held at Glengad throughout the summer.

Irish Times

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