Thursday 25 June 2009

Ministers and Garda accused of prejudicing Bord Pleanála hearing

GOVERNMENT MINISTERS, the Garda Síochána and the Naval Service have been accused of prejudicing the An Bord Pleanála hearing into the modified pipeline route for Shell EP Ireland’s Corrib gas project.

On the penultimate and 18th day of the hearing in Belmullet, Co Mayo, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan was also accused of incompetence, of “ignoring” the Advantica report, while his officials were told they were trying to “deceive the hearing” by changing a key recommendation of Advantica – an independent safety review commissioned by his predecessor Noel Dempsey.

In his closing statement, Ed Moran, a retired teacher, said the parading of small Naval Service vessels through Belmullet on Wednesday night, coupled with the earlier arrival of the Garda Water Unit and a northwest forum meeting – held on Monday last and attended by three Government Ministers – was “a show of force” ahead of the arrival of the Solitaire pipe-laying vessel.

“The extent to which this is being orchestrated and media-fed while a hearing is being conducted and a decision has yet to be made by An Bord Pleanála [about the onshore pipeline] means that it has prejudiced itself,” said Mr Moran.

Rossport Five’s Micheál Ó Seighin observed that the work of the board had been compromised by “the ongoing implementation of other and overlapping aspects of this split project, accompanied by statements and activities by Government Ministers and official spokespeople that indicate loud and clear that this is a done deal”.

“The contradiction headlined by the work being progressed at a rapid pace by SEPIL at Glengad lent or bestowed a surreal element to the hearing,” said Mr Ó Seighin.

He also observed the hearing had not clarified how former minister Frank Fahey had issued a consent for a project straddling the high water mark without “an initial extant planning permission”.

Responding to a Department of Energy closing statement, John Monaghan, for Pobal Chill Chomáin, said official Bob Hanna “at the eleventh hour” was attempting to “deceive” the hearing “with a new submission”.

Mr Hanna had said the developer “will be obliged to verify to the Minister the integrity of the design, construction, installation, commissioning and maintenance of production facilities”, which will then be audited by Mr Ryan “prior to giving his consent to first production”. Mr Monaghan pointed out that Advantica recommended that “a formal integrity management plan is established prior to construction” and not to commissioning. He also revealed that retired Army bomb disposal expert Comdt Patrick Boyle had told Mr Ryan that the remote Glinsk option – proposed by local priests – was the safest one.

Monica Muller observed that, after eight years of the community trying to help Shell make Corrib safe, she has “no expectations or trust that this applicant would comply with any conditions that the board may impose”.

Fr Michael Nallen, parish priest of Kilcommon, said the project was underpinned by “political motivation” and that its essence, despite the apparent modifications, was the same as when first proposed.

He criticised the manner in which the media was portraying his community.

Irish Times

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