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Corrib’s contribution to economy questioned

News
Michael Cruthers
CORRIB DEBATE Michael Crothers, the Corrib Gas project’s new Managing Director, is pictured discussing the benefits of the project last week. However, one local group has questioned the figures.

Corrib’s contribution to economy questioned


Áine Ryan

THE Corrib Gas project’s new managing director Michael Crothers has revealed figures he says confirm the significant employment and economic benefits of the project. The figures have been challenged by a representative of local community group Pobal Chill Chomáin.
Mr Crothers also held out an olive branch to those people in north-west Mayo who still have concerns about the controversial project, which continues to attract regular protests. He said he was ‘willing to open a dialogue about those concerns.’
In an interview with The Mayo News, Michael Crothers said the project would, in Co Mayo alone, provide a €400 million investment over the next three years and would, over the next two years, employ an average of 400 workers. This would peak as high as 1,000 for a short period in 2013, he said.
Citing figures from a study commissioned by Shell and carried out by Goodbody Economic Consultants, Crothers noted that during the operational period of the project – an estimated 20 years – it would contribute €4.4 billion to Irish GDP. This figure is on top of the €1.6 billion the report states will be contributed to Irish GDP by the time the construction phase finishes. 
“At a time when the economy is in a difficult place, the Corrib Gas project is a beacon in terms of investment and job creation. Over the next three years, the Corrib Gas Partners will invest €400 million in Mayo, sustaining the equivalent of 382 full-time jobs and 450 indirect ones,” he said.
He continued: “As has been the case up to now, many of these positions will be available through local contractors and sub-contractors.”
He told The Mayo News that the new skills acquired by many of the local contractors had already afforded them new opportunities, while the economic spin-offs for the local economy were substantial.
“In addition to these benefits, the importance of gas as a contributor to Ireland’s long-term energy security is also more critical than ever. Over 61 per cent of the country’s electricity needs are now being met by natural gas, and Corrib will be Ireland’s main indigenous source of gas once the field is producing,” Crothers said.

Community concerns
MR CROTHERS said he had been involved with Shell projects throughout the world and that the company had a proactive policy of community engagement and social performance.
“What happened in the Corrib project was that Enterprise Oil got off to a poor start … When Shell came in we didn’t understand the depth of the concerns in the community, and we didn’t respond adequately to those concerns.
“Since 2006 [Shell’s] local Irish team has done a tremendous job in rebuilding relationships and trust with the local community. But I recognise not everyone in the community supports the project. I recognise that it has been a difficult process for the community and for some there are still long-held concerns and I am willing to open a dialogue about those concerns,” he told The Mayo News.
When questioned about the Irish planning process, which involved a plethora of separate consents for the project, Mr Crothers said that from an international perspective ‘it is a competitive advantage if a country’s regulatory process is clear’.
He said: “The Irish government recognises this and is taking steps to improve the process. I think that other industries – for example wind energy, fibre optics and aquaculture – will benefit.”
He observed that ‘successful projects throughout the world have balanced the needs of government, community, the environment and corporations.’
Mr Crothers told The Mayo News that his vision for Corrib in the future was that ‘in 20 years time people will say that the Corrib Gas project had a very difficult start, got back on track and was very good for the community and for Ireland’.

Skeptical reaction
RESPONDING to the Goodbody report, John Monaghan, of community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, questioned some of the employment figures and noted that Shell can write-off all its expenses, even those in other countries, against tax.
“Do these local employment figures include the private security personnel, the majority of whom, I believe, are not from Mayo or even Ireland? I believe they live in Enniscrone, which is in Sligo not Mayo.
“Furthermore, Shell’s figures regarding its contribution to GDP has varied erratically over the years. They can write off every cent even for rig-workers and preparation works carried out in Germany and France, Scotland and the UK,” Monaghan said yesterday.
John Monaghan also observed that while Michael Crothers ‘may mean well’ regarding his offer of dialogue, it is the parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, that is ‘calling the shots about Corrib’. Community concerns are ‘not high on its agenda’, he added.
“Three years ago, in the spring of 2009, we met two former ministers, Éamon O Cuív and Eamon Ryan, along with a top Shell Europe executive [who] made it very clear at that meeting that whatever issues the community had, once consents were given, the work would continue. If Mr Crothers means well, he has no authority to make the changes that would appease this community. Shell has caused so much distrust and bitterness in this area … it will be a conflict area for decades to come,” Mr Monaghan said.

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