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Different dogmas for Corrib priests

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Different dogmas for Corrib priests


Local priests to argue for and against project at oral hearing

Áine Ryan

IT COULD be the script for a John B Keane play. A remote community, a giant multinational gas company and two Parish Priests on the opposite sides of the fence.
They may not be taking to the pulpit tomorrow (Wednesday) but Fathers Michael Nallen and Kevin Hegarty (pictured) will be singing from very different hymn sheets when they make their scheduled submissions to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, in Belmullet, into the last section of the modified pipeline route for the Corrib gas project 
In his written submission, seen by The Mayo News, Father Nallen expresses grave concerns about both the physical and psychological health and safety of schoolchildren and parishioners in the Aughoose and Pullathomas areas, as well as his entire parish of Kilcommon-Erris, where ‘painful issues relating to the Corrib Gas project have the greatest impact’, he claims.
He refers, in particular, to the raw gas pipeline proposed to pass near Pullathomas National School, Aughoose Church and cemetery, and many residences, both public and private, that are proximate to Glengad, the location of the LVI (Land Valve Installation), where the gas comes ashore.
“That consideration is being given to the placing of the Corrib Gas pipeline in a tunnel under the bay beside the school and playground is a cause of worry when there is an awareness of how dangerous ruptures in gas pipelines cans be,” Father Nallen observes.
He continues: “The explosion on the BP Oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico causes people to have a dread of oil and gas installations. They see the devastating out-of-control consequences that an accident can create. Reassurances by developers and monitoring agencies do not remove the dangers and the fears they instill. Many people are sufficiently enlightened to know that the picture presented in the promotional brochures and circulars is just a picture and not the painful reality they live through.”
Father Nallen also refers to the devastating Dooncarton landslide and elderly local people’s inherent knowledge of their terrain.
“People of this area, especially the older generation, share information on relevant features existing in Sruwaddacon Bay and surrounding terrain. A location susceptible to landslides, where the hill is said to contain a fault line extending to Ballyglass Lighthouse. Things they point to include some of the strongest currents known to exist in Europe, quicksand on shifting sands, and depths so immense they regard as immeasurable, and [are] known as ‘blackholes’.”
He argues that ‘site investigation works will not produce a new geography that will make people feel secure or reassured.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Management of Pullathomas National School is also scheduled to make a submission tomorrow. Its brief written observation to ABP expresses ‘our concerns in relation to the pipeline route which runs in close proximity to the school’.
It also seeks a ‘guarantee for the future health and safety of those using the school and the playing fields’.

Father Hegarty’s submission
ON THE other hand, Father Kevin Hegarty, who ministers in the of Parish of Kilmore-Erris,  expresses his support for the project, while acknowledging past mistakes. His parish is located about 12 miles from the landfall site of the pipeline.
Since 2005 Shell has made ‘significant efforts to communicate meaningfully with the community’, Father Hegarty writes in his submission.
“I sense that the vast majority of the community, admittedly with varying degrees of enthusiasm, are supportive of Corrib gas,” he observes.
Father Hegarty continues: “I know there are sincere people among the protestors. I believe, however, their fears about the safety of the pipeline have been grossly inflated by the sulphurous rhetoric of those who wish to prevent the delivery of the gas on ideological grounds.” 
He notes that through his chairmanship of the Local Development Partnership Board and as a teacher and chaplain at Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet, he has become familiar with the needs of the community and its many students.
“That is why I was happy in 2007 to accept an invitation to join the Independent Scholarship Board which distributes grants, sponsored by Shell to Erris third-level students.”
He cites the fact that to date 31 students have been beneficiaries of this scheme.
“Many of our parishioners are working or have worked on the building of the terminal at Bellanaboy. Others have worked in service industries used by Shell and its operatives.”
However, he also acknowledges: “Serious mistakes were made in the early years of its development. Both Enterprise Energy Ireland and Shell were sometimes cavalier in their responses to the safety fears of the local people. This insensitive approach reached its nadir in 2005 with the jailing of the Rossport Five.”
However, Father Hegarty argues it is ‘not productive to draw on the archive of past failures to justify the continued opposition to the project’.
“No progress can be achieved if we sail round and round on what Patrick Kavanagh once called ‘the puddles of the past’.”

Different dogmas for Corrib priests


Local priests to argue for and against project at oral hearing

Áine Ryan

IT COULD be the script for a John B Keane play. A remote community, a giant multinational gas company and two Parish Priests on the opposite sides of the fence.
They may not be taking to the pulpit tomorrow (Wednesday) but Fathers Michael Nallen and Kevin Hegarty (pictured) will be singing from very different hymn sheets when they make their scheduled submissions to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, in Belmullet, into the last section of the modified pipeline route for the Corrib gas project 
In his written submission, seen by The Mayo News, Father Nallen expresses grave concerns about both the physical and psychological health and safety of schoolchildren and parishioners in the Aughoose and Pullathomas areas, as well as his entire parish of Kilcommon-Erris, where ‘painful issues relating to the Corrib Gas project have the greatest impact’, he claims.
He refers, in particular, to the raw gas pipeline proposed to pass near Pullathomas National School, Aughoose Church and cemetery, and many residences, both public and private, that are proximate to Glengad, the location of the LVI (Land Valve Installation), where the gas comes ashore.
“That consideration is being given to the placing of the Corrib Gas pipeline in a tunnel under the bay beside the school and playground is a cause of worry when there is an awareness of how dangerous ruptures in gas pipelines cans be,” Father Nallen observes.
He continues: “The explosion on the BP Oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico causes people to have a dread of oil and gas installations. They see the devastating out-of-control consequences that an accident can create. Reassurances by developers and monitoring agencies do not remove the dangers and the fears they instill. Many people are sufficiently enlightened to know that the picture presented in the promotional brochures and circulars is just a picture and not the painful reality they live through.”
Father Nallen also refers to the devastating Dooncarton landslide and elderly local people’s inherent knowledge of their terrain.
“People of this area, especially the older generation, share information on relevant features existing in Sruwaddacon Bay and surrounding terrain. A location susceptible to landslides, where the hill is said to contain a fault line extending to Ballyglass Lighthouse. Things they point to include some of the strongest currents known to exist in Europe, quicksand on shifting sands, and depths so immense they regard as immeasurable, and [are] known as ‘blackholes’.”
He argues that ‘site investigation works will not produce a new geography that will make people feel secure or reassured.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Management of Pullathomas National School is also scheduled to make a submission tomorrow. Its brief written observation to ABP expresses ‘our concerns in relation to the pipeline route which runs in close proximity to the school’.
It also seeks a ‘guarantee for the future health and safety of those using the school and the playing fields’.

Father Hegarty’s submission
ON THE other hand, Father Kevin Hegarty, who ministers in the of Parish of Kilmore-Erris,  expresses his support for the project, while acknowledging past mistakes. His parish is located about 12 miles from the landfall site of the pipeline.
Since 2005 Shell has made ‘significant efforts to communicate meaningfully with the community’, Father Hegarty writes in his submission.
“I sense that the vast majority of the community, admittedly with varying degrees of enthusiasm, are supportive of Corrib gas,” he observes.
Father Hegarty continues: “I know there are sincere people among the protestors. I believe, however, their fears about the safety of the pipeline have been grossly inflated by the sulphurous rhetoric of those who wish to prevent the delivery of the gas on ideological grounds.” 
He notes that through his chairmanship of the Local Development Partnership Board and as a teacher and chaplain at Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet, he has become familiar with the needs of the community and its many students.
“That is why I was happy in 2007 to accept an invitation to join the Independent Scholarship Board which distributes grants, sponsored by Shell to Erris third-level students.”
He cites the fact that to date 31 students have been beneficiaries of this scheme.
“Many of our parishioners are working or have worked on the building of the terminal at Bellanaboy. Others have worked in service industries used by Shell and its operatives.”
However, he also acknowledges: “Serious mistakes were made in the early years of its development. Both Enterprise Energy Ireland and Shell were sometimes cavalier in their responses to the safety fears of the local people. This insensitive approach reached its nadir in 2005 with the jailing of the Rossport Five.”
However, Father Hegarty argues it is ‘not productive to draw on the archive of past failures to justify the continued opposition to the project’.
“No progress can be achieved if we sail round and round on what Patrick Kavanagh once called ‘the puddles of the past’.”

Corrib hearing opens to fiery debate

Corrib hearing opens to fiery debate


Áine Ryan


FOURTEEN years after the Corrib gas field was discovered 83 kilometres off the Mayo coastline, An Bord Pleanála last week reopened an oral hearing into Shell E&P Ireland’s planning application for the last section of the controversial high-pressure gas pipeline in Belmullet.
And, as has been typical of this contentious development – which has caused bitter divides in the local community – a row, over a key section of the pipeline, erupted shortly after board  Inspector  Martin Nolan opened proceedings. The same issue led to a walk-out by locals at last year’s hearing.
“Part of the route was left out of the application and still is and the hearing should not go ahead on this basis,” said retired teacher, Ed Moran.
This concern was echoed by Eoin Ó Leidhin of Rossport Solidarity Camp who also sought clarification about the matter.
Mr Ó Leidhin observed that a fundamental issue related to where the pipeline began and ended.
Parish Priest of Kilcommon, Father Michael Nallen. said: “In justice to the receiving community, people living locally need clarity about what’s happening. You (Inspector Nolan) have asked us to bear with you. But the people have been badly mistreated by the agents of the State.”
Father Nallen and another local priest, Father Kevin Hegarty, who has been vocal in his support of the project, are both due to make submissions from opposite sides of the fence later this week.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Shell,  An Bord Pleanála, Mayo County Council and locals remain at odds over the status of this section of the pipeline.
The 10-metre section of pipe, which has already been laid by the developer, runs from the high water mark to the weld of the Land Valve Installation (LVI).
It is situated at the landfall site at Glengad, where there were major clashes between protestors, gardaí and Shell security last year.
Opening the applicant’s presentation, Senior Counsel for Shell, Esmonde Keane reiterated the developer’s view that this section of the pipeline was under the consent granted in 2002 by then Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey, under the Gas Act, and was exempted development.
However, in An Bord Pleanála’s letter to Shell last November, in which almost half the proposed pipeline was deemed ‘unacceptable’ on safety grounds,  it ruled that this section of the pipeline should have been submitted for planning permission.  On the other hand, Mayo County Council has stated it is exempt from planning, in conflict with An Bord Pleanála’s ruling.
The resumed hearing is under the remit of the Strategic Infrastructure Act and will deliberate on a revised application by Shell, which involves tunnelling a section of the modified  pipeline route under the Sruwaddacon estuary, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The hearing, which is expected to last about ten days, will also examine  Compulsory Acquisition Orders (CAOs) for access to lands along this newly-modified route, the third proposed by the developer. 

Shell experts
IN the opening submissions Shell expert witnesses outlined the technical bases for the newly proposed partial route under Sruwaddacon Bay and the rationale of the proposed mechanical installation at the LVI.
Mr Ciarán Butler, of RPS Engineers, the route consultants, said a major objective in the revised EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) was ‘to identify a construction method for Sruwaddacon Bay which would not have a significant impact on this designated conservation site whilst at the same time balancing community and project considerations’.
“The route is at least 234m from existing dwellings. There is a significantly greater separation distance between existing dwellings and the route now proposed than was in the case with the previously approved route (70m) and the pipeline route proposed in 2009 (140m),” Mr Butler said.
His colleague at RPS, Kieran Kennedy, made a submission on community issues and planning policy.
Mr Kennedy, a  Chartered Town Planner, said the development ‘will assist in securing balanced regional spatial development, by ensuring an enhanced and reliable energy source to the West – and indeed to the State as a whole’.
He said that since January 2007 RPS had undertaken ‘a process of community engagement, consultation, and information gathering and dissemination; about the pipeline development.
Mr Kennedy outlined details of the community investment programme, and other grant schemes implemented by Shell, in line with Independent Mediator, Peter Cassells’ report to the government in 2006.

Ministerial consents challenged
LATER last week Inspector Martin Nolan was told by environmentalists, Peter Sweetman and Monica Muller that Shell had made a commitment in 2007 to no longer rely on consents, issued five years earlier (2002), for an onshore pipeline, by former Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey.
This claim was categorically challenged by counsel for Shell. Shell has consistently argued that the section of the pipeline on and above the shore at the landfall site of Glengad has consents.
However, to facilitate opposing opinions about this matter – and in particular the legality of a 10-metre section of the pipeline at Glengad, which has already been laid –  Inspector Nolan allocated time last Thursday for objectors to address this issue.
During this debate, Monica Muller said she and Peter Sweetman withdrew their counterclaim in 2007 in the High Court case of Shell vs McGrath and Others because ‘Shell had given an undertaking it would no longer use the consent from 2002 for the onshore route’.
“They stated they wouldn’t be able to withdraw the entire consent because they needed it for the offshore section of the pipeline,” Monica Muller said.
However, Esmonde Keane, Senior Counsel, argued that the only commitment the company made at that time was with regard to the vacating of compulsory acquisition orders, and there were no concessions granted about the consents.
“The special undertaking by Shell in April 2007 was with regard to compulsory acquisition orders. This was a specific undertaking regarding the lands of the five men who were jailed [the Rossport Five],” Esmonde Keane said.
Moreover, Mr Sweetman argued there were grounds for a Judicial Review of this application by the developer.
In a letter from Bord Pleanála last November, in which it advised Shell to go back to the drawing board about almost half the proposed route, it was noted that Shell had ‘omitted’ this (10-metre) section of the pipeline from its first application for the modified route. 
Inspector Martin Nolan asked Esmonde Keane what the company’s position was with regard to its inclusion of that part of the route in this latest application.
“Its inclusion was done entirely without prejudice by the applicant with the view that it does not need planning permission and this was upheld by Mr Justice Peter Charleton in the High Court last month,” Esmonde Keane said.
Commenting afterwards, Monica Muller said it was her understanding that Esmonde Keane’s use of the Justice Charleton judgement as a justification of the validity of the 2002 consent was erroneous.
“As a matter of clarity, it is my understanding that  [fisherman] Jonathan O’Donnell’s case was an application concerning the laying of a waste pipe and a valve facility but not the gas pipeline,” Monica Muller said.

County Council exemptions

EARLIER, Mr Keane also argued that in a letter from Mayo County Council in September 2009, in response to an An Taisce query, the council stated the developments and works in relation to the lands above the median high water mark at Glengad were  ‘exempted’. 
However, John Monaghan of Pobal Chomáin said afterwards that when the  disputed works were carried out by Shell last Summer there was ‘no express exemption in place and it was three months later before Mayo County Council rubberstamped the works after a Section Five query by An Taisce’.
The hearing resumes tomorrow, Wednesday, September 1.