CORRIB gas protestors offered yesterday to engage with the Belmullet garda chief, Superintendent Patrick Diskin, and his senior management, at a public meeting next weekend, The Mayo News has learned. The offer by Shell to Sea was made in response to a recent invitation by Supt Diskin to meet the group to discuss policing matters relating to the controversial project.
Responding yesterday, Maura Harrington of Mayo Shell to Sea said the group, and Rossport Solidarity Camp, had received invitations to discuss their policing concerns on February 21 last. She confirmed that a reply had been sent yesterday (Monday 7) inviting the superintendent and his team to a public meeting at Inver Community Centre on Friday next, March 11, at 7.30pm, or on ‘some other date at Garda convenience’.
“We do not engage in any meetings held behind closed doors – it was such meetings that led to the past ten years of trouble with the proposed Corrib project,” Ms Harrington said.
The Shell to Sea response stated that: “We put on record that we have numerous concerns regarding the policing of the proposed Corrib Gas project … Some, but by no means all of these, have been documented by human rights NGO Reports from Global Community Monitor, Table Observers, Frontline defenders and Observers International.”
In his letter, seen by The Mayo News, Supt Diskin invited a number of representatives of both groups to the proposed meeting at Belmullet Garda Station, on a date now passed (March 2).
Meanwhile, there has been widespread criticism of outgoing Energy minister, Pat Carey’s signing of key consents for the last section of the Corrib pipeline on the day of the general election. Reportedly, among protestors there was a palpable sense of déjà vu as outgoing Minister for the Marine Frank Fahey also signed key consents – since vigorously challenged – on the last days before the 2002 General Election.
However, last week the Department of Energy stated the consent to construct the pipeline and approval of the project’s amended Plan of Development was simply issued as a matter of course.
Criticising the move, Sinn Féin’s Cllr Gerry Murray said: “Pat Carey issued this order on the day that he lost his seat and Fianna Fáil lost power. He had no political or moral authority to give the go-ahead to a pipeline over which many concerns still exist, even with the changes made following the An Bord Pleanála ruling.”
He continued: “The Corrib field will bring little or no economic benefits to the Irish people under current revenue terms. We have proposed that the state take a majority share in all oil and gas reserves and impose a proper taxation and royalty, The potential revenue stream from this would go a long way to addressing the current economic situation. Instead we have a situation where the main beneficiaries of massive of the massive find will be the Norwegian Government and its people [under Statoil’s involvement].”
Mr Carey strongly defended his decision to sign the consent, arguing it was part of an eight-month process and taken after a comprehensive assessment and legal advice, including that of the Attorney General.
Chairman of community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin, Vincent McGrath said he was not surprised at Mr Carey’s move.
“I’m sure nobody will be surprised that the final act of this discredited Government was to put the interest of a major developer ahead of those of a community,” Mr McGrath said.