If Enda Kennywants to be Taoiseach, let him show his leadership qualities by addressing a bitter controversy in his own back yard, the protracted Corrib gas saga. That is the view of Labour town councillor, Harry Barrett, who yesterday told The Mayo News that ‘what has gone on in north Mayo, in the name of the State, has been an insult to democracy and the rights of the citizen under the constitution’.
“This controversy has gone on for far too long. Enda Kenny aspires to be leader of the country and this is on our own doorsteps and now needs to be resolved. We have a multi-billion euro resource on the edge of this county and we have had nothing but community turmoil over it,” said Cllr Barrett.
However, speaking to The Mayo News from Brussells yesterday, Enda Kenny said that is Government, and particularly Ministers Eamon Ryan and Ó Cuív, who have responsibility for this project.
“My position has been the same for the last eight years, I support the harvesting of this field while adhering to the highest standards regarding human life and the environment,” Deputy Kenny said.
Cllr Barrett also argued that last week’s High Court decision, allowing Ms Bríd McGarry and Brendan Philbin to pursue their claims about ministerial consents, coupled with An Bord Pleanála’s recent ruling, was proof the protesters had valid concerns.
“I am calling on Enda Kenny now to take the lead on this issue. The protesters have not only been backed up by An Bord Pleanála but were also supported by last week’s High Court decision regarding the original consents, which, in my view, were scurrilously given in the first place,” he continued
Cllr Barrett was referring to a consent in April 2002 by the then Minister for Natural Resources, Frank Fahey, for the original pipeline and to the constitutionality of provisions of the Gas Act 1976 under which the consent was provided.
Protests against the implementation of these consents led to the jailing of the Rossport Five – including Brendan Philbin – in the summer of 2005.
Last week Ms Justice Mary Laffoy ruled that Brendan Philbin and Bríd McGarry were allowed to have that issue and other public law claims ruled on by the court.
The State and Shell had asked Ms Justice Laffoy to rule that the residents were out of time to bring claims for orders quashing ministerial consent and various compulsory purchase orders over certain lands acquired for the pipeline, including lands of Mr Philbin.
The court ruled that while the reliefs sought fell within the scope of the relevant court rules, the time limits set out in those rules did not apply in the circumstances of this case.
Responding to the judgement, Cllr Barrett said: “I am delighted that Brendan Philbin and Bríd McGarry will now have a chance to challenge the scurrilous decision to grant compulsory orders to a private company. It beggars belief that this was the first time in the history of the State that it was allowed to happen. And it is equally unbelievable that we have to rely on two private citizens to fight for the rights of the community all alone, with very little support from elected representatives.”
Speaking after last week’s ruling, Ms McGarry said she was ‘delighted that we can continue with our counter-claim’.
When contacted yesterday, a Shell spokesman said: “As Shell E & P Ireland Limited (SEPIL) is only a notice party to this case, we have no comment to make.”