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Rossport residents say An Taisce ‘undermined’ them

An Taisce accused of undermining Rossport residents in gas action

Anton McNulty

Two Rossport residents who along with An Taisce settled legal actions brought against the State following consents granted for the Corrib gas have described the settlement as a ‘devastating defeat’ and accused An Taisce of ‘undermining’ them.
Peter Sweetman and Monica Muller of Rossport South, Ballina, along with An Taisce challenged An Bord Pleanála’s decision last January granting permission to Shell EP Ireland for its third proposed route for the pipeline.
The action was heard in the High Court but was settled after an eleven day hearing after an agreement by the State to properly transpose aspects of the European environmental impact assessment directive by the end of the year. An Taisce described the settlement as a victory for the environment but Mr Sweetman and Ms Muller say they are ‘at a total loss’ why they believe this. Pobail Chill Chomáin also described An Taisce’s decision as ‘baffling’. In a statement, Mr Sweetman said they don’t see it as a victory but as a ‘devastating defeat’. He also accused An Taisce of ‘undermining’ their legal actions against the Corrib projects by not supporting their cases in court.
“An Taisce states; ‘The critical objective for An Taisce - is to ensure what happened in the Corrib project - can never happen again’. If they felt such why did they not support our cases in the Court? What they actually did was to undermine them,” said Mr Sweetman.
On the first day of the case he claimed that a settlement between An Taisce and the State was at an advanced stage and that their senior counsel was approached by the State with a view to settlement. They refused to settle and decided to advance the case on three grounds.
One of the grounds was that An Bord Pleanála had failed to carry out an Appropriate Assessment as required under the Habitats Directive in the correct manner. This was raised in the tenth day of the case and Mr Sweetman said it was to their ‘amazement’ that An Taisce only requested that the decision be reverted to the Board to be corrected technically.
Mr Sweetman felt their case died when they could not disprove the assessment by Karl Kent, deputy Chair of ABP, that all members of the board had taken home the whole file for the whole Christmas period. Mr Kent told counsel for Mr Sweetman and Ms Muller that the notes made over this period were ‘shredded’ as were all notes made at the board meetings.
“The person who had supported our case financially was in court for this examination, and said to us that we must try and settle as he felt that we could not now win. We agreed. We were again approached by council for the State and informed that An Taisce were settling their case. We then negotiated the best deal we could,” said Mr Sweetman.
He said the conditions included having both himself and Ms Muller nominated to the Conditions Monitoring Committee, which was established to monitor the implementation of the conditions attached to the consents. A spokesperson for Shell EP Ireland welcomed the settlement as a ‘very significant day for the Corrib project’.