WITH the fall-out from the dramatic revelations of the Mahon Tribunal still unfolding, Shell to Sea has called for a halt to the controversial Corrib gas project and an investigation into its original facilitation by senior politicians, including Bertie Ahern. The protest groups refers to the Mahon report: “Corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic. It affected every level of government, from some holders of top ministerial offices to some local councillors, and its existence was widely known and widely tolerated.”
They note that planning permission for the Bellanaboy refinery was initially turned down by an Bord Pleanála in 2003 and refer to confidential Shell minutes which stated: “The committee queried whether the group had sufficiently well placed contacts with the Irish government and regulators.”
Bertie Ahern confirmed in the Dáil on 14 October 2003 and again on 19 November 2003 that he had met Tom Botts, the Managing Director of Shell E&P Europe during September of that year. He rejected charges by Sinn Féin that he had interfered with the planning process, arguing that the meeting had not taken place until six months after An Bord Pleanála had issued its ruling. Shell’s new application was lodged with Mayo County Council on December 17, 2003. The Shell to Sea statement also refers to comments made by President Michael D Higgins, while speaking in the Dáil as a TD on the Planning and Development Act 2009.
Mr Higgins said: “Agencies of the State got involved on the side of the developer, rather than on the side of the community. Given that alternative models were available in other countries, it was scandalous that we proceeded as we did. It reveals the mindset of certain people. I am reminded of the woman who was sent to jail in New York, who said that taxes are for small people. In this case, it seems that planning is not for big people... I refer again to the notion that some projects are too big for public accountability and transparency in planning. I am not making accusations that I cannot support.”
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