Áine Ryan and Claire Egan
THE Corrib gas issue appears to be no closer to resolution, in spite of two major announcements in relation to the project in recent days.
On Friday last, Minister Noel Dempsey delivered the news that eleven towns - seven from Mayo - had been approved for connection to the soon-to-be-completed Bord Gáis pipeline that runs from north Mayo to south Galway.
Shell to Sea then convened a press conference on Monday afternoon to give details of what it heralded as ‘an initiative to resolve the Corrib gas dispute’. Details given at the launch revealed the proposal to be the establishment of a Commission of Public Enquiry to investigate ‘the optimum development concept for the Corrib gas project’. Community consent would be the central concern in this enquiry, the Shell to Sea proposal recommended.
Neither development has met with anything approaching universal approval.
While the announcement in relation to the gas connection for towns was greeted with delight in some quarters, there was also anger at the exclusion of other towns, while the Shell to Sea proposal was rubbished by both Minister Dempsey and Shell.
The inclusion of Ballina, Claremorris, Knock, Crossmolina, Ballyhaunis, Castlebar and Westport on the gas network was broadly welcomed, the omission of Belmullet and Ballinrobe from the list was criticised strongly.
Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, offered a mixed response, noting that the omission of areas closest to the contentious north Mayo gas project was ‘unacceptable’.
“Belmullet and the Erris region, the area and the community which have borne the brunt of the impact of the Corrib Gas Project, are not mentioned,” said Cllr Coyle. “This is simply unacceptable.”
Ballinrobe councillors Patsy O’Brien (FG) and Damian Ryan (FF) were both critical of the exclusion of the south Mayo capital, which was shown to be the fastest-growing town in the county in the recent preliminary Census figures.
“I made an independent submission to the Energy Regulator last February stating all the obvious reasons for the town’s inclusion. It is the fastest-growing rural town in the county and I will be contacting the Regulator to make my case again,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Meanwhile, in dismissing the the Shell to Sea announcement, Minister Noel Dempsey said there was ‘nothing new’ in it, pointing out that it focuses on ‘areas that were already examined by independent groups and individuals’.
Shell’s reaction to the proposal was also negative, with the company stating that ‘any suggestion that an alternative to Bellanaboy as a site for a processing plant’ would not be considered.