“Without the jailings this would have ended long ago,” is how a leading political commentator summarised the latest installment in the Corrib gas controversy. Sunday Tribune journalist, Michael Clifford, also argued in his weekly column that the cancelling of last Friday’s Day of Action at Bellanaboy, although a wise decision, rang the death knell of the Shell to Sea campaign.
“The game is up, whether or not fairness has been served,” wrote Mr Clifford, opining that the public were not interested in 100 peaceful protestors standing at a gate.
Dr Mark Garavan strongly disagrees, however, notwithstanding the publication of an RTÉ Prime Time/Irish Independent poll, which revealed a significantly more even divide on the issue in Mayo than earlier polls had indicated. The poll was in tandem with a Prime Time programme from north Mayo last Thursday.
He told The Mayo News there was huge ‘latent support’ out there, of which he experienced on a daily basis, but the campaign had ‘not been good at giving people ways of manifesting this’.
He said the campaign had established, for the first time, a proper communication network between groups around the country at last Saturday’s national strategy meeting, but conceded the campaign may have erred in placing ‘undue emphasis on [the protest at] Bellanaboy’.
He welcomed Shell to Sea’s vindication by leading Norwegian trade unionist, Mr Terje Nustad, who addressed last weekend’s meeting. He is leader of SAFE, the main confederation of oil and gas industry workers in Norway, representing 7,000 workers in that sector.
Mr Nustad told the meeting that ‘Statoil’s actions in Mayo is against the ethical values they would apply in Norway’. The company holds a 36.5% stake in the Corrib project.
Dr Garavan has also complained to RTÉ about Prime Time’s decision to exclude ‘vital poll data’ from last Thursday’s programme. He claims,the interest of balance was not adhered to by the exclusion of the question: “What is your preferred development solution for the Corrib project?” He claimed 44% favoured an off-shore option, while 29% favoured the existing Bellanaboy proposal.
Meanwhile, Shell spokeswoman, Ms Susan Shannon said that while Shell welcomed the poll results, there had been a lot of polls with a lot of results.
“Our position is that the project has been through due process and we returned to work after carrying out our own poll which indicated we had the consent of the majority of the people,” she said.
She also confirmed the Corrib Partners last week applied to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources for a Foreshore License to undertake survey work for a new pipeline at Sruwadaccon bay and Rossport.