THE decision by An Bord Gáis not to connect Belmullet to the national gas grid was met with disappointment at a meeting of the Belmullet Electoral Area Committee and led to requests for Shell to finance a pipeline to the Erris town.
In November, Belmullet was omitted from a list of Mayo towns to be connected to the national gas grid from the Corrib gas field, which is to be refined at the Bellanaboy site. There was anger and disappointment among people in Belmullet that the town would lose out on employment and revenue generate by the gas.
Mr Paddy Mahon, Senior Executive Engineer with Mayo County Council, told the meeting the connection to Bellmullet did not occur because the town did not meet the economic criteria and there would be a €6 million shortfall in financial return over a 25-year period.
Cllr Gerry Coyle, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, a supporter of the Corrib gas project, told the meeting that Erris, which bore the brunt of the disturbances in the gas dispute, did not want ‘all the pain and none of the gain’. He hit out at the negative images of the area shown by the television cameras, a bad image which Erris did not deserve, he said.
“It is a disgrace they can build a pipeline from Bellanaboy to Siberia and not to Belmullet. Surely it would not break the bank to connect it and an industrial pipeline to Bangor. There has been 75 years of savage neglect in this area and anybody who does not think the gas should be connected should come here and see the villages that are dying out,” he said.
The decision not to extend the pipeline to Belmullet was deemed ‘shortsighted’ by Independent councillor, Michael Holmes, who said anything that the people of Erris got had to be fought for. He claimed if the pipe was not connected there would be a sad legacy left from the Corrib gas dispute. The least Shell could do was connect a pipeline to Belmullet, he said.
Cllr Micheál McNamara claimed that, if the figure given by Paddy Mahon was correct, it was only a small sum and with the amounts of revenue Shell have, they should be asked to build a pipeline to Belmullet.
In response a Mayo News query on the matter, a Shell spokesperson said they had never been ‘formally approached regarding the funding of a spur to extend the natural gas grid to Belmullet’ but are aware that Minister Eamon Ó Cuív looked at whether his Department would be in a position to provide such funding. The spokesperson said Shell and the Corrib gas partners have provided the bulk of the funding for the main transmissions line between Mayo and Galway and the project would bring tangible benefits to the Erris area in the form of job creation.
Mr Peter Hynes, Director of Services with Mayo County Council, said he would take up the motion with the relevant authorities and would do whatever possible to support it. He acknowledged, however, that it was not the kind of project for which money would be easily found, but it is something that could be jointly developed by the Government and Údarás na Gaeltachta.