Corrib Gas is a key election issue

April 30, 2007 at 10:23 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The Corrib gas conflict is a key election issue in Mayo. This project, which has the potential to bring much needed development and benefits to the Erris region and to the County as a whole has, from the beginning, been an unmitigated disaster for reasons that are now well-known and widely acknowledged.

Instead of this problem being addressed and resolved it has been neglected for seven years. This has happened because of a failure of political leadership on both a local and national level. Those running for office in Mayo who are now making claims to qualities of leadership are indicted by their own failures in the Corrib gas issue. The people of Erris and Mayo deserved better.

With the election campaign now begun, it is incumbent on all candidates to clearly state their position on the Bellanaboy project and to state how they propose to resolve this conflict. The proposal for an Independent Commission remains the only viable solution on the table.  

The problem has gone on for far too long. The Corrib gas conflict needs to be resolved not prolonged and that requires political will and leadership. The voters of Mayo can look to this issue as a defining test of those qualities in the candidates before them.   

Garda Costs symptom of the Corrib Gas problem – Joint Statement

April 26, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

Following a parliamentary question by Dr Jerry Cowley TD it has emerged that the total cost of the Garda operation in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo up to April 17th last is €5.4 million. This amounts to an average daily cost of €27,550. 

This extraordinarily high expenditure by the State is a further symptom of the Corrib gas problem. The Corrib gas conflict has gone on for far too long and needs urgently to be resolved. That requires political will and leadership.  

We are confident that our proposal for an Independent Commission offers the only viable solution to resolve the Corrib gas conflict. Such a Commission would examine the optimum development concept for the Corrib gas project according to the criteria of best technology and community consent. We welcome the continued support we are receiving for this proposal from the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party and Independent TDs and Senators. It is clear that the only way forward is through agreement and consent rather than conflict and confrontation.

Dr Mark Garavan

            Dr Jerry Cowley      

Welcome for support for Independent Commission – Joint Statement with Dr Jerry Cowley TD

April 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

We wish to warmly welcome the continued support we are receiving for our proposal for an Independent Commission. Such a Commission would examine the optimum development concept for the Corrib gas project according to the criteria of best technology and community consent. 

Yesterday, Dr Jerry Cowley led a multi-party delegation for discussions with Statoil on this proposal. We welcome the continued support we are receiving from the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the Socialist party and Independent TDs and Senators. We are confident that an Independent Commission offers the only viable solution to resolve the Corrib gas conflict. 

 That the Corrib gas project needs a full review is clear from last week’s High Court decision. Shell must now apply for a new pipeline route and this requires a new Plan of Development. The opportunity therefore exists to re-design the project taking into account new technological advances and community consent. 

This problem needs to be resolved. We, for our part, will continue in our endeavours to achieve an agreed political and legal solution.  

‘The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance’

April 26, 2007 at 9:39 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The Criminal Justice Bill has the potential to seriously undermine civil liberties in Ireland. While strong new powers taken by the State may be intended to address criminal activity, those powers in fact face all citizens not just criminals. The recourse to mandatory sentencing, the erosion of the right to silence and the use of seven-day detention further orientate the balance of our criminal justice system away from the accused citizen towards the Gardai and State.

Fundamental to our system of law has been the principle that all are innocent until proven guilty. This principle is designed to protect the weak and vulnerable from unjust accusation and undue pressure. I therefore call on Seanad Eireann to fulfill its role as an independent House of the Oireachtas by rejecting this measure and affirming our long-established principles of criminal justice. The role of the Seanad is to reflectively review legislation. This is best achieved in a non-party political manner. The Seanad should act as a restraint on the Dail by examining Bills outside the heat of party-political controversy. There is now a clear opportunity for the Seanad to exercise its responsibility, re-affirm its relevance and amend this Bill. 

Finally, the revelation that the Gardai requested over 10,000 phone records last year and that an unspecified number were also requested by the Army must raise serious concerns. Details regarding the extraordinary scale of Garda requests have not been made available. The old maxim ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’ has never been more valid.   

Shell Project unravelling

April 24, 2007 at 10:17 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

After the events of last week, it is now apparent that Shell’s project in North Mayo is unravelling.

On Wednesday Shell suffered a serious legal defeat in the High Court with the final collapse of the pipeline component of their project. Throughout the week Shell suffered a series of technical defeats at the EPA oral hearing particularly with regard to water issues and cold venting. Over the weekend Shell suffered a moral defeat with the awarding of the prestigious Goldman Prize to Willie Corduff. Finally, Shell suffered a clear popular defeat with the statement at the oral hearing by the local parish priest that the clear majority of people directly affected by their project want it changed.

As a result of the High Court decision the Plan of Development governing the project needs to be changed. This government, or the next government, has the ideal opportunity and legal capacity to force a re-configuration of the Corrib gas project.

Warm welcome and congratulations to Willie Corduff

April 23, 2007 at 8:05 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

I extend my warmest congratulations to Willie Corduff on being awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize. The award is a fitting acknowledgement of the efforts by Willie, his family and all of those involved in the long-running campaign to re-configure the Corrib gas project. The award constitutes a very significant international validation of the merits and legitimacy of that campaign.

While Willie Corduff and four other men were in jail in 2005 it was my privilege and honour to act as their spokesperson. Throughout this terrible ordeal and subsequently, Willie and the other men conducted themselves with dignity and integrity. Their concern has been at all times to protect themselves and their community’s health and safety. They have defended values of great importance such as community, health and safety, environmental integrity and democracy. This award is a due and appropriate recognition of those values and of the courage of those who asserted them.

Despite last Wednesday’s High Court decision which brought the pipeline component of Shell’s project to a halt, the issues animating the campaign remain unresolved. In the opportunity now presented I repeat once again the call that I have made with Dr Jerry Cowley TD for the immediate establishment of an Independent Commission which can determine the optimum model for developing the Corrib gas project according to the key criteria of best technology and community consent. The Corrib gas conflict needs to be solved not prolonged.

McDowell and consistency

April 20, 2007 at 9:23 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

It is interesting to see Minister McDowell defending the rights of the community of Poolbeg against a proposed waste incinerator. He has apparently taken the rights of the local people there to health and safety as so important that he would not enter government if the incinerator went ahead and would continue to resist the project even if it is approved by An Bord Pleanala. He claims the incinerator is in the wrong place.

This line of argument is very familiar to those engaged in similar campaigns throughout the country. In a statement I issued in February I said:

why do the Minister and the government not acknowledge the same right of local democracy to the threatened communities of Bellanaboy and Rossport in North Mayo? They are similarly faced with the imposition of an unwanted project which they believe will threaten their health and safety. Surely the same standards should apply in Mayo as in Dublin? Democracy is indivisible and should be applied to all citizens not just to those who merely happen to be constituents of a government Minister.

The Minister should follow the logic of his own reasoning and support the people of North Mayo and elsewhere in their campaigns to preserve the integrity of their communities. The solution to all of these problems lies in enhanced local democracy. I have proposed that there should be:

  1. An obligatory pre-planning phase whereby developers of major infrastructural projects must engage meaningfully with communities affected by their projects and agree a development proposal.
  2. One independent body which oversees and reviews major infrastructural projects in order to ensure the use of best available technology, ecological viability and community consent.

 

A new Plan of Development is now required

April 19, 2007 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

Following yesterday’s developments in the High Court whereby Shell’s Compulsory Acquisition Orders against certain landowners in Rossport were vacated it is now clear that a new pipeline route must be found by the company. This means that Shell’s development model for the Corrib gas project has been materially altered and this requires, under the terms of the 1992 Licensing Terms, a new Plan of Development governing the project.

 

The existing Plan of Development agreed between the government and Shell is now invalid and a new Plan must be submitted and agreed. A new Plan of Development must be approved by the Minister of the Marine. Any costs incurred by Shell under the old Plan are entirely their own liability as they chose willingly to proceed in advance of, and in the absence of, all of the necessary consents.

 

There is thus now an important opportunity for the Minister to intervene and reconfigure the Corrib gas project by insisting on a new Plan of Development that is, for the first time, the product of agreement between the developer and the local community. We have proposed that the best method for achieving this is through an independent commission which will determine the optimum development concept based on the twin criteria of best available technology and community consent.

 

We call on the Minister to finally exercise his responsibility and set aside the existing Plan and seize an opportunity to finally resolve the ongoing Corrib gas conflict.

 

Dr Jerry Cowley

Dr Mark Garavan

Rossport Five’s position vindicated

April 18, 2007 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

Today’s judgement of the High Court that Shell’s application to drop their application for a permanent injunction be granted subject to costs on this issue being awarded to the local landowners and that CAOs against the landowners involved be dropped is a welcome and significant development in the Corrib gas conflict. This decision amounts to a complete vindication of the stance taken by the Rossport Five in 2005. The pipeline that the men objected to cannot now be continued with. The injunction under which the men were imprisoned has now been withdrawn by Shell. Legal questions to do with the pipeline and wider project remain before the High Court. It must now be clear to all fair minded observers that a great wrong has been done by Shell to the men, their families and the community of North Mayo. The Rossport Five should never have been imprisoned. However, these actions by Shell are symptomatic of the disordered nature of the Corrib gas project which, unfortunately, is still proceeding. That project needs to be discontinued and a full, independent review conducted to determine the optimum development model for Corrib based on community consent. Shell’s refusal to do this merely underlines their continued indifference to the community affected by their proposed project. 

A Solution must be Found – Joint Statement with Dr Jerry Cowley

April 13, 2007 at 10:09 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

On the eve of the EPA’s oral hearing into the pollution control licence for the Bellanaboy gas refinery, we wish to renew our calls for a comprehensive, independent review of the Corrib gas project.

 

While we welcome the opportunity of the EPA hearing to enquire into aspects of the project, the oral hearing does not offer the possibility for a full assessment of the development concept under which Corrib is being developed. No such overall review has yet occurred. Therefore, the opportunity for real public participation in shaping how this project is to be progressed with consent and agreement has been and will, unfortunately, remain missing.

 

In our previous statements of February 12, March 12 and March 27 we have called for the establishment of an Independent Commission to determine the best development model for Corrib guided by the twin criteria of best available technology and community agreement. This should be conducted by an outside, independent and agreed person or persons. It may be that the European Parliament Petition’s committee may have some role to play in this.

 

Ours is the only proposal for a solution on the table and has the support of all the parties in opposition except Fine Gael. Those who wish to resolve the conflict over Corrib should examine this proposal. We reiterate that an agreed solution is possible but requires leadership and goodwill from all.

  

Dr Jerry Cowley

Dr Mark Garavan

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