The Mayo News Online: Shell work deferral a ‘cynical’ ploy: "This is just another publicity stunt by Shell, hoping to garner support and de-escalate the protest. This move is effectively about Shell attempting to try a new chess move. That’s all.
SHELL is ‘simply prolonging the agony’ and in no way ‘contributing to the solution’ by deciding to defer the offshore pipe-laying for the Corrib gas field, according to the families of the Rossport Five.
The company’s decision earlier this week to suspend the 70-kilometre offshore work until next year, to allow for ‘a period of public discussion and dialogue’ is a cynical public relations ploy and falls far short of addressing the real health and safety issues, they say.
Last weekend, Rossport Five wife, Mrs Mary Corduff, told The Mayo News the five men, Willie Corduff, brothers Philip and Vincent Mc Grath, Brendan Philbin and Micheál O_Seighin had no choice but to continue their contempt of court.
"They will not purge their contempt," she said. "If Shell is sincere about dialogue why don’t they lift the injunction?"
Mrs Corduff was scathing about Shell’s insistence that its decision to suspend work on the offshore pipeline was ‘an attempt to create a climate to facilitate dialogue and examine all the facts’.
"This is just another publicity stunt by Shell, hoping to garner support and de-escalate the protest. This move is effectively about Shell attempting to try a new chess move. That’s all. As far as we are concerned the price is still too high, for our community and, symbolically, for the entire country."
Mrs Corduff was accompanied by Maureen (Vincent) McGrath and Aggie Philbin when they visited the men in Cloverhill prison on Friday evening..
Afterwards, Corduff said: "The men are very annoyed at the blatant cynicism of this move. The stark reality is before these men were ever jailed Shell refused to negotiate with them or speak to them. What’s this sudden change of heart about?
"Shell never expected such grass roots support for the protest. They were not prepared for it to escalate to such a fever pitch and broaden to a national and international issue. This is just damage limitation, nothing else," she added.
Responding to Mrs Corduff’s accusations, a spokesman for Shell said that ‘right from the beginning the company had been communicating locally, nationally and internationally about the project’.
He said: "The deferral of the pipe laying is a genuine attempt to create a climate that will facilitate dialogue and examine all the facts."
After leaving Cloverhill prison on Friday evening, Maureen (Vincent) McGrath attacked Enda Kenny’s call for calm, rational debate and welcome of the deferral of the 75 kilometre offshore pipe laying, as nothing more than sitting on the fence.
"Once again, the Fine Gael leader, a County Mayo representative in the Dáil, which he appears to have forgotten, is saying nothing and placating Shell," said McGrath.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Ms Maura Harrington has claimed that Shell’s decision to defer the offshore pipe-laying was directly influenced by the prospect of local fishermen blockading a vessel, The Solitaire, from carrying out the work which was due to start in Broadhaven bay.
"This move was not about opening-up dialogue, it was about avoiding more bad publicity. After all, a stand-off at sea between a number of small fishing boats and a huge craft like The Solitaire would provide pretty dramatic news footage," said Harrington.
Erris Inshore Fisherman_s Association chairman, Mr Eddie Diver told The Mayo News his group had intended blocking The Solitaire from pipe-laying. It was widely believed that Shell intended starting this part of the project on Monday next, August 15, the busiest day in the region’s annual social calendar.
Lá an Logha, or the day of indulgence, is the single biggest event in the Belmullet Erris region for hundreds of years. It was traditionally based on a pilgrimage to St Deirbhle’s well.
Mr Diver also claimed he was threatened by Shell officials last week.
He said: "I felt intimidated after they verbally threatened us. They said The Solitaire was coming into the bay and anybody who got in their way would be severely dealt with under the law of the land. They also said the law of the land was on their side."
He added: "There was an implication that if Shell lost €750,000 a day if the pipe-laying vessel was obstructed, it would be recouped by the company. In other words, we would have to pay it." The fishermen_s association ceased all co-operation with Shell when the Rossport Five were jailed.
A Shell spokesman has totally discounted another terminal option mooted by Green Party energy spokesman, Eamonn Ryan as ‘absolutely’ untenable. Ryan proposed this week that the terminal be re-located to an Udarás na Gaeltachta site to the west of Belmullet on the shore of Blacksod bay. It was also rejected by local protesters.
Both Mary Corduff and Maura Harrington rubbished Ryan_s suggestion as simply moving the problem to another part of the area.
"We are hardly going to wish on our neighbours what we are not wishing on ourselves," said Harrington.
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