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Irish Times: Call for Corrib gas hearing to end impasse: “The north Mayo men opposed to the pipeline are now spending their 11th week in prison and are due back in court on October 4th. Shell has rejected recent appeals…to lift its injunction secured against the objecting landowners.”: Monday 12 Sept 2005


Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Sep 12, 2005


The Green Party has called for a full oral hearing into the Corrib onshore gas pipeline in an attempt to break the impasse over the imprisonment of five Mayo residents.


The north Mayo men opposed to the pipeline are now spending their 11th week in prison and are due back in court on October 4th.


Shell has rejected recent appeals by both Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte to lift its injunction secured against the objecting landowners.


Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan said the State's failure to hold a full hearing on the onshore pipeline before compulsory-acquisition orders for wayleave through land were signed by former marine minister Frank Fahey in 2002, could be subject to legal challenge.


A full public hearing on the pipeline could avoid protracted legal arguments, air all the issues and could be held in the context of the impending safety review commissioned by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, Mr Ryan said yesterday.


The Minister has said he wants the authors of the new safety review, currently being prepared, to present their report for public discussion. The Labour Party has said it wants the issue to be debated by the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.


"I support a debate by the joint Oireachtas committee, but I believe we need a wider debate through an oral hearing - and this should be held in Mayo," Mr Ryan said.


The gas terminal at Bellanaboy was subject to planning and to a Bord Pleanala oral hearing, but the onshore pipeline linking the gas field offshore to the land-based terminal was not subject to any local authority approval. It was sanctioned by marine minister Frank Fahey in April 2002, when he also approved the plan of development for the project.


A month later, shortly before leaving office, Mr Fahey signed 34 compulsory-acquisition orders for access to, but not purchase of, private lands on the pipeline route.


"By contrast an oral hearing was granted for the far less contentious Bord Gais pipeline, which connected the Bellanaboy terminal to the national grid," Mr Ryan said yesterday.


A full hearing would deal with many key questions relating to the pipeline's safety, but also the manner in which "Fianna Fail rushed this aspect of the project through", he said.


"The failure to at any stage allow local people raise wider objections to the project is one of the reasons why we are now at an impasse on the issue. Real questions have to be answered about how Mayo County Council, the department and Shell have acted. Instead of just debating yet another desktop review of the pipeline design, there needs to be a public forum where questions can be raised about the overall project plan and the approval process that has been followed."


GardaI estimate that about 600 people took part in a rally held in Sligo on Saturday by Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind) in support of the imprisoned north Mayo men.


A public meeting by the Shell to Sea campaign is due to be held in Salthill, Galway on September 19th.


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