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Different dogmas for Corrib priests

By: 
Áine Ryan - Mayo News

Local priests to argue for and against project at oral hearing

IT COULD be the script for a John B Keane play. A remote community, a giant multinational gas company and two Parish Priests on the opposite sides of the fence.
They may not be taking to the pulpit tomorrow (Wednesday) but Fathers Michael Nallen and Kevin Hegarty (pictured) will be singing from very different hymn sheets when they make their scheduled submissions to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, in Belmullet, into the last section of the modified pipeline route for the Corrib gas project 
In his written submission, seen by The Mayo News, Father Nallen expresses grave concerns about both the physical and psychological health and safety of schoolchildren and parishioners in the Aughoose and Pullathomas areas, as well as his entire parish of Kilcommon-Erris, where ‘painful issues relating to the Corrib Gas project have the greatest impact’, he claims.
He refers, in particular, to the raw gas pipeline proposed to pass near Pullathomas National School, Aughoose Church and cemetery, and many residences, both public and private, that are proximate to Glengad, the location of the LVI (Land Valve Installation), where the gas comes ashore.
“That consideration is being given to the placing of the Corrib Gas pipeline in a tunnel under the bay beside the school and playground is a cause of worry when there is an awareness of how dangerous ruptures in gas pipelines cans be,” Father Nallen observes.
He continues: “The explosion on the BP Oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico causes people to have a dread of oil and gas installations. They see the devastating out-of-control consequences that an accident can create. Reassurances by developers and monitoring agencies do not remove the dangers and the fears they instill. Many people are sufficiently enlightened to know that the picture presented in the promotional brochures and circulars is just a picture and not the painful reality they live through.”
Father Nallen also refers to the devastating Dooncarton landslide and elderly local people’s inherent knowledge of their terrain.
“People of this area, especially the older generation, share information on relevant features existing in Sruwaddacon Bay and surrounding terrain. A location susceptible to landslides, where the hill is said to contain a fault line extending to Ballyglass Lighthouse. Things they point to include some of the strongest currents known to exist in Europe, quicksand on shifting sands, and depths so immense they regard as immeasurable, and [are] known as ‘blackholes’.”
He argues that ‘site investigation works will not produce a new geography that will make people feel secure or reassured.”
Meanwhile, the Board of Management of Pullathomas National School is also scheduled to make a submission tomorrow. Its brief written observation to ABP expresses ‘our concerns in relation to the pipeline route which runs in close proximity to the school’.
It also seeks a ‘guarantee for the future health and safety of those using the school and the playing fields’.

Father Hegarty’s submission
ON THE other hand, Father Kevin Hegarty, who ministers in the of Parish of Kilmore-Erris,  expresses his support for the project, while acknowledging past mistakes. His parish is located about 12 miles from the landfall site of the pipeline.
Since 2005 Shell has made ‘significant efforts to communicate meaningfully with the community’, Father Hegarty writes in his submission.
“I sense that the vast majority of the community, admittedly with varying degrees of enthusiasm, are supportive of Corrib gas,” he observes.
Father Hegarty continues: “I know there are sincere people among the protestors. I believe, however, their fears about the safety of the pipeline have been grossly inflated by the sulphurous rhetoric of those who wish to prevent the delivery of the gas on ideological grounds.” 
He notes that through his chairmanship of the Local Development Partnership Board and as a teacher and chaplain at Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet, he has become familiar with the needs of the community and its many students.
“That is why I was happy in 2007 to accept an invitation to join the Independent Scholarship Board which distributes grants, sponsored by Shell to Erris third-level students.”
He cites the fact that to date 31 students have been beneficiaries of this scheme.
“Many of our parishioners are working or have worked on the building of the terminal at Bellanaboy. Others have worked in service industries used by Shell and its operatives.”
However, he also acknowledges: “Serious mistakes were made in the early years of its development. Both Enterprise Energy Ireland and Shell were sometimes cavalier in their responses to the safety fears of the local people. This insensitive approach reached its nadir in 2005 with the jailing of the Rossport Five.”
However, Father Hegarty argues it is ‘not productive to draw on the archive of past failures to justify the continued opposition to the project’.
“No progress can be achieved if we sail round and round on what Patrick Kavanagh once called ‘the puddles of the past’.”