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Shell criticised over gifts to schools

Áine Ryan - Irish Times

A RETIRED Department of Education psychologist has criticised Shell’s public relations strategy of targeting schools with Corrib Natural Gas “baubles and trinkets”.

He also claimed the company “was manipulating the community in a shameless way in order to achieve their own ends”.

Former educational psychologist Tom McAndrew told the resumed planning appeals board hearing on Shell’s revised gas pipeline it was hard to blame schools and boards of management – desperately short of funds – for being tempted by such obvious generosity.

“Principals and boards of management were placed in an invidious position and under pressure from some of their parents to engage with Shell,” he said.

Mr McAndrew added it was clear from Shell’s own documentation they “had handed over significant amounts of money to schools and young people’s groups over the past number of years”.

Responding, Esmonde Keane, senior counsel for Shell, said he “absolutely rejected” that it was manipulating the community. He argued the company’s grants and schemes were established to “give back to the community”.

Afterwards, members of the board of Pullathomas national school made a brief submission about their concerns on the pipeline route, which runs close to the school. They sought a “guarantee for the future health and safety of those using the school and the playing fields”.

Meanwhile, Fr Michael Nallen accused Minister for the Environment John Gormley of using one rule for his own constituency in Dublin and another for Kilcommon parish, where he ministers.

“Just because we are not living in John Gormley’s constituency does not mean we don’t have human rights,” he said.

The hearing under the remit of the Strategic Infrastructure Act will deliberate on a revised application by Shell, which involves tunnelling a section of the pipeline route under the Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation.

In a submission in favour of the project, regional director of business lobby group Ibec, John Brennan, said there would be 130 permanent jobs when the Corrib gas refinery was operational.

He said towns in the west were already benefiting because of infrastructural development in relation to the project. “We are highly dependent on imported fossil fuels and need to develop our own fields, and hence the requirement to proceed with the delivery of the Corrib gas,” he said.

“This project is several years behind schedule, for a variety of reasons, and this could damage Ireland’s international reputation regarding foreign direct investment, including by energy companies.”