"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
WORKING in partnership with the Erris community and its agencies is a fundamental priority for the recently appointed Managing Director of Shell E&P Ireland, Michael Crothers. Writing in a newly-published Shell community investment booklet, Mr Crothers observes that ‘communities should benefit from the presence of large organisations like Shell’ and, moreover, that it is ‘essential, of course, that the community rather than the company leads in terms of ideas and plans’.
The 24-page booklet, which showcases community projects already supported by the Corrib Gas Partners, was launched in tandem with the unveiling of the new programme of initiatives, in Belmullet last Thursday night. The new programme of initiatives, includes an entrepreneurs’ competition, a safe-driving programme for secondary students and an ‘exchange of experience’ programme for community organisations.
Writing in the booklet, Mr Crothers observes: “I have been struck by many things in the Erris community: the beautiful landscape, the warmth of the people, the close-knit nature of the many villages and townlands that make up the barony of Erris. Most striking of all, however, has been the central role of volunteerism plays in the life of the local community.”
At the launch, Michael Crothers detailed Shell’s philosophy of community investment: “It is not about short term handouts – it is about long-term benefits in terms of facilities that improve the community and the quality of life in it, but equally importantly, it is about building new skills and capacity into the community that last through the project life and beyond. It is about partnership, about listening, about working together to help achieve common goals.”
Contributing also to the booklet, Fiona Togher, a Shell Community Investment Advisor, notes that ‘being a good neighbour in the communities in which it operates’ has manifested itself in the Corrib project’s three Community investment initiatives – the Local Grants Programme, the Third-Level Scholarship Programme and the long-term Erris Development Fund.
In operation since 2006, the Local Grants Programme has allocated over €1.3 million to 136 different organisations that fulfilled criteria based on contributing to the ‘economic, cultural, social, environmental and sporting development’ of the local communities.
Launched in 2007, the Third-Level Scholarship Programme offers scholarships each year to ten students from the four secondary schools serving Erris. The scholarships are valued at €4,000 per student per degree year.
Finally, the Corrib Natural Gas Erris Development Fund was launched in 2009, with an initial fund of €5 million. This fund aims to contribute to the long-term development of Kilcommon, and wider Erris. Funding is under three categories: Enterprise and Knowledge, Marine and Environment (including tourism) and Sports and Culture. To date over 55 applications have been made, with commitments of funding of €3.4 million to 26 different projects.
Speaking at the launch, Ms Togher explained that because of the existence of ‘the new €8.5 million Community Gain Investment Fund, administered by Mayo County Council’, Shell ‘recognised that the role of the Erris Development Fund needed to change’.
“If both funds operated in the same way in such a small area, there is a danger that the sustainability of projects could be threatened. Therefore, we are ending our application-based system and replacing it with these new themed initiatives, which will run over the next three years,” Fiona Togher said.