“If the state isn't going to carry out its moral duty to protect the people of Erris, then it falls on the ordinary people of Ireland to stand up for themselves. It's all very well being vindicated but we're still left fighting this monument to political corruption. This is just the latest deal in the whole Corrib project done behind closed doors that ends up betraying a local community which has been fighting this unwanted development for over ten years.”
Today, local Shell to Sea people from Kilcommon together with independent observer Fr. Michael Nallen, Parish Priest, travelled from north Mayo at the invitation of Éamon Ó Cuív to attend a Dáil Committee meeting on Natural Resources. Sr. Majella McCarron, Table Observer was also present.
The group was first told that the public gallery of the committee meeting room was full and they would be put into a separate room with a video link. They were then told that the Captain of the Guard, John O Flaherty had decided that they were a protest group and were not to be allowed inside the gates of the Dáil. Éamon Ó Cuív, who had been provided with a list of the names of local people and observers beforehand declared that he was “powerless” to do anything about the barring order.
Speaking on being stopped entering the Dáil, Fr. Nallen said “There was no logic in the decision to prevent us observing the committee meeting in its discussion on natural resources. All we came to do was observe the workings of the committee and the people who were turned away were not participating in any protest. We, at the very least, deserve a proper explanation and an apology for the way we were treated. This is not credible democracy”.
Following the meeting it emerged that the public gallery was only half full - “a blatant lie” says Maura Harrington. It also emerged that those present in the public gallery included Fergus Cahill of the Oil and Gas lobby group IOOA, together with other oil and gas executives, who were seen mingling with the civil service personnel before and after the meeting.
Sr. Majella McCarron recalled a similar occurrence 16 years ago when she was part of a group attending to a DFA committee meeting in relation to the Ogoni/Shell issue in Nigeria. This group was also directed to a separate room with a video link but upon walking into the public gallery Sr. Majella found that all seats were occupied by Shell personnel. This also happened during the FG/Labour government. Sr McCarron said “That government was attentive to the Ogoni/Shell issue but this FG/Labour government seem less inclined to address a similar issue in their own back yard."
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The Shell to Sea Campaign has three main aims:
1) That any exploitation of the Corrib gas field be done in a safe way that will not expose the local community in Erris to unnecessary health, safety and environmental risks.
2) To renegotiate the terms of the Great Oil and Gas Giveaway, which sees Ireland’s 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent* off the West Coast go directly to the oil companies, with the Irish State retaining a 0% share, no energy security of supply and only 25% tax on profits against which all costs can be deducted.
3) To seek justice for the human rights abuses suffered by Shell to Sea campaigners due to their opposition to Shell’s proposed inland refinery.
*This figure is based on the estimate, issued by the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) in 2006, that the amount of recoverable oil and gas in the Rockall and Porcupine basins, off Ireland’s west coast, is 10 BBOE (billion barrels of oil equivalent). Based on the average price of a barrel of oil for 2010 of $79, this works out at $790 billion, or €580 billion. This does not take account of further oil and gas reserves off Ireland’s south & east coasts or inland. The total volume of oil and gas which rightfully belongs to Ireland could be significantly higher. Also, as the global price of oil rises in the coming years, the value of these Irish natural resources will rise further.