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An Taisce says Shell approval 'legally flawed'

By: 
Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

AN TAISCE intends to seek a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s approval for the final section of the Corrib gas pipeline.

The environmental organisation’s chairman Charles Stanley-Smith believes the board’s ruling last week was “legally flawed”, and may have “major implications for the status of implementing European directives in Ireland”, including the habitats directive.

An Taisce’s view is supported by the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership, involving a number of non-governmental organisations.

The board approved the final section of gas pipeline through a special area of conversation, Sruwadaccon estuary, with 58 conditions. The decision was welcomed by Shell EP Ireland, the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec), the Pro-Gas Mayo Group and the Erris local contractors’ association, involving businesses which have benefited from the project to date.

However, it was criticised by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, Shell to Sea and An Taisce.

An Bord Pleanála inspector Martin Nolan said the new route plan would not put the public at risk, and would have a “remarkably light impact on the pristine environment of the area”.

Work cannot begin before issuing of a foreshore licence, and approval of consents under the Petroleum and Gas Acts, by the Ministers for the Environment and Energy respectively. Under planning legislation, groups have eight weeks to file a judicial review of the board’s ruling.

Both the Environmental Pillar and Shell to Sea have expressed fears that such consents could be “fast-tracked” before the general election, due to the weekend resignations of Eamon Ryan and John Gormley, the two Green Party deputies holding these portfolios.

In a related development, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins has called for further clarification from Minister for Justice Brendan Smith and the Garda Síochána on a mutual agreement with Britain which allowed an undercover British police officer to spend time in Ireland – including a visit to the Corrib gas protest in north Mayo.

Mr Higgins and Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris tabled Dáil questions this week seeking more information on the Irish authorities’ knowledge of the activities here of PC Mark Kennedy, a Metropolitan Police officer who infiltrated several environmental and anti-capitalist campaigns in Britain.

Gardaí have confirmed that they had been alerted in advance by British police of Mr Kennedy’s participation in environmental protests here to promote his status as an “eco-warrior”. The Garda Síochána is preparing a report for the Minister for Justice on the issue.

Mr Kennedy, who adopted the false identify of Mark Stone in 2003, took part in demonstrations in Dublin and Shannon in 2004 and 2005, and gave a workshop to the nascent Shell to Sea campaign in north Mayo in 2006. His estranged wife has lived with their two children in Kilbrin, Co Cork, since 2000.