16 November 2006 Edition
Corrib dispute - Government must intervene
People across Ireland were shocked and repelled by the violent scenes at Bellanaboy, County Mayo on Friday, 10 November. The manner in which the Shell to Sea protest was handled by the Gardaí was ill conceived and unnecessarily heavy handed.
As the Corrib controversy drags on, the scenes at Bellanaboy are getting uglier and the local community is being plunged into a crisis not of its making. This situation cannot be allowed to degenerate to the point where someone is seriously injured or worse. It is time the government intervened and took control. The Pontius Pilate attitude of the Taoiseach and various government ministers will not do.
What the situation at Bellanaboy illustrates above all is that the attempts by Shell, with the connivance of the state, to bully or trick the objectors into silence or acceptance have failed. And they will continue to fail because the fact remains that the project has been shrouded in deceit from the very beginning.
Every aspect of the Corrib project - from the altering of the licensing and revenue conditions to suit the companies involved, through the granting of the licences, the planning process and the safety reports is open to question. And those questions are thrown into stark relief in light of Shell's refusal to release key documents on these matters. Even to the extent of refusing to comply with an Order of Discovery by the High Court. And yet the same law of the land is being deployed to enforce Shell's wishes.
Sinn Féin's position remains one of full support for the demands of the Shell to Sea campaign. The processing of the gas must take place offshore and the terms and conditions governing mineral exploration radically revised to ensure that the Irish people benefit from the development of their natural resources. Unless and until both of these conditions are met, Corrib gas will bring little or no benefit.
Sinn Féin has repeatedly called on the government to intervene in order to solve the impasse. It is in their power to do so despite what Bertie Ahern has said about the issues having been dealt with and the matter closed. The matter has not been closed nor has the proposal for the gas to be processed offshore seriously examined or the safety issues adequately addressed.
The only way to ensure that this take place is for work at Bellanaboy to be suspended pending a complete review of all aspects of the project. Only when such a review has been completed will the project be assured of public confidence.