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SEA TO SHELL: Local people confront Shell executives

An unscheduled meeting for Shell executives with concerned locals over the proposed controversial Corrib Gas project.
Last evening (25/01/06) saw an important step in the Corrib Gas dispute. The day was set aside for an executive team from the oil company Shell to meet with various groups involved in the controversial project. All meetings were behind closed doors and by invitation only, as a group of concerned locals found out when attempting to meet with the team in Belmullet.
It became known that a further meeting was to take place in the community centre in Greannaí, a short distance from Rossport, to discuss with locals the problems to date. An impromptu group of people, residents directly affected by the proposed refinery and associated pipeline, converged on the venue to take part in the event.
On arrival they were informed this was yet another private meeting, and were refused entry. This reflected an earlier statement from Shell that the team were seeking to meet with non-opposing landowners only. Clearly an unacceptable situation, the people asserted their right to be involved in any debate on something which affected their community so seriously, and in what was supposed to be their own community centre! The Gardaí present (as part of the security laid on for Shell) wisely used their discretion and allowed access to the gathering group.
Inside, a surprised looking collection huddled together to talk over the new arrangement. The team included Andy Pyle, MD Shell Exploration & Production Ireland Ltd (SEPIL); Nina Henderson, Non-executive Director of Shell Transport; and Wim Kok, former Dutch Finance Minister, Prime Minister, and Royal Dutch Supervisory Board member.
What followed was an informal, virtually one-sided debate on the conduct of Shell in the area. The people were highly insulted by the further attempt to exclude them from proper discussion, a fact that had continued to contribute to the growing rift between the developers and the community ever since the project was announced.
Andy Pyle attempted to justify the admitted mix-up over invitations by blaming the Rossport Five for not wishing to meet the team, and this was taken that everyone in Erris opposed to the current project were not interested. The fact that protests by hundreds of people at the Bellanaboy refinery site had taken place, and that thousands of people nationally and internationally had voiced their displeasure at the actions of the oils giants, seemed to be totally ignored by SEPIL, who had been charged with organising the meetings.
Some hard truths were presented to the executives who were informed that, given their past and current actions (here in Ireland and further afield in places such as Nigeria), under no circumstances would an experimental and potentially lethal refinery and pipeline be tolerated in the area. The not-so-polite message was, ''wake up and pull out … the people of Erris are not for sale!''
The evening passed off without incident (due in large part to the Gardaí handling things in a sensitive manner; unusual of late but very welcome) and the Shell crew left among cheers, jeers and even a few fireworks. The people on the ground, the people who have been living with this ongoing nightmare and the ones that really count, had finally got a chance to let the hitherto faceless corporations know what they really desired; a peaceful existence in a beautiful and unspiolt part of the world.
Surely not too much to ask.

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