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Irish Times: Shell vows to restart gas project despite protest (*fighting talk from Shell)

By: Lorna Siggins, Western correspondent, and Tom Shiel, Irish Times
Published: Sep 27, 2006

Shell E&P Ireland has said it is its “firm intention” to return to work at the Corrib gas terminal at Bellanaboy, Co Mayo, following yesterday’s protest in which company workers were blocked from gaining access to the site.

The company has also offered additional payments of 10,000 annually to landowners on the onshore pipeline route, who are all eligible for small compensation amounts under compulsory acquisition orders.

Documents seen by The Irish Times show that one landowner in the Glengad area close to the pipeline was offered the additional money within the last month for crop loss and disturbance.

The company was unable to comment on the offer yesterday.

It had signalled last week that it intended to resume work at the terminal site before finalising any agreement on a new pipeline route. Work was suspended at the site following last year’s jailing of five men opposed to the onshore pipeline.

At yesterday’s protest, a rising chorus of prayer drowned the words of a garda superintendent as he sought access to Bellanaboy for Shell workers.

Some 100 protesters recited the Rosary from about 8am onwards until Supt Joseph Gannon, officer in charge of the Belmullet Garda district, instructed work crews to leave the area.

It is understood Shell will make a further attempt in the next few days to enter the site – possibly backed up this time by increased Garda numbers or even Army members.

Three of the five men who spent 94 days in jail last year for their opposition to the onshore gas pipeline participated in the protest with their families.

One of them, Willie Corduff, who was accompanied by his wife, Mary, said: “We’re here for the long haul. We are protecting our families and our homes. We don’t want Shell in here. Shell will have to go to sea.”

Contractors denied access to the site expressed frustration over yesterday’s developments.

Jim Mulcair, director of Roadbridge Ltd, said he had 80 staff members who had just finished working on the Mayo/Galway gas pipeline and they were hoping to be transferred immediately to preparatory civil engineering work on the terminal site.

Another contractor, TJ Carey, who runs a small plant hire enterprise in Bangor Erris, said: “It is past time we were allowed back on to the site. There is quite an amount of intimidation and verbal abuse over this issue.”

Terry Nolan, Shell’s deputy managing director, said the company had taken “every reasonable step over the past year to address the concerns around the Corrib project”.

“I do not believe the protesters represent the views of the wider community in Erris,” Mr Nolan said. “A small number of people who are unwilling to enter into reasonable dialogue should not be allowed to prevent work on the Bellanaboy gas terminal from recommencing.

“We will consult with the relevant authorities following the events but it is our firm intention to return to work.”

A poll by TNS/mrbi for Nuacht RTE this week found that 61 per cent of respondents preferred Shell to build its gas terminal at sea, compared to 23 per cent who preferred onshore at Bellanaboy, and 7 per cent who didn’t mind either location.

Some 4 per cent felt the project should not go ahead at all anywhere, and 5 per cent had no opinion.

NUI Galway lecturer Dr Liam Leonard, who published a book last night on the Irish environmental movement entitled Green Nation, forecast that protests would not die down in the absence of proper consultation with the community.

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