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The Corrib Gas Controversy: State Collaboration with Shell Exposed

by Brian and Andrew Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2006 at 1:44 PM

The following article is a position paper on the Irish Government's attempt to placate growing opposition by the appointment of a so-called “independent mediator” to defuse the crisis over the outright handover of Irish energy resources to multinational corporations. It also includes an update on the present crisis at Corrib.

On 28th July 2006, Mr. Peter Cassels, the “independent mediator” appointed by Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey with the stated aim of negotiating a settlement between Royal Dutch Shell and the Rossport Five, published a report. The principal recommendation was that the contested pipeline should be moved to address the safety concerns of local residents. Other recommendations were that Bord Gáis, the Irish state gas agency, should become involved in the project, and that an “investment fund” be set up to increase the economic benefit of the project for the Erris area.

On one level, these recommendations confirm the contentions of opponents of the project. First, that the pipeline was dangerous: if, as Shell and Minister Dempsey keep claiming, the proposed pipeline is totally safe, why agree to the extra labour, materials and expense involved in moving it?. Second, that the gas will be effectively owned by Shell and its partner Statoil, and sold at the full market price. Third, that Ireland’s current energy regime is so generous that all Shell’s expenses related to energy exploration and extraction, back-dated 25 years, can be offset against tax, and that the whole operation will be operated from Scotland.

On another level however, a different picture emerges. The Irish state is backing the appearance of mediation, whereas in fact there is no real interest in addressing the issued raised by the Erris residents on whom this pipeline and refinery are being foisted. The extent of State collaboration with Shell can be seen in Shell’s statement, issued on 3rd August, of its intent to move the pipeline. The key recommendation of Cassels’ report was at once seized on by Shell as the PR solution to the stand-off. That it is a PR solution and nothing more is evident from the statement by a spokesperson for Shell the next day, that the pipeline would remain within Rossport.

Such a swift agreement between Peter Cassels and Shell is not accidental. Mr. Cassels’ report was nothing more than a PR stunt on behalf of Shell, and even included the bizarre and patently untrue claim (repeated numerous times by Mr. Cassels on RTE News) that the majority of the residents are in favour of the project. As proof, one need go no further than the following words from Shell’s spokesperson: “Looking at it from a pragmatic or business point of view, we need to move this forward, and we see the best way to do that will be to modify the route”. All that Shell is concerned with is maximizing the profit and minimizing the expense of this project; as the most lucrative British corporation in history, that is what they do best. There is no reason in the world for them to relocate the pipeline or ensure the pipeline is safe, or ensure that toxic emissions from the refinery are monitored. Indeed, their worldwide record is so appalling in these respects that any assurances made by Shell are not worth listening to.

One would expect the State, in the person of Minister Dempsey, and a State employee, in the person of Mr. Cassels, to do their utmost to guarantee the wellbeing and safety of Irish citizens. All their actions to this point, however, have indicated that their main concern is to accommodate Shell. No faith can be placed in their statements, any more than in Shell’s.

Considering the callous disregard for the safety of Irish citizens and for the environment that is being shown in this matter by the State, the Tara Foundation reiterates its opposition to the Corrib gas project. The RTE News Reports announcing the pipeline move can be found on:

The Centre for Public Enquiry reports into the Corrib project can be found on:

Update: Shell has stated its intention to resume work on the onshore gas refinery this week. Irish media reports have stated that the Gardaí (Irish police) have amassed in Rossport with the intention of breaking through the protestors, and ending the blockade. Your help is urgently required.

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