Prominent Shell to Sea activist to oversee Corrib project
feature Saturday June 16, 2007 21:30 by William Hederman
Years of campaigning by Ryan culminates in Natural Resources ministry
Eamonn Ryan TD, protesting outside Dáil Éireann
Following several years of campaigning with the Shell to Sea campaign, Green Party TD Eamonn Ryan has been appointed to the ministry with responsibility for the Corrib Gas project in Co Mayo.
On Thursday (June 14th), Taoiseach Bertie Ahern appointed Ryan to the new portfolio of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, where his brief will include overseeing the controversial Corrib Gas project. Ryan's fellow Shell to Sea campaigners will be watching with interest to see how he proceeds with Corrib. At their conference in February 2007, the Green Party adopted a resolution that, in government, it would not sign a pipeline consent for the Corrib gas project until “a full, independent review” had been conducted into the project.
Related Links: An Comhaontas Glás | Shell To Sea | Rossport Solidarity Camp | Indymedia report on protest at Shell HQ in Dublin attended by Trevor Sargent (February 17th, 2006)
Ryan's Shell to Sea colleagues may not be encouraged by the early signs. On the morning (Thursday) before his ministerial appointment, Eamon Ryan was a guest on the Today with Pat Kenny
radio show (with stand-in presenter Tom McGurk). A listener asked whether the Greens would adhere to this resolution. Ryan replied that the party's negotiators had not succeeded in getting the full, independent review of Corrib into the programme for government worked out with Fianna Fail.
Here is his response in full: "The first and primary thing is that there has to be an EPA approval in terms of the licensing there – the project requires that. Also, the whole consent process for the, I think, eight alternative pipeline routes has to be gone through and that will be what we have to process. I don’t believe, or we weren’t able to agree, the possibility of such a widespread review of the whole project, but I think what we will try and do is ensure that the process and the licensing and consent process goes through in as open and as consultative a manner as is possible.
Green Party leader Trevor Sargent has been another prominent Shell to Sea campaigner. On October 24th, 2006, he took part in the pre-dawn protest at the site of Shell's proposed inland refinery at Bellanaboy, accompanied by the Green Party Mayor of Galway, Niall Ó Brolcháin. They both made speeches at the refinery gates.
A month later Sargent took part in a Shell to Sea press conference in Dublin, where he said his party "supports the call for an independent commission as proposed by the Shell to Sea campaign". He blamed the controversy on "the giveaway deals for exploration licences" which he said were "comparable, in historic terms, with the Act of Union of 1800, in the way a dodgy deal can be made to look legitimate."
In late 2006, a meeting of the National Council of the Green Party passed a policy calling for “the 1992 terms governing oil and gas exploration in Ireland's waters to be redrafted to give the State more security of hydrocarbon supply and a revenue/royalty percentage from such finds.”
A message on the Green Party website in December 2005 stated that the party was urging "all members of the Green Party ... to support and join the Shell to Sea Campaign", and was "pressing for the gas to be refined at sea ... We must continue our efforts in support of this campaign which has every chance of success."
The record shows that over the past two years Eamon Ryan has been diligent in his research into the Corrib Gas issue and in raising concerns at a national level. Speaking in Dáil Éireann on November 24th, 2005, Eamon Ryan raised the question of the perceived independence of An Bord Pleanála: "When An Bord Pleanála made its decision on the first planning application for a gas terminal building in Bellanaboy, the inspector came to the conclusion that the application was for the wrong site from a strategic planning perspective. The inspector said in his report that the site chosen by the company in question was the wrong one when considered in the context of the Government's policy of fostering balanced regional development, from the perspective of minimising environmental impact and in the interests of sustainable development. More alarmingly, the inspector said he was under the impression that the granting of planning permission in this instance was a fait accompli. He concluded that the proposed site was unequivocally an incorrect choice."
"Anyone who examines from the outside the process that led to a decision being made on the appeal in this instance would agree that it was not conducted in an open and fair manner. ... I have serious concerns that the Government constantly took Shell's side, in effect, throughout this process. ... I contend that he [Taoiseach Bertie Ahern] put remarkable and untold pressure on An Bord Pleanála to accept the Government's will and to do the right thing in this case."
Same protest as above
Trevor Sargent protests at Shell HQ in Dublin on February 17th, 2006
Trevor Sargent with Philip McGrath of the Rossport Five at Bellanaboy on October 24th, 2006
Trevor Sargent and Niall Ó Brolcháin (right) at Bellanaboy on October 24th, 2006