Shell Corrib Corruption & Community Complaints
That these events go almost universally unreported by the Irish media is a great hindrance to that justice being secured, but your website’s ongoing work in exposing the wrongdoing of Shell and it’s agents worldwide is a vitally important one. Rest assured, the most recent events on the subject of the Corrib Gas project are being closely watched – and acted upon – by many people on the west coast of Ireland and beyond, and together we can expose the corruption that far too many are trying their best to ignore.
Corrib Corruption & Community Complaints
By JM (long-time Shell watcher)
Your recent posting on the Corrib controversy concludes with a point about Irish citizens apparently not raising a fuss over the whole situation, and the latest allegations/revelations in particular.
Living with the ongoing project, many in the local community have had cause to report a multitude of matters to various bodies and State agencies during the course of the last dozen years or so. There are two recurring themes in all such cases: (1) an abuse of process/standards by Shell and/or it’s agents, and (2) a total lack of action/accountability for Shell and/or the agents supposedly “responsible” for the abuse.
The complaints range from the relatively mild (poor consultation, breaches of pollution limits) right through to the atrocious (threats of rape and attempted murder) but the response is almost always the same… it’s someone else’s problem.
A few examples. When it was discovered that a diesel spill at the refinery site was leaking into the Bellanaboy river, the Environmental Protection Agency was contacted. After initially showing great concern and interest in the situation, on hearing the location was part of the Corrib Gas development the EPA immediately backtracked, and said it was a matter for Mayo County Council. When Mayo County Council were approached, no-one was available to investigate. The Gardai (police) then intervened and prevented people from taking water samples until the following day, after a hasty clean-up was initiated. No action was taken by MCC.
After dozens of people were man-handled by Shell’s unidentifiable “security” workers on a public beach at Glengad (proposed offshore pipeline landfall) the Gardai were informed, but they refused to take statements of complaint and – when pressed – instead told people to contact the Private Security Authority. When the PSA were contacted they said they would only take action in the event of a criminal conviction secured by the Gardai. To date, no case has ever been taken by Gardai against security violence on the Corrib project towards members of the public (including hospitalisations) even when witnessed by Garda members.
When it was discovered that Shell had illegally installed and operated a septic tank discharging into a Special Area of Conservation at a compound in Rossport, Mayo County Council officials were informed, and a site inspection was arranged. In spite of the obvious physical evidence, MCC took no action.
When Shell workers used an excavator as a battering ram against neighbours preventing trespass onto private property in Pollathomas, Gardai committed criminal damage, trespass and multiple assaults on the public to force the workers through. Subsequent complaints to the Gardai, the Health & Safety Authority and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission were passed between those authorities and eventually all washed their hands of the affair. No action taken.
There are many other examples, such as Shell’s illegal drilling in a Special Area of Conservation (no sanctions); illegal road built through the same SAC (no prosecution); damage to and theft of fishing gear (no action taken); deliberate sinking of a trawler near offshore pipeline works (no investigation); EPA disallowing Oral Hearing questions as planning matters, then the planning authority (An Bord Pleanala) disallowing the same questions as EPA licensing matters; the list could go on and on.
There is what can perhaps best be described as a grotesque version of pass-the-parcel going on. Everyone knows that there is something unpleasant inside the box, but it keeps getting passed around in the knowledge that the music will never stop (at least, not while the current participants are in the room) and all the while Shell’s taboo Corrib project – and associated abuses – continue unchecked.
To say that people have lost faith in the authorities is a gross understatement, but in spite of all this complaints are still lodged and due process followed, and people still await justice.
That these events go almost universally unreported by the Irish media is a great hindrance to that justice being secured, but your website’s ongoing work in exposing the wrongdoing of Shell and it’s agents worldwide is a vitally important one.
Rest assured, the most recent events on the subject of the Corrib Gas project are being closely watched – and acted upon – by many people on the west coast of Ireland and beyond, and together we can expose the corruption that far too many are trying their best to ignore.
(long-time Shell watcher)
Belmullet District Court Report – Shell and Mayo County Council stand co-accused of obstructing the public highway. – Indymedia Ireland
in Belmullet district court Shell and Mayo County Council stood co-accused in a case for blocking the road during the disastrous attempt to deliver the Tunnel Boring Machine to Shell’s tunnelling site at Aughoose in August this year. The co-accused settled out of court with the plaintiff and had the case struck out before the details were made public.
It is rumoured however that the case was taken by a fisherman who was suing for obstruction and loss of earnings, and that the plaintiff settled out of court for one thousand Euro. During the TBM debacle in August the main Ballina North coast road was closed while Shell’s jack-knifed lorry carrying the TBM blocked the road for days.
This is dangerous territory for Shell and the County Council as literally thousands of road users were obstructed at the time in the same way. – Watch this space….
Shell to Sea cases
There were four Shell to Sea cases up for mention.
It was the first appearance for a campaigner arrested on Monday morning during an action blocking access to Shell’s tunnelling compound. An order for the Garda book of evidence was made and the case was put back to the 9th of January.
The next case was for obstructing machinery laying a water pipe to the tunnelling compound. This was also put back to the 9th of January.
The third case was for a lock-on action that blocked the TBM for a number of hours in August while in transit to Mayo from Dublin port. In his absence the defendant – who had already plead guilty – was given the probation act and so avoided conviction.
In the last case Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington was due to set dates for hearings to defend cases arising from the TBM debacle. She wasn’t in court though and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. Sgt. Butler was visibly disappointed when she arrived in just before the court was finished for the day and the warrant was vacated.
Related Link: http://www.rossportsolidaritycamp.org
Cllr Staunton said that in November 2010 the council unanimously passed a motion against the dissolving of town council and invited a delegation from the Department of Environment to meet with the town council; this invitation was not taken up. Cllr Staunton again reiterated this invitation “before it’s too late”.
Cllr Staunton said: “Don’t give me the money argument as it doesn’t stand up,” explaining that in the town’s budget of over €5 million, the expenditure of councillors is only one per cent. The councillor added: “In the event that the town council becomes extinct money paid in rates no longer will be ringfenced for Westport town to cater for facilities,” and instead will go “into the back hole of the Mayo County Council budget.”
Cllr Staunton said that at this late stage we should put a package together and say come and look at what we have done, “if we go down, we go down shouting.”
Cllr Brendan Mulroy said that he firmly believes that “we are going out of business and the town will suffer for it.”
Fine Gael councillor Christy Hyland said that the town council “is the closest tier of government to the people” and to get rid of town councils is “an attack on democracy”.
Cllr Keith Martin said that people in this town care about the town council which is evident in election times. Cllr Martin said that “this council has been a leader” and “we will not be a voice snuffed out easily.”
Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Ollie Gannon said that every council should be judged on its merits and he said that “we are letting the minister know that we are not taking this lying down”.
Cllr Tereasa McGuire said that Westport is one of the “most successful town councils” and if the town council goes there will be no voice for local people, which is the “real tragedy”.
Cllr Michael McLaughlin added that “radical reform” is needed for town councils, as some are just a talking shop. The Fine Gael councillor said that “councillors should be paid properly and given more powers or scrap the lot.”
THERE are no figures available for compliance with the household charge in Westport, though the overall rate for the county stands at around 69 per cent. Those who have not paid the €100 household charge as of yet will find they are now liable for €126, and this will rise to €127 from next week. That was the message from Westport Town Council last week, where councillors debated the much-maligned tax.
The council executive continued to insist that the charge must be paid if local authority services are to remain unaffected, but the debate spilled into the political domain, and there was disagreement among councillors on the issue.
Fine Fáil councillor Margaret Adams said that Environment Minister Phil Hogan had made a ‘hames’ of the whole household charge initiative, and she asked why no bills had been sent out, even to those that had not yet made payment.
Cllr Martin Keane became untypically irate and demanded to know what people ‘who just cannot afford to pay it’ are supposed to do. He had a swipe at Mayo County Council’s senior management, demanding to know what the money would be spent on, before answering his own question by stating, ‘the manager and officials off to the States, that’s what.’
Cllr Myles Staunton took umbrage at this and rebuked Cllr Keane, calling his words a ‘cheap shot’, while Cathaoirleach Ollie Gannon said it was not right to go down the road of criticising people that were not present. Cllr Staunton went on to say that he believed areas of the county that had paid more should not be punished in the same way as those that had paid less.
Town Manager Martin Keating said that the council had begun contacting some households in relation to the charge, where their databases had showed an outstanding liability. He said the household charge is a self-declaration collection and there are no waivers for it, though he said some people would be exempt from paying it. He said there are criteria and rules governing the charge and the council have staff to deal with queries on it.
MORE than 10,000 Mayo homeowners face potential legal action after failing to pay the household charge. n July, Mayo County Council had been threatened with cuts of €2.57 million from the Local Government Fund (LGF) if it did not improve collection rates of the charge. At that stage, the collection rate in Mayo was 63 per cent, but county manager Peter Hynes told a special meeting of Mayo County Council that as of yesterday (Monday) the figure now stands at 68.5 per cent. He said that a cut to the LFG would be “catastrophic” and noted that €641,589 was already deducted from the third quarter payment due to the council.
Following meetings with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Minister Phil Hogan, the council have been told that if the collection rate reaches 75 to 80 per cent the Local Government Fund will be paid in full.
Referring to information obtained in a Freedom of Information request, Cllr Durcan told a special budget meeting of Mayo County Council that County Manager Peter Hynes had claimed expenses in 2011 totalling €22,390. He said that the county manager was the only official to claim expenses over €20,000 while two council employees made claims over €15,000, 25 claimed over €10,000 and 255 claimed over €5,000. In total, the expense claims amounted to a staggering €3.2m for 2011.
Cllr Durcan also drew attention to a claim by one council employee for €35.45 following purchases in a Castlebar pub.
Labour Party Castlebar town councillor Harry Barrett was the only member of either Mayo County Council or Castlebar Town Council to oppose a notice of motion in relation to abortion put before both councils this week. Independent Cllr Frank Durcan who sits on both of the local authorities put forward a notice of motion to both councils stating “that the members resolve, in keeping with the will of the Irish people as emphatically expressed in the referendum of 1983, to oppose any form of legalisation of abortion under any circumstances”.
At Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council the motion was passed unanimously without a dissenting voice from any of the members. However when the motion came before Castlebar Town Council on Tuesday evening, Cllr Barrett expressed his opposition to the motion. He told the meeting that, “I have a major problem with this motion. In the A, B and C v Ireland case that was taken to the European Court of Justice in 2010, it was found that Irish law breached the human rights of C, who was a cancer patient and her life was under threat because of the pregnancy. There is also an expert group that is part of the programme for Government that will report on this soon.” The expert group was set up to see what action should be taken after the decision of the ECJ in 2010 and following the X-case from 1992.
Mayo County Council is ‘extremely dissatisfied’ that noise from the Corrib gas project exceeded the permitted levels this summer, and it says it has taken ‘more robust’ measures to prevent it from happening again.
Residents close to Corrib gas site at Glengad complained of ‘unbearable’ noise coming from the site over the June Bank Holiday weekend during hydro-testing works carried out by Shell EP Ireland. Despite the complaints, Mayo County Council officials at the time said they had ‘no issue’ with the noise levels. However, they were left red-faced when a Department of Environment report confirmed that there were noise-level breaches on June 3 and 4.
At last week’s month meeting of the Belmullet Electoral Area Committee, Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh expressed her concern that no member of Mayo County Council was on site to monitor the noise levels and deal with the public’s concern.