Fahey wants political consensus on Corrib field


The Minister of State for Labour Affairs, Mr Frank Fahey, aims to forge a "western consensus" on the Corrib gas field development in the wake of last week's ruling by An Bord Pleanála.

The Minister has invited all serving Oireachtas members in the western and north-western region to a meeting in the Dáil next Wednesday.

The Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West was minister for the marine during key stages in the planning and development of the Corrib field, 75 kilometres off the Mayo coast.

"I want to see if we can create a political consensus on this issue, because we can't afford to lose this vitally important project," Mr Fahey said.

Royal Dutch Shell, owner of the project's main developer, Enterprise Energy Ireland, needed to know that "the vast majority of people in the west of Ireland want this project to go ahead", he told The Irish Times.

If such a consensus exists, Mr Fahey said that he would propose that a delegation of west-based TDs and senators seek a meeting with Royal Dutch Shell.

"We would be appealing to the company not to abandon this development, and suggest that they look at lodging a new planning application which would comply with the conditions set by Mayo County Council and An Bord Pleanála."

Enterprise Energy Ireland (EEI), said last week that it was "reviewing" the €800 million Corrib gas field project, following Wednesday's An Bord Pleanála ruling which rejected permission for its proposed terminal in north Mayo. Reacting to the decision, Mr Fahey said that if the project didn't go ahead, it would have a severe impact on development in the west.

While the EEI expressed disappointment, it declined to comment on speculation about its future involvement with the Corrib gas field.

It had vehemently denied a press report last month which suggested that it might pull out of Corrib altogether if An Bord Pleanála gave approval but attached conditions that were "too onerous".

Mr Fahey said that he had discussed the ruling with experts, and believed that the board's decision was based on a "technicality" - as in the risks posed by the transferred peat which would be excavated from the site at Bellanaboy in Erris. "I have looked at the report by consultant, Mr David Ball, which examined this issue for An Bord Pleanála and I think that Shell could address it."

He said he did not think that the company should look at another site for the terminal - or construct a shallow terminal, as suggested in the inspector's report.

"An Bord Pleanála overruled its inspector in relation to concerns about two major issues - health and safety and visual amenity.

"The only problem was the storage of peat," he said.

Apart from elected party colleagues in the west and in Donegal, Mr Fahey's invitation has also been issued to Fine Gael deputies and senators, the Labour TD, Mr Michael D. Higgins, and the west's two independent TDs, Ms Marian Harkin of Sligo-Leitrim and Dr Jerry Cowley of Mayo.