New Shell campaign aims to allay fears


Shell E&P Ireland has initiated a new public relations campaign to allay safety fears over the €900 million Corrib gas project, with a "programme of dialogue" this week with local stakeholders in Mayo.

Based on feedback from this, the company will decide on "the most appropriate form of public information giving and the most effective form of wider engagement", it said yesterday. The objective is to "fully address the genuine fears of local landowners", it said.

Advertisements seeking people's views on the project have already been placed in Mayo newspapers, but the company has rejected the latest appeal - from Labour Party president Michael D Higgins - to lift the injunction on the Mayo landowners opposed to the pipeline, even though it is not currently working on it.

The company said at the weekend that it had "done everything it could" to "create the conditions in which the objecting landowners could purge their contempt of court, including suspending all pipeline works and standing down 219 workers". It intended to "use this period of calm" to "address people's genuine fears", it said.

Speaking at a rally in Galway organised by Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind) at the weekend, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins called for the immediate withdrawal of the injunction, and said that it was "simply outrageous" that the five men remained in prison.

The High Court injunction was "in itself a contempt of the legal process as it was secured on the basis of false information", Mr Higgins told the rally at the Spanish Arch which was attended by an estimated 1,500 people.

When the Dáil resumes, Labour intends to press for a full review of management of Ireland's oil and gas natural resources, including changes made by Fianna Fáil ministers to the 1975 strategy established by former industry and commerce minister Justin Keating, Mr Higgins said. This commitment was made late last week by Labour's marine spokesman Tommy Broughan.

Mr Keating's strategy had included a 50 per cent State shareholding in any discovery, royalties of 6 per cent to 7 per cent and a 50 per cent tax rate, Mr Higgins said. Currently there are no royalties, no State shareholding and corporation tax of 25 per cent.

Spouses of the five men who are now facing into their seventh week in Cloverhill Prison expressed thanks for the support they were receiving. "What we're doing isn't just for Mayo, it's for the whole country," Mary Corduff, wife of farmer Willie Corduff, said to loud applause.

Maura Harrington of the Shell to Sea campaign said that "the counterspin has started", and this was the only reason that Shell had agreed to suspend its work.