SHELL to Sea campaigners say that the appointment of a Green Party energy minister offers a new opportunity to resolve the Corrib gas dispute.
Spokesman John Monaghan said that the campaign intends to seek an early meeting with the new Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, and hoped he would pay a return visit to Erris to review the situation.
When Shell’s engineering consultants, RPS, identify a new pipeline route for the Corrib gas project this autumn, applications for statutory approval will be sent to An Bord Pleanala and to Eamon Ryan who, as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, will over-see the controversial Corrib Gas project.
At their conference in February this year, the Greens adopted a resolution that, if in government, it would not sign a pipeline consent for the Corrib gas project until “a full, independent review” had been conducted. However, in an interview on RTE Radio One last week, Mr Ryan said that the party’s negotiators had not succeeded in winning this concession from Fianna Fáil during its coalition talks.
Over the past two years, Mr Ryan has been vocal about the dispute and the proposed onshore gas pipeline, often raising concerns at a national level.
Speaking in the Dáil in November 2005, he raised the question of the perceived independence of An Bord Pleanála: “The [An Bord Pleanala] 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.
Mr Ryan said that he had “serious concerns that the Government constantly took Shell’s side... throughout this process” and that the Taoiseach put “remarkable and untold pressure on An Bord Pleanála to accept the Government’s will”.
NUI Seanad candidate Dr Mark Garavan also welcomed Mr Ryan’s appointment and said that it “presents an ideal opportunity for a fresh and positive outlook to be taken to the conflict”.
“This conflict has gone on for far too long and urgently requires political leadership to resolve it. I hope that Eamon Ryan, who is familiar with the detail of the issue and has a track record of involvement in it, will prioritise the Corrib Gas conflict for immediate attention.”