Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin anger at jailing of people trying to protect natural Irish resources

1 July, 2005

Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has called for the immediate release of five men arrested because they were trying to halt the laying of a potentially dangerous gas line through their lands. The five men were sent to prison yesterday after they refused to give assurances that they would not obstruct work on their lands.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The Corrib gas field is a natural resource that could and should be developed for the benefit of everyone on this island. It must be developed in a way that is both safe and environmentally sustainable.

"These five men have legitimate concerns regarding the threat to safety that this pipeline may pose. They should be released without delay and there should be a complete halt to all work at the site until an independent safety assessment has been carried out and published.

"This group of men are part of a wider campaign in North West Mayo that successfully fought off three of the world‚s biggest oil and gas companies, who occupied Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 'headquarters in Dublin on Monday' to secure a meeting between themselves and the Minister.

"They have courageously tried to bring attention to the situation that has seen one of our key natural assets, that should be playing a key role in the development of the merging all-Ireland energy market, taken into private ownership and exploited.

"Both Fianna Fail and the PD‚s need to answer serious questions about why they allowed the national resource of Gas at Corrib to be given away with no apparent gain to the Irish nation, with severe environmental hazards to local people. The handling of this issue is a matter of concern for everyone in Ireland because the loss of such a key resource will effect people right across the island." ENDS

Note to Editors

Local landowners have successfully fought, over the past five years, a battle to stop the Shell led consortium experiment with a new, untried and they believe highly dangerous method, which puts their lives at risk and promises to destroy their environment, to process the raw Corrib Gas onshore - not as is the established custom, to process at sea, and only draw in the cleaned and processed gas at reasonably low pressures.

The technology that Shell wants to test for use will reduce its capital costs by €360 million, and its operating costs by 40% per annum. It would require a rigid and fixed gas pipeline through bog land, which is estimated to be between 70 and 90% water, where the raw gas is under huge pressures of 2 ton per square metre - around 400 times the normal pressure in the national grid gas pipeline.

The sale of the Corrib gas field was initiated by former Irish government Minster Ray Burke and finalised in 1992, giving away the national rights to this huge gas reserve, (estimated between 3 and 7 trillion cubic feet of gas), at a minimum taxation rate of 25%, which could be written off against costs, zero royalties, and an agreement that Bord Gais would finance the pipeline of the gas from Ballinaboy to the grid and interconnector.

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