PRESS RELEASE, 18 January 2010
Human rights organisation Afri is calling for a suspension of all work on the Corrib gas project in Erris, County Mayo, pending an independent and comprehensive investigation of its safety, human rights, economic and environmental dimensions. Afri is asking people to sign a petition to that effect, which will be delivered to the government next month. The petition will be launched by former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday in Buswells Hotel at 11.30 on Monday January 18th.
Afri chairperson Andy Storey noted that “local people oppose the project because of the dangers it poses to their health and safety, and the way in which the policing of the project has violated their human rights. People throughout Ireland have also objected to the project on the grounds that Shell and its associates are reaping the full benefits of this gas find while the Irish people – the true owners of the resource – are left with almost nothing.”
On health and safety, Mr Storey pointed to An Bord Pleanála’s recent rejection of the proposed route for the gas pipeline as ‘unacceptable’ on safety grounds, and that there had been a failure to ‘present a complete, transparent and adequate demonstration that the pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public.’ “The legitimate health and safety concerns of local residents have thus been vindicated”, said Mr Storey.
Benny McCabe, who has been working as a human rights monitor for Afri in Mayo noted that 75% of complaints against the Gardaí over policing of the project were recently deemed credible by the Garda Ombudsman Commission. But he went on to point out that only one finding has been made against the Gardaí and even that has not been acted upon by the Commissioner. Furthermore, Mr McCabe said it was a “cause of concern that the investigation of the majority of these complaints has been vested by the Ombudsman Commission in local Garda superintendents who invariably find in favour of their colleagues”. Afri is calling for the proposed independent investigation to prioritise a review of the security and policing operation. “In 2009, we saw the savage beating of peaceful protestor Willie Corduff and the sinking of the boat of another peaceful protestor, Pat O’Donnell; the situation is so grave that lives may well be lost unless these incidents and others are properly and urgently investigated”, said Mr McCabe, who also argued that, ultimately, a full inquiry along the lines of the Morris investigation into Garda behaviour in Donegal may be required.
On the economic concerns, Mr Storey claimed that the savage public expenditure cutbacks now being implemented could be avoided if the government took a proper shareholding in the Corrib gas field and in other Irish natural resources. “We are giving away hundreds of millions of euros to multinational companies at a time when our health, education and other services are being decimated”, Mr Storey said.
Amongst those who have already signed the petition are broadcaster Vincent Browne, Senator David Norris, Aengus O Snodaigh TD; and a number of artists, including Jim Fitzpatrick, Rita Ann Higgins, John Arden, Louis De Paor and Lelia Doolin.
The petition is available at http://petitions.contact.ie/content/suspend-work-corrib-gas-project-pending-full-investigation