The State and Shell have lost their bid to stop two Mayo citizens pursuing High Court claims as to whether a ministerial consent given eight years ago for the Shell gas pipeline is valid. The decision was welcomed by Cllr Harry Barrett. Judge Laffoy ruled last week that Brendan Philbin and Bríd McGarry were allowed to have that issue and other public law claims ruled on by the court.
Brendan Philbin and Bríd McGarry asked whether the consent of the Minister for Natural Resources of April 2002 for the gas pipeline was valid. They also challenged the constitutionality of provisions of the Gas Act 1976 under which the consent was provided.
However the State and Shell had asked Judge Laffoy to rule that the residents were out of time to bring claims for orders quashing ministerial consent and various compulsory purchase orders over certain lands acquired for the pipeline, including lands of Mr Philbin. The court ruled that while the reliefs sought fell within the scope of the relevant court rules, the time limits set out in those rules did not apply in the circumstances of this case. Reacting to the judgment, Cllr Barrett said: “I am delighted that Brendan Philbin and Bríd McGarry will now have a chance to challenge the scurrilous decision to grant compulsory orders to a private company. It beggars belief that this was the first time in the history of the State that it was allowed to happen. And it is equally unbelievable that we have to rely on two private citizens to fight for the rights of the community all alone, with very little support from elected representatives.
“I am convinced that people in the county are beginning to realise that what has gone on in north Mayo, in the name of the State, has been an insult to democracy and the rights of the citizen under the Constitution. What is even more bizarre is that our elected Dáil representatives seem deaf, dumb, and blind to the issues surrounding the greatest natural resource the country has in their own constituency.”