Local community groups expressed their discontent with the Forum for North West Mayo at Belmullet on Friday with a press conference being disrupted by angry outbursts from local groups who were unhappy with the procedure of the behind-closed-doors, invite-only forum.
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív along with chairperson of the forum Mr Joe Brosnan addressed the media in the Broadhaven Bay hotel’s lobby, following the first meeting which facilitated dialogue on the Corrib Gas Project and socio-economic development in the region.
Minister Ryan said that “safety, environmental concerns and equitable dealings towards all will be my priorities” throughout this process and highlighted the development of natural resources which will “bring long-term and sustainable economic development to Mayo.”
Minister Ó Cuív said that the talks would be ongoing in order to find “common ground” which would “allow for the best outcome for Ireland, for Mayo and particularly for the Erris community”—acting within the legal constraints.
Exclamations from members of the public including those from opposition groups Pobal Chill Chomáin, Pobal le Chéile and Shell to Sea, such as “lies”, “not invited” and “not an open forum”, interrupted the ministers’ dealings, who replied to the irate crowd by telling them that if they want to raise these issues they should be raised in the forum.
Shell to Sea organised a separate forum on the day, a People’s Forum, which was open to the public, in order to discuss: building a refinery within the catchment area of a regional water supply; the imposition of Shell’s raw gas pipeline upon a non-consenting community; and the continued give-away of oil and gas to private companies.
According to the People’s Forum they want an independently agreed chairperson where the forum would address the Corrib controversy only and “would not be disingenuous in trying to link Shell's operations with local development which, in the opinions expressed at the People’s Forum, are mutually exclusive.”
The People’s Forum’s key message was how imperative it is for Shell and the Government to operate within the law.