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Monday, October 16, 2006

Nimby Syndrome in Mayo as CAP cheques are put in post for Rossport Gas Protesters


We all want to have our cake and eat it. Modern life would come to a standstill if the legions of Nimbies (NIMBY - not in my backyard) got their way.

The problem in recent times is that the cocktail of interests that are usually present in NIMBY cases - self-interest, ignorance and stupidity combined with media interest - has resulted in a situation, where members of the public who are not from the area of focus at a particular time, have great difficulty in developing an informed opinion on a specific case.

Residents in North Dublin don't want a prison and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell who wants it, opposes an incinerator in his constituency in South Dublin. Environment Minister Dick Roche doesn't want a big dump in his Wicklow constituency but it's fine to site it just north of Wicklow in Dublin. In Cork, where there are many pharma operations, people don't want an incinerator but it's OK to ship the waste to India. There's also an issue about electricity wires.

I remember marvelling at the sight of members of the voluntary muttawa - Committee for Preventing Vice and Promoting virtue - in Jeddah, alighting from a large American air-conditioned SUV to hassle women for not covering their heads. I would have had some respect for them if they had dismounted from camels as there would be have been some consistency in their endeavours.

I thought of the muttawa, when mobile phone users protested in County Galway about plans to put a mobile phone mast on a Radio na Gaeltachta transmitter that had been there for several decades. For all they knew, the radio signals from the main mast may have been potentially more damaging.

So what are we to make of the opposition in Mayo to the piping ashore of gas to an onshore terminal?

There is again the political self-interest present, as independent T.D. Dr. Gerry Cowley has seen an opportunity of jumping on a passing bandwagon. Another local T.D. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, has resisted such pressure.

Keeping the issue of the very generous 1989 exploration license terms separate, the issue of safety is present in many situations.

How many encounter full petrol tankers on the roads everyday? I saw somewhere recently that 40% of our electricity generation depends on gas piped from Scotland. Kinsale gas was piped from near Kinsale on the south coast to Dublin but if it had to be put miles from every house, how practical would it have been to build a pipeline?

Safety of course should be paramount in the Corrib project situation, but is delivery of gas into your home any more dangerous than having a pipeline near it?

Some of the farmers were apparently unhappy with the money on offer from Shell for transit through their lands.

Some German and Dutch workers who fund the Common Agricultural Policy that has resulted in cheques being put in the post today for farmers in Rossport and elsewhere, live in cities where there is seldom much choice for the lower-paid as to the proximity to danger such as port terminals and so on.

It's reported that local businesses in the Rossport area, are getting visits from protest organisers with requests to refuse to provide goods or services to the project. The intimidation could not be compared with what existed in the North but anyone from rural Ireland and in particular Mayo where the infamous Captain Boycott had lived, knows that the business folk haven't exactly a democratic choice.

The campaign of ostracisation of Boycott in 1880 is said to have become a cause célèbre in the British press, with newspapers sending correspondents to the West of Ireland to highlight what they viewed as the victimisation of a servant of a peer of the realm by Irish peasants.

The peasants are no more thanks to the European Union and US investment. It's not clear what the exact cocktail of motives are, that are feeding the present campaign. The issue of safety has been addressed following the acceptance by the Government of the advice of international experts.

The protesters no longer have to worry about emigration, the CAP cheque is in the post and meantime, who takes risks to supply them with electricity, even gas from Scotland and other modern contraptions such as mobile phones?