Given the significance of the Corrib gas project to the Irish economy and the highly controversial nature of the way it has been carried out so far it beggars belief that severe criticism of the project from no less a person than a former Norwegian oil company board member does not get front page billing in The Irish Times. On the 12th of July another of Lorna Siggins’ scrupulously accurate pieces about Corrib was once again buried in the paper despite the importance of its content.
Could your muted coverage be explained by Managing Editor, Peter Murtagh’s documented hostility towards the local people who oppose the project for all the reasons identified by Mr Stein Bredal? When an experienced oilman observes that just about everything is wrong with the project – from the location of the pipeline and refinery to the terms on which the deal was done this is big news indeed. Mr Bredal also refers to the tried and trusted tactic of oil and gas companies who set out to manipulate the media to act against local communities by accusing them of being ‘crazies and fundamentalists’. This is exactly what has happened in much of the Irish media in relation to Corrib, with Mr Murtagh being among those most willing to lead the charge against people under enormous stress, including many incidences of physical assault and, according to Pat O’ Donnell, the threatened use of guns. Two men are now scandalously in jail on dubious charges for opposing the Corrib project on entirely legitimate grounds – both of them caricatured by the media exactly as Mr Bredal describes.
Of course Peter Murtagh is by no means alone. Pat Kenny for RTE, for example, has marked him every inch of the way in helping to promote a mountain of widespread media inaccuracies about the protest such as claiming that the pipe in Mayo is no different to the domestic pipes that are under the streets of Dublin. In fact the pipeline in Mayo would be running at up to five times the pressure and will contain volatile, untreated gas close to some people’s homes – allowing them just 30 seconds of life in the event of a rupture. I wonder what the story would be if the pipeline and refinery were located outside their own front doors or in whatever no doubt leafy suburb or satellite of Dublin they live in? Is there any siginificance in the fact that Shell Oil’s most senior PR representative in Ireland, Mr John Egan, was previously an RTE reporter, well known to his former colleagues and friends in the small world that is the Irish media?
The IMF have just ordered Brian Lenihan to discover another E3.5bn from the wages of Irish people but still no editorial from the Editor of Ireland’s paper of record calling for a root and branch reappraisal of our disgraceful oil and gas licensing terms though we so desperately need it. Meanwhile, Mr Connor Lenihan has confidently announced that there could not be a BP/Gulf of Mexico type of disaster in Irish waters. If ever The Fates were tempted, they surely were by that.
And I will eat my hat if this letter is actually published.