Our full time Business Management and Travel students recently covered the topic of business ethics and corporate social responsibility and focused on the ongoing Shell to Sea campaign as a case study.  After watching the documentary ‘The Pipe’ as part of the their curriculum their tutor Anthony O'Malley and programme manager Darren Devereux arranged a field trip to the Peoples’ Forum 2014 ‘Community in a Corporate Imperium’ in the Inver Community Centre, Barr na Trá County Mayo.  This was a 1 day seminar for the local community who are standing up for their values and beliefs against Shell Ireland. Speakers on the day included Dr Laurence Cox, Leah Doherty, Eamon O’Brien and Maura Harrington. We left Heuston Station on Friday 21st November for Pollathomas, where we stayed in Kilcommon Lodge.

The students were lucky enough to stay in the same hostel as 2 of the guest speakers and they all shared stories over dinner. The following morning the group were given a full tour of the Ballinaboy area by Maura Harrington. This was a real eye opener for the students in terms of corporate social responsibility, or the lack there of.  At the Forum the residents were extremely welcoming and helpful to our students. In fact, students had the pleasure of speaking with inspirational people like Pat O Donnell.

The Corrib Gas Field is a reserve of natural gas situated 80 km off the west coast of County Mayo containing at least 1 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas. The Corrib Gas Project, directed by a consortium of companies led by Royal Dutch Shell, seeks to bring the gas ashore at Glengad in the Barrony of Erris in North West Mayo and to pump the unrefined gas 9km inland through an inhabited area to a refinery located on a boggy hill where it would be cleaned and depressurized for sale and export. The gas field was discovered in 1996 by Enterprise Oil, operating in a consortium with Saga Petroleum. Enterprise Oil drilled appraisal wells in 1998 and declared the field commercial in early 2001. In 1998 the Corrib Enterprise Oil consortium employed consultants to survey the Connacht coast to find a suitable place to bring the gas ashore. The Enterprise Consortium sought a site to build a gas terminal and in 2003 they purchased 400km2 of state forestry land from Coillte the state forestry agency.

The development concept which the Enterprise Oil Consortium had selected for the Corrib Gas was that of a land based refinery. Instead of processing the gas at sea, the consortium intends to pump high pressure raw gas to an unprecedented inland refinery where it would be processed for sale and consumption. The design concept of an inland refinery was drawn up to facilitate the further exploitation of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas reserves. No other development models were meaningfully explored by the Corrib consortium, nor did the relevant government authorities ask the consortium to seriously examine other models. The main work on the ground began at the refinery site in spring 2005. Preparatory work began at the and attempts were being made to stake out the route of the pipeline.

All the problems regarding environmental and community concerns result from the refinery location. A recent petition of the 1200 Kilcommon residents clearly showed that the majority do not support the project in its current form. Even Shell's Andy Pyle has admitted that 'this project cannot proceed without local consent'. But we are not against the gas and its not too late to explore the solutions that have so far being ignored. Refining the gas at Ballinaboy is utterly senseless on so many levels. The words of An Bord Plenala's Senior Planning Inspector, Kevin Moore, ring true now more than ever : 'This is the wrong site'.

The college would like to thank Maura Harrington for helping organise the trip. McGrath’s Coaches for their transport, Francis O Donnell for the signed copies of his book, Dr. Laurence Cox and Eamon O’Brien for sharing their knowledge and Betty in Kilcommon Lodge for providing us with wonderful accommodation.

On Friday 30th January there will be an exhibition of photos and statements looking at experiences challenging the Corrib Gas project, Co Mayo, at Comhlamh, 12 Parliament St, Dublin 2.  Previously exhibited in Mayo, this is the first time this exhibition has come to Dublin.