There were 58 conditions attached to the ABP decision, in addition to conditions attached to the other two permits, and the pre-commencement elements of these are being worked through prior to the start of construction work. Included among the ABP conditions was a Community Gain Investment Fund of €8.5m to be paid by Shell and administered by Mayo County Council.

The tunnel project and associated works to construct the landfall valve installation at Glengad and connect the offshore pipe to the Bellanaboy terminal will create a significant number of jobs in Erris over the next 24 to 30 months. Full details of the numbers to be employed on this key phase of the project, and of the contracts to be awarded, will be finalised in the coming months.

At 4.9km, the tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay will be the longest tunnel in the country. It will have an inside diameter of 3.5m and will run under the bay at depths of between 5.5 and 8.5m. The construction method involves the use of a tunnel boring machine (TBM) and precision pre cast concrete segments will be used to line the tunnel.

Announcing the decision to grant the permission, ABP stated the development “would help safeguard the energy security of the State, would benefit the Western region of Ireland, would not seriously injure the amenities of the area, would not be prejudicial to public health or to public safety and would not be likely to have significant effects on the environment.”

Welcoming the decision, Mr Terry Nolan, Shell E&P Ireland Limited’s Managing Director, said he hoped ABP’s thorough examination of the application and subsequent endorsement of it would allow people to feel their concerns have been fully addressed. “We are committed to working positively with the local community throughout the construction period and thereafter,” said Mr Nolan.

“The decision from ABP means the Corrib Gas Partners can focus on completing this strategically important project and delivering the gas to Ireland. At peak production, Corrib gas will supply up to 60% of Ireland’s natural gas needs and will play an important role in Ireland’s energy security in the years ahead,” he added.

The ABP decision is the subject of judicial review proceedings brought in the High Court by An Taisce and two local residents. The proceedings are due to come before the Commercial Court in October.