Erin Brockovich, the campaigner immortalised in an Oscar-winning film, today urged oil giant Shell to reroute a controversial gas pipeline in the west of Ireland.
The former legal clerk, who famously took on a massive power company accused of toxic leaks, gave her wholehearted support to the campaigners opposing the development in north Co Mayo.
Ms Brockovich said the pipeline must be relocated if it would negatively impact on local residents’ health or property, which is denied by Shell.
“There is no compromise when it comes to health and safety and Shell should respect that,” she said.
“If it is family land or some type of heritage land or preserved land, they’ve got to go around it.
“If a condition exists where a company like Shell needs to be in a location and there are residences you need to move them.”
Ms Brockovich was portrayed by actress Julia Roberts in the 2000 hit movie after she won a multi-million dollar legal battle against energy firm PG & E for families affected by contaminated water in a Californian town.
However the notoriously straight talker revealed she was confident a compromise could be reached between campaigners and Shell after discussing the matter with Environment Minister and Green Party leader John Gormley.
She also said a 10-day hunger strike by leading campaigner Maura Harrington was not the most effective way to reach a resolution.
Ms Harrington, a retired school principal, called off her drastic action today when a pipe-laying ship left Irish waters.
“I would want her to eat,” continued Ms Brockovich.
“I clearly understand it’s her way of making a very, very strong statement about something she feels strongly about, but I would want her to eat because we need to eat.”
The Shell to Sea demonstrators oppose attempts to lay a pipeline which will transport untreated and odourless gas from the Corrib gas field to an inland refinery because of health and environmental fears.
“I completely understand their concerns,” she said.
“I deal with issues in the United States where pipelines have been put in, they’ve leaked and created health problems.
“That is always a family’s concern, and they should be concerned and I’m glad that they are.
“Many people are in favour of progress but they’re not in favour of progress to the point where you degrade our environment and jeopardise our public health and safety.”
Ms Brockovich is in Dublin to speak about the benefits of eating organic food.
She will give a lecture at University College Dublin tomorrow as part of Glenisk Organic Dairy’s celebrations for National Organic Week.