Irish Times: Dempsey fails to break Shell pipeline impasse: “Minister for Marine Noel Dempsey's latest attempt to break the impasse over the Corrib gas field appears to have collapsed, with a refusal by Shell E&P Ireland to lift its court injunction against north Mayo residents opposed to the onshore pipeline.” Saturday Aug 06, 2005
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Minister for Marine Noel Dempsey's latest attempt to break the impasse over the Corrib gas field appears to have collapsed, with a refusal by Shell E&P Ireland to lift its court injunction against north Mayo residents opposed to the onshore pipeline.
A new offer by the Minister to appoint an intermediary to work between the residents and Shell was accepted yesterday by both sides, but the five men in prison said they could not deal with a mediator while still in jail as this would effectively render them as "hostages".
The five - Willie Corduff, Philip and Vincent McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Micheal O SeighIn - were jailed on June 29th after they refused to give undertakings not to obstruct the installation of the high-pressure gas pipeline.
They have called on the company to lift its injunction to allow them to purge their contempt of court and take up the Minister's offer of an intermediary.
The company told The Irish Times yesterday that the injunction would not be lifted.
In a separate but related development, Shell issued a response yesterday to the Minister's direction that it dismantle a 3km section of onshore pipeline welded without ministerial consent.
A company spokesman would not give details of the response.
Wives and supporters of the five men, along with Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind), staged a picket and sit-in at Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's constituency office in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday, after Mr Kenny was unable to meet them.
Dr Cowley said the injunction was the critical factor at this stage, rather than engaging in "public relations" over the offshore pipeline.
Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and the Shell to Sea campaign, visited two of the five, Mr O SeighIn and Mr McGrath, in Cloverhill Prison yesterday and described them as "in very good spirits". The men believed Shell should use the period during which it has suspended work offshore to "reconfigure the entire project to focus on safety, including constructing an offshore terminal", Dr Garavan said.
"The men are also calling on the Minister to make it clear that it is not acceptable that this project proceeds if the cost of its misfunctioning is death.
"They believe that the Minister should also direct Shell to drop its injunction against the landowners opposed to the pipeline, given that no work is currently taking place on the onshore section pending completion of the Minister's safety review," he added.
Consultants to carry out the new safety review of the onshore pipeline have not yet been appointed as the composition of the Minister's new high-level technical group to monitor all aspects of the Corrib project has still not been finalised, according to the Department of the Marine.
The group picketing Mr Kenny's constituency office yesterday were seeking a clarification of Mr Kenny's position on an offshore terminal for the Corrib field.
In a statement, Mr Kenny said he would be available to meet them from 7.30am on Monday, as he had engagements until then.
However, he said he would not meet Maura Harrington of the Shell to Sea campaign until she withdrew remarks made about him.
Welcoming Shell's decision to suspend work on the offshore pipeline on Thursday night, Mr Kenny had urged "the Rossport residents still held in Cloverhill Prison to reflect very seriously on this development and on whether they can most effectively contribute to the very important safety debate by returning to their community and families".
Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan welcomed the deferral of the offshore pipeline and called on Shell to conduct an "honest appraisal of alternative locations" for the gas refinery, including a possible Údaras na Gaeltachta site west of Belmullet.
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