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Irish Times: Cassells to be mediator in Corrib gas dispute: “Shell is still pursuing a permanent injunction against opponents of the onshore pipeline.”: Monday October 31, 2005


Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent


Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey has appointed former Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Peter Cassells to be the mediator in the Corrib gas dispute.


The development has been welcomed by the Shell to Sea campaign, which represents the five Co Mayo men who spent 94 days in prison over their opposition to the onshore pipeline.


No terms of reference have been published by the Minister, but it is expected that a date for an initial meeting between the men and Shell E&P Ireland will be set shortly.


Mr Cassells was one of five nominees submitted by the Minister to both Shell and the five Mayo men last week as part of his attempt to facilitate mediation.


The Minister has made it clear that he and his officials will not be a party to the talks, in spite of calls by the five men for the Department of the Marine to be directly involved.


Mr Cassells served as Ictu general secretary from 1989 to 2001 and stood unsuccessfully for the Labour Party in the 2004 European elections. He was one of the main architects of the social partnership agreements and is currently chair of the National Centre for Partnership and Performance.


The Minister described Mr Cassells at the weekend as a "very well respected figure in mediation and industrial relations in Ireland" and thanked the other four nominees for agreeing to have their names considered.


Mr Dempsey said it had been agreed that Mr Cassells would have access to, and support from, the Mediators' Institute of Ireland, and he expressed the hope that the mediation would "help to reach a solution which will be acceptable to all".


Shell E&P Ireland has said it is looking forward to the negotiations although it also stated on a number of occasions earlier this month that it had no plans to change the 900 million Corrib gas project.


The company says it will continue cutting the illegally-welded section of pipeline, as directed by the Minister, following Mr Dempsey's decision last Thursday not to defer his own order. As of October 27th, some 52 welds had been cut.


The request to have the ministerial order on de-welding deferred until a new safety review of the onshore pipeline had been published was made two weeks ago by the Pro-Erris Gas Group (PEGG). The group, which said it had the support of more than 40 national and local organisations and businesses, suggested that Shell could pay a sum of 250,000 to the north Mayo community by way of compensation for the illegal welding.


The suggestion aroused considerable anger among the five men and their supporters and members of a number of the groups named by PEGG as supporting it claimed that they had not been fully consulted.


Mr Dempsey said he accepted the bona fides of "those who suggested suspension of the cutting of the pipeline" but said that his direction to Shell should be adhered to "in order to preserve the integrity of the regulatory regime".


A draft of the Minister's safety review is due to be published by Advantica consultants early in November and the five men are due back in the High Court to learn if they should be punished for their contempt of court. Shell is still pursuing a permanent injunction against opponents of the onshore pipeline.


In a related development, the Shell to Sea campaign has invited every African national in Ireland to attend an event in north Mayo on November 10th to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Nigerian writer and Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues. The campaign said that the Rossport community had been inspired by the Ogoni people in Nigeria and by their leader, who was executed with eight other activists on November 10th, 1995 for opposition to Shell's activities.


A mural of Mr Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues is being painted by local artists. The mural will be blessed by African ministers and local clergy and will be unveiled by African and local children.


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