From The Irish Independent
Published: Jul 14, 2006
AN INDEPENDENT mediator has admitted that months of negotiations about the controversial Corrib Gas pipeline have failed to produce any agreement.
Peter Cassells spent seven months trying to work out a solution between Shell Ireland and the Rossport Five, who spent 94 days in jail for their opposition to the pipeline.
Mr Cassells said that he was calling off the talks after concluding that his shuttle diplomacy between Shell’s Headquarters in Dublin and the protesters’ homes in Mayo was not going to work.
“Despite their best efforts, the parties to date have been unable to resolve the differences between them. I have also concluded, given the different positions on the project and the different approaches to mediation, that no agreement is likely in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Both Shell and the Rossport Four – the fifth member, Brendan Philbin, did not take part in the mediation process – have blamed each other for the collapse of the mediation process.
Mr Cassells, who is a former secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, was appointed as mediator last October by Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey.
He said that while both sides had co-operated, the issues involved were far more complex than wage negotiations.
“When it comes down to the question of whether the development is safe, particularly from the point of view of people and their families, it’s very difficult to deal with.”
He said he would be presenting a report to Mr Dempsey in two weeks, which would contain recommendations to break the impasse.
Since the dispute over the 1bn Corrib gas field project escalated last year, on-shore construction work has been at a standstill. However, Shell is currently using a rig off the coast of Mayo to carry out work on the gas well heads.
One of the Rossport Five, Vincent McGrath, said the end of the mediation process was disappointing but not surprising. He accused Shell of being blind to the needs of the local community.
“The Corrib gas project in its present configuration has run its course. What is therefore required is that the present plan of development for this project be set aside and a new one negotiated which would prioritise health, safety and community consent,” he said.
Shell Ireland, which has expressed regret for its role in jailing the Rossport Five, said it had never been able to discuss alternative routes.
“The objectors insisted that Shell committed to moving the terminal site (at Bellanaboy in North Mayo) before they would meet us face to face. This is unreasonable and unacceptable,” company chairman Andy Pyle said in a statement.