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Irish Times: Corrib work by Shell suspended after protests

Irish Times: Corrib work by Shell suspended after protests

18 June 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Shell E&P Ireland has suspended further attempts to gain access to lands in north Mayo for its Corrib gas field onshore pipeline, following protests this week by a group of landowners.

The multinational said it was considering “the options open”, including possible further recourse to the courts. In a statement, the company said that the protests on Wednesday evening in Rossport and Gortacragher represented “the third occasion” on which it had been “met with obstruction from this group”.

The landowners and objectors were “in contempt of a High Court ruling prohibiting them from disrupting Shell E&P Ireland’s pipeline preparatory work”, the company claimed following legal proceedings which it took in April.

Shell had “all the necessary ministerial orders and authority” to carry out preparatory work for the onshore pipeline linking the terminal at Bellanaboy to the gas field offshore, but “unfortunately these attempts were again obstructed by a small group of local landowners and objectors”.

The company confirmed that the local gardaI were present and that exchanges were “peaceful”. It is understood that the Garda took names during the protests.

The group of landowners had issued an unsuccessful legal challenge to Shell’s right to gain access to the lands, primarily due to concerns over health and safety issues.

The high-pressure pipeline is outside the remit of the Health and Safety Authority.

It emerged last month that “independent” consultants hired by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to review the safety aspects were part-owned by the project’s major shareholder, Shell.

The Minister has ordered another “independent” evaluation of the safety aspects of the pipeline and has suspended final approval to install and commission it until this is carried out. However, two Mayo TDs, Dr Jerry Cowley (Independent) and Michael Ring (Fine Gael) have called on Mr Dempsey to insist that the terminal is built offshore.

Dr Cowley said yesterday that he was “with the landowners” in relation to their concerns, and said that Shell should be asked to “pack up and go” if it was not prepared to pay for an offshore terminal.

“I would urge the Minister to be courageous and take a stand,” he said.

“The penny is dropping now in Mayo that benefits from this whole project are going to be very limited.

“A social service would employ more people than this multinational is promising in the area, and there is no guarantee that any town in Mayo is going to see any of this gas,” Dr Cowley added.

Shell E&P Ireland said it had “undertaken numerous efforts to reach agreements with this small number of landowners for access arrangements” and regretted that a “minority” were unable to accept that the company had consents from the Department of the Marine to begin the work.

Access and compensatory arrangements had been agreed with a majority of landowners in the area, it said.

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