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Irish Independent: Shell and locals disagree over ‘constructive dialogue’

Irish Independent: Shell and locals disagree over ‘constructive dialogue’

“Deputy Joe Higgins accused Shell of “systematic bullying” of the local community.”

Saturday 2 July 2005

SUPPORTERS of five men jailed over their objections to a gas pipeline in Mayo have accused Shell of ‘spin’ after it said that offers to meet for discussions had been spurned.

The multi-national said yesterday it had no intention of withdrawing from Mayo or stopping its Corrib operations. Up to 1,000 people would be employed on the project next year.

It said that it remained available for “constructive dialogue” with the objectors and their families.

However, a supporter of the jailed men said yesterday that Shell’s idea of constructive dialogue was about getting one or two people behind closed doors.

“Shell have refused to have any debate in public. We are not willing to be part of any deal done behind closed doors,” said Maura Harrington, a school principal from Erris.

“The only reason they want to talk about it behind closed doors is because they know that what they are doing is shameful.”

There were emotional scenes outside the High Court yesterday as dozens of supporters cheered on three of the jailed men who appeared in relation to other issues.

Shell said in a statement it had at all times attempted to fully address the concerns of the group “who have continually obstructed” the Corrib project.

It insisted the project had been through one of the most exhaustive public processes and has been fully endorsed by the relevant authorities.

Mayo deputy Michael Ring said Shell should cease all operations until a court hearing in October.

Deputy Joe Higgins accused Shell of “systematic bullying” of the local community.

The Green Party asked why Shell had not published in full a Quantified Risk Assessment (QRA) on the pipeline which was presented to the Government in 2002. It also queried whether the company had consent for the pipe-laying and planning permission for a compound to facilitate the laying.

A spokesperson for the company said that the QRA was with the Department of Marine and Natural Resources and it was being independently verified.

The company expected to be granted consent to lay the pipeline and there was nothing to stop it engaging in preparatory work. The compound was exempt from planning.

Ben Quinn

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