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Irish Times: Memos show Shell talked of suing State

Irish Times: Memos show Shell talked of suing State

“Shell E&P Ireland discussed suing the State if the company failed to have opponents of the Corrib gas pipeline committed for contempt of court.”: “Mr Pyle “asked why not just have all of them committed”. His public relations manager Rosemary Steen “pointed out that from a public relations point of view this was not the best course of action”.

Tuesday 5 July 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Shell E&P Ireland discussed suing the State if the company failed to have opponents of the Corrib gas pipeline committed for contempt of court.

This emerges from memos contained in an exhibit attached to an affidavit issued by Shell to five Mayo residents opposed to the pipeline before a court hearing last week.

The memos recording discussions between Shell and its lawyers on several dates in June also indicate that company chief executive Andy Pyle wanted to have all the obstructing landowners “committed” for contempt of court, but was advised against this from a “public relations point of view”.

In discussions dated June 7th, 2005, relating to an injunction granted to the company on April 4th, concern is expressed about the “latitude” afforded to two of the landowners by the judge in court.

“Unless the trial judge (which is unlikely to be Finnegan P) [ Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, president of the High Court] is prepared to be much stricter in his control of the lay litigant defendants, then there exists the distinct possibility that the case will endure for much longer than the three week estimate,” the memo states.

Memos of June 8th and 10th refer to a risk that the company will prejudice its position if it does not go back to court “sooner rather than later”.

In a memo dated June 10th, Susannah Uglow of Shell’s Corrib onshore pipeline project steering committee stated “that there were two main reasons for the delay in the progress of works”.

One was the “delay in obtaining all the necessary consents for the pipeline installation works” and secondly “because they felt that it was important to make a conscious effort to meet and talk with the non-consenting parties”.

However, the company was advised by its solicitor that it would be “preferable to make an attempt now to enter the lands of the non-consenting landowners and decide whether we want to take matters a further step, ie to seek to have the landowners who continue to prevent access to their lands held in contempt”.

The company was advised in the June 10th memo that there was “no necessity to seek the committal of all of the defendants”, but Shell should “attempt to access all of the lands”. Mr Pyle “asked why not just have all of them committed”. His public relations manager Rosemary Steen “pointed out that from a public relations point of view this was not the best course of action”.

Also in the June 10th memo, Ms Uglow advised the group that she was speaking to Michael Daly of the petroleum affairs division within the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and was advised that they were expecting the new review of the quantified risk assessment (QRA) of the pipeline “next week”. The memo also states that the petroleum affairs division “did not want the original QRA made public until the consent on foot of the updated QRA has issued”.

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