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Irish Times: Lawyers for Mayo men say safety review is ‘significant’

Irish Times: Lawyers for Mayo men say safety review is ‘significant’

“Mayo TJerry Cowley (Ind) has criticised the move, however, while welcoming the Minister’s direction to Shell to suspend all work on the pipeline route.”

Thursday July 14, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Legal representatives of the five north Mayo men imprisoned over their opposition to the Shell onshore gas pipeline have described as “significant” last night’s announcement of a new safety review by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey.

Mayo TJerry Cowley (Ind) has criticised the move, however, while welcoming the Minister’s direction to Shell to suspend all work on the pipeline route.

“Unless the Minister bites the bullet and directs that an offshore terminal be built, the safety concerns in north Mayo will not be met,” Dr Cowley said.

Mr Dempsey responded that there was no application in from Shell for an offshore terminal.

“If Shell wish to apply for an offshore terminal, that is their prerogative. I have to deal with reality,” he told The Irish Times.

Paraic Ferry, solicitor for four of the five Mayo men due to appear again in the High Court this morning, said the move was “significant”, and the men would have to give it “careful consideration”.

The five may argue that Shell’s agreement earlier this week to change the terms of the injunction it secured last April already alters its situation.

Last Monday Shell’s legal representatives told the High Court that the firm proposed to put in a proviso stating that pipeline work would only be carried out in accordance with ministerial consent under the 1976 Gas Act. To date the Minister has not given consent for installation and commissioning of the pipeline.

The men’s solicitors may argue that on the basis of this concession by Shell, they have no need to purge contempt for an order which is incorrect.

Legal representatives have indicated that the men are prepared to stay in prison, until their pipeline concerns are met.

The men’s families, and Mayo TDs Dr Cowley and Michael Ring (FG), have repeatedly called on the Minister for the Marine to direct that the company build an offshore terminal. Dr Cowley believes an independent safety and environmental audit of the entire €900 million Corrib gas project, including both pipeline and terminal, is also necessary.

He is seeking a review of the 1987 and 1992 Finance Act amendments that benefited oil and gas exploration companies working in Irish waters.

Representatives of the Shell to Sea campaign were among a group which handed in a letter of protest to the Norwegian embassy in Dublin yesterday. The letter is calling on the Norwegian government to intervene, through its association with Statoil, and ensure that safety concerns are met. Statoil is one of the shareholders in the gas project.

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