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Irish Times: Review of gas pipeline plan set for tender in bid to end jail impasse

Irish Times: Review of gas pipeline plan set for tender in bid to end jail impasse

“Shell E&P, which plans to build the pipeline, has also given an undertaking to Mr Dempsey that no work will take place on the pipeline “for the present”.

Thursday July 14, 2005

Liam Reid and Lorna Siggins

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey is commissioning a new safety review of the controversial Corrib onshore gas pipeline in Co Mayo, in a bid to end the standoff which has seen five north Mayo residents in prison for contempt of court over the past fortnight.

Shell E&P, which plans to build the pipeline, has also given an undertaking to Mr Dempsey that no work will take place on the pipeline “for the present”. The company welcomed the Minister’s intervention last night, and said it hoped that it might lead to a situation where the five men got out of prison. “Only then can reasonable dialogue begin,” a company spokesman said.

The move follows contacts through an intermediary, Raymond O’Malley, between Mr Dempsey and the five protesters – which broke down on Monday night after they failed to reach an agreement on a variety of issues.

There has been no contact since then. The intermediary had indicated names of potential companies with relevant expertise to carry out the review, Mr Dempsey said. “Despite this and despite indicating my willingness to meet the five men if they purged their contempt, I received no agreement.” The review is to be put to tender today on the Government’s e-tenders website, with a closing date of July 29th, and Mr Dempsey told The Irish Times last night that he expected to have it completed by September.

A full court hearing of issues relating to the injunction secured by Shell against the residents last April is listed for October, but the Minister said his focus was solely on the safety issues, and not on what happened in court.

The consultants will be asked to carry out a “comprehensive health and safety review” and examine all documentation relating to the pipeline “and associated facilities” including the proposed gas terminal if deemed necessary.

They will be asked to conclude whether the installations are properly designed and constructed to meet all appropriate standards and regulations. However, the review stops short of analysing the case for an offshore terminal, as called for by the five men shortly after they were sent to prison two weeks ago.

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