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Irish Independent: Shell pushed to set Rossport protesters free

Irish Independent: Shell pushed to set Rossport protesters free

“Oil company welded together 3km of pipeline without State’s consent”: “Labour party leader Pat Rabbitte said yesterday that Shell’s admission that it breached regulations provided a window of opportunity to end the dispute which saw the Mayo men jailed for contempt.”

Monday 25 July 2005

Oil company welded together 3km of pipeline without State’s consent

SHELL is today under pressure to apply to lift the injunction which put five protesters behind bars, after it emerged the oil company had welded together at least 3km of pipeline without government consent.

Labour party leader Pat Rabbitte said yesterday that Shell’s admission that it breached regulations provided a window of opportunity to end the dispute which saw the Mayo men jailed for contempt.

Meanwhile, the Green party has called for an emergency meeting this week of the Dail committee for communications, marine and natural resources to ask the Government to explain why it failed to monitor Shell’s activities in Belmullet more closely.

Noel Dempsey, Minister for Natural Resources, wrote to Shell on Saturday, ordering the company to explain its unauthorised works – which back up the claims made by the “Rossport Five”.

Each stage of work at the site must be approved in advance by the department and Shell admitted a “technical breach” when government officials last week found that a 3km stretch of pipeline from the Corrib gas terminal site was welded together without permission.

Mr Rabbitte said Shell now had an opportunity to end the dispute with the Mayo men by telling the court it wanted to waive the order it had got to stop their continued protests.

“And there is a second reason why they should do that – there is no work going on, so no material benefit for the company while the review is under way, and therefore it would allow a mediator to be established,” he said. A mediator could work through a process that would resolve the “bigger issue of health and safety.”

Mr Rabbitte said it was regrettable that the five men had spent almost a month in jail before the minister sent his inspectors to establish that their claims of unauthorised work were correct.

And the Green party called on Mr Dempsey and his department to explain their management of the Corrib gas pipeline following the latest revelations of unauthorised work.

Green Party energy spokesperson Eamon Ryan said “It is clear the department has serious questions to answer concerning its failure to ensure that conditions stipulated as part of its consent to Shell were properly observed.”

Helen Bruce

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