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Emigrant Online (Ireland): Shell postpones all work on pipeline

Emigrant Online (Ireland): Shell postpones all work on pipeline

“The Minister urged the five to reconsider their stance in light of the new Shell decision.”: “Their spokesman said, however, that they would remain in prison until Shell abandoned its plans for an onshore terminal.”

Monday 8 August 2005

The Shell pipeline dispute in Mayo took an unexpected turn on Thursday when the company announced it would delay all work on the pipeline until next year, to “allow for a period of discussion and dialogue”, and to await the outcome of the safety review ordered by Minister for Natural Resources Noel Dempsey. It had been expected that Shell was about to start laying the 75km of pipeline on the seabed as the company had arranged for the world’s largest pipelaying vessel, the 285-metre Solitaire, to begin work on August 15. On Tuesday Mr Dempsey granted permission for the commencement of this work. His decision angered Shell’s opponents who saw it as further evidence that the Government was on the side of the oil giant.

In announcing the suspension of work, Shell Ireland’s Managing Director Andy Pyle made it clear that the company remains committed to building a land-based terminal in Mayo. He believed Shell would abandon the entire project if forced to build an offshore processing station. In a related development Mr Dempsey offered to appoint an intermediary to facilitate a fresh round of talks between the five jailed protesters and Shell. The Minister urged the five to reconsider their stance in light of the new Shell decision. He said the men should “reflect very seriously on this latest development and on whether they could most effectively contribute to the debate by returning to their community and families”. Their spokesman said, however, that they would remain in prison until Shell abandoned its plans for an onshore terminal.

Early in the week Minister Dempsey ordered Shell to dismantle three kilometres of pipeline in northwest Mayo. The gas pipeline had been welded together, although not buried, in advance of the necessary consent from the Minister’s office. Shell is seeking legal advice on this issue. The company must also decide what it will do with its 200 employees in the county now that the work is on hold.

A feature of the dispute is the growing animosity between independent TD Jerry Cowley and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who also represents the Mayo constituency. While Dr Cowley accuses Mr Kenny failing to give his wholehearted support to removing Shell from the scene, Mr Kenny accuses Dr Cowley of dividing the community and creating financial hardship for small family businesses. The latter is a reference to a call to boycott Shell and Statoil filling stations.

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