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Irish Times: Shell and councillors in talks over gas pipeline impasse

Irish Times: Shell and councillors in talks over gas pipeline impasse

“While Shell had “taken significant steps to create an atmosphere in which the men could see the merit of dialogue and are pleased that they have agreed to pursue this path”, Mr Pyle said the company had to “preserve” its “legal position in relation to the authorised construction of the onshore pipeline and the protection of our staff from unlawful interference”.

Saturday August 20, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Shell E&P Ireland says it is working with Mayo County Council’s cathaoirleach, Fine Gael councillor Henry Kenny, to seek a solution to the current impasse over the Corrib gas project.

The cathaoirleach and Fine Gael’s whip, Cllr Paddy McGuinness, intend to meet the five Mayo men in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin, next Wednesday, to try and secure their release. The men, who are opposed to the pipeline on health and safety grounds, have now spent 52 days in prison.

Shell has also outlined for the first time why it is refusing to lift the injunction imposed on the landowners who are opposed to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline. And in a separate development, the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (ATGWU) has called for the men’s immediate release.

Shell confirmed yesterday that it met Mayo County Council cathaoirleach Cllr Henry Kenny and Cllr McGuinness (FG) this week to discuss two issues – last week’s council meeting at which a Fianna Fail motion to direct the company to process gas offshore was voted down, and an open letter written by the five imprisoned men earlier this week.

In the letter, the men – Willie Corduff, Philip and Vincent McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Micheal O Seighin – offered to engage in dialogue with Shell if the court injunction was lifted.

However, the company said it could not lift the injunction and the matter was between the courts and the men.

Andy Pyle, Shell E&P Ireland’s chief executive, said yesterday he recognised that the men’s letter was a “very significant step in advancing dialogue between the parties”, and added that the company is working with Cllr Kenny on finding a resolution.

While Shell had “taken significant steps to create an atmosphere in which the men could see the merit of dialogue and are pleased that they have agreed to pursue this path”, Mr Pyle said the company had to “preserve” its “legal position in relation to the authorised construction of the onshore pipeline and the protection of our staff from unlawful interference”.

He added: “Nevertheless, as both sides have expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue, we would like to explore the common ground that clearly exists between us as a matter of urgency.”

In a statement, Cllr McGuinness said the meeting with the company had been very useful.

Spokesman for the five men Dr Mark Garavan said the first step towards dialogue lay with Shell, in that it must lift its court injunction. The Labour Party’s marine spokesman, Tommy Broughan, also reiterated his call yesterday on the company to collapse its injunction.

ATGWU chair Jimmy Kelly and Michael O’Reilly, the union’s regional secretary, called yesterday for the release of the five and also called on Shell to process the Corrib gas offshore. Mr Kelly and Mr O’Reilly issued their demand after meeting the men in prison yesterday.

Processing the gas offshore would cost Shell an extra 360 million, the union officials said.

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