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Govt rules out mediator in Shell dispute

Ireland Online: Govt rules out mediator in Shell dispute

“Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey today faced a three-hour grilling on the issue…”: “Mr Dempsey also rejected claims that former ministers with responsibility for natural resources had any improper influence on awarding exploration contracts to oil giants like Shell.”

Tuesday 27/09/2005

The Government tonight ruled out hiring a mediator to break the deadlock in the Rossport Five dispute with Shell over an inshore gas pipeline.

The Co Mayo landowners were jailed in Cloverhill Prison in late June for ignoring a High Court order to stop blocking construction on the Corrib Gas Development Project.

Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey today faced a three-hour grilling on the issue before an often angry all-party Oireachtas Committee.

But Mr Dempsey ruled out a suggestion by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan to appoint a mediator to broker agreement between the Rossport Five and Shell executives.

“You have to have two sides that are willing to move somewhat but I have never seen any indication to that,” he said.

The minister remarked that Shell had compromised by halting work on the project but he had been told by spokespersons for the five landowners – who marked 91 days in prison today – that they wouldn’t talk as long as the men remained in their cells.

Mr Dempsey also rejected claims that former ministers with responsibility for natural resources had any improper influence on awarding exploration contracts to oil giants like Shell.

“The big bad wolf of former minister Ray Burke changing these terms and conditions has been raised on several occasions because it suits a particular argument,” he said.

“I have on record from the department officials that have dealt with this that no minister of any party has had any direct influence on changing the terms and conditions other than on the basis of the recommendations of officials within the department.

“No minister has interfered in any way over the years, and I would apply Minister [Michael] Lowry to that as well as anybody else.”

The Meath TD said he had done everything in his power to create the conditions whereby the five men could purge their contempt.

Co Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley said Mr Dempsey’s department had not inspired public confidence by its handling of the entire affair.

“I would ask the minister to lean on Shell to collapse the injunction. They’re not in Nigeria now,” he explained.

Local independent TD Beverly Flynn said a project as big as the Corrib Gas pipeline should not be allowed to monitor itself and also queried Coillte’s sale of land for the project to Shell in 2000.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan called on Mr Dempsey to ask Shell to collapse the injunction.

He also criticised the committee chairman for not convening a meeting of the body during the summer months to discuss the issue.

Mr Dempsey said of the project: “All the information I have is that it is safe to the highest international standards.”

A protest by supporters of the Rossport Five will greet the resumption of the new Dáil term tomorrow and a major national rally is also planned for central Dublin on Saturday.

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