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Irish Independent: New crisis as Corrib pipeline opponents shun talks

Feb 02, 2006
Tom Shiel
A 900m project to bring gas ashore from the Corrib Field was plunged into further crisis yesterday.
It followed the decision of the Rossport Five to withdraw from a mediation process claiming that a Government minister was interfering in the talks.
The men, who spent 94 days in jail for contempt of court last year arising from their opposition to an onshore pipeline, said Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey was involved in continued and direct interference with the mediation process.
They alleged that Mr Dempsey was instructing Government-appointed mediator, Peter Cassells, to source information on other gas projects in the country instead of confining his role to talks with Shell and the Rossport group.
But last night Mr Dempsey denied any interference and claimed that concerns about the safety of the project and what may happen in the future had been raised with him by local people.
In that context Mr Cassells, former Ictu general secretary, had spoken to him to see what the Government was doing and how these concerns might be met.
“I don't know how anybody could come to the conclusion that this process was going to be between five men in Rossport, Peter Cassells and Shell,” Mr Dempsey said.
Mr Cassells also called on the Rossport Five to return to talks.
He said that Mr Dempsey insisted he had made it clear from the start that he would request updates on the negotiations.
“Obviously as part of the mediation process it was necessary and clearly understood that these issues would be conveyed to me and that Mr Cassells would brief me on people's concerns,” said Mr Dempsey.
The mediator had sought a meeting with the five men to clarify their position and discuss the next stage of the mediation process, he said.
Defending the five men's withdrawal from the mediation process yesterday, Dr Mark Caravan, spokesman for the Shell to Sea protest campaign, said what happened did not constitute mediation.
The Rossport Five, Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath, Willie Corduff and Micheal O Seighin, allege that Mr Dempsey had continually contacted Mr Cassells and had publicly warned him there was limited time to achieve a resolution.
In a statement yesterday Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) urged all parties to support meaningful dialogue.
The company expressed disappointment at the Rossport men's withdrawal from talks but agreed, however, with their statement that “meaningful mediation is the way forward”.

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