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Irish Times: Cassells 'keen' to clarify role in Corrib row

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Feb 03, 2006
Former Ictu secretary-general Peter Cassells says he is “very keen” to clarify any confusion over his mediation of the Corrib gas field row, in the wake of this week's breakdown of talks in north Mayo.
However, the five Rossport men, who have suspended participation in the formal talks, have said that a clear discrepancy has emerged between Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey and Mr Cassells in relation to the mediator's role.
The five men, who had agreed to the Minister's offer of mediation between themselves and Shell after 94 days in prison last year, called yesterday on Mr Dempsey to stop interfering and “redefining the process agreed by Shell and ourselves”.
Responding to Mr Dempsey's statement on MidWest Radio this week that he never intended mediation to take place solely between the five men and Shell, the group referred to several statements to the contrary which Mr Dempsey had made on the subject last year.
In a speech to the Dail on October 4th – made four days after the five men were released from prison – Mr Dempsey said that he had “contacted both sides” (while the men were still in Cloverhill) “in an effort to break the impasse”.
He said he had “indicated to them that the Government would appoint a mediator if both sides were willing to participate in a mediation process”.
Mr Dempsey told the Dail he “then called on both parties to create conditions which would allow such a process to commence immediately” and was “glad to report to the House that both sides responded positively to my initiative”. This was a reference to Shell's decision on September 30th to lift its temporary injunction restraining interference with the pipeline.
Mr Cassells would not comment to The Irish Times on claims that Mr Dempsey had interfered. However, he said his understanding of mediation involved a number of elements, including formal mediation between Shell and the Rossport five and mediation with several other non-consenting landowners, including BrId McGarry and Monica Muller.
Mr Cassells said he was also consulting other landowners on the high-pressure pipeline route.
“They obviously have concerns about the pipeline and wider issues, and there were also rumours that a number of them had withdrawn their consent and so I had to find out if I should be mediating with them if they had.
“I was also expected to consult with the wider community.”
He added: “This wider consultation is effectively over and now we are back to formal mediation between the Rossport five and Shell, and mediation between Shell and the other non-consenting landowners, and what you might call the ongoing consultations with the other landowners.”
During talks with the “wider community”, he said the issue of lack of provision of natural gas to Mayo had been raised. He had referred this to Mr Dempsey, among other concerns.
It was in this context that the Minister said in a Dail reply on January 25th that the mediator's role involved “looking at the availability of services generally throughout the region, including in particular the role of gas supply in the area”.
The five men said Mr Cassells had confirmed to them in informal discussions that mediation was “to be a process between the Rossport five and Shell”.
“It now transpires that Minister Dempsey misled us and possibly the Dail as to the true nature of what he understood mediation to mean,” they said.
The Minister's spokeswoman said last night that Mr Dempsey had no further comment to make.

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