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Irish Times: Cassells outlines rules for talks on Corrib gas

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Mar 25, 2006
The Government's mediator in the Corrib gas controversy, Peter Cassells, has published new ground rules for negotiations between Shell and the five north Mayo men jailed last year over opposition to the onshore pipeline.
The move is designed to try and kick start the negotiations, which have been stalled since a row over public comments made on the issue by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Mr Cassells said both parties had contacted him to seek clarification on the ground rules, and he expected to hold separate meetings with the two groups in the next week or so.
Significantly, the proposed terms include a commitment by both parties that “all developments, concepts and all routes should be considered in the mediation and that the parties may set down core non-negotiable issues”. Shell has previously said it will not change the basic plan for an onshore terminal, linked to the Corrib gas field 70km offshore by a high-pressure pipeline. The five men and the Shell to Sea campaign have been calling for an offshore terminal for the project.
Mr Cassells has also promised that no other parties will be involved in the talks – contrary to a position taken two months ago by the Minister when he said he had never intended talks to be confined to Shell and the five men only. This contradicted earlier statements made by Mr Dempsey on RTE and in the Dail on the day of and shortly after the men's release on September 30th.
The proposed ground rules for the mediation provide for absolute confidentiality, no reporting to third parties, exclusion of all other parties, and state that the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will be “a consultative partner as required and appropriate”.
Mr Cassells said he had also “given the Rossport Five and Shell a guarantee that the mediation will be carried out properly, professionally and in an independent manner in accordance with these ground rules”.
“The overall task of the mediation will be to reconcile the two interests of bringing the gas in the Corrib gasfield to market and ensuring safety,” he added.
A spokesman for the five men said that they would be meeting Mr Cassells on the issue of clarifying the ground rules.
A spokesman for Shell said that the company would “approach mediation positively and constructively with a view to achieving a negotiated solution”.
Shell said it had absolute confidence in water quality in Carrowmore lake, where abnormally high aluminium levels were reported recently.
Mayo County Council has attributed the results to “human error”.

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