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Irish Times: Shell looks at other routes for Corrib gas pipeline

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Irish Times; May 05, 2006

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Shell E&P Ireland is looking at alternative routes for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline in north Mayo, it has emerged. Andy Pyle, Shell E&P Ireland's managing director, said the company had looked anew in recent weeks at locations considered in the original environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project.

Rossport, the current proposed route for the pipeline, was favoured in the impact statement because the other three routes all had intrinsic problems. Two were ruled out early on environmental, archaeological and technical grounds. The third ran behind Pollathomas village and was identified as having “significant safety risks” because of possible landslides.

However, The Irish Times understands the company may be looking at several other locations in Erris. Mr Pyle wouldn't be drawn on specifics yesterday. The company was “willing to talk” to north Mayo residents about “all options”, he said.

Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind) said that while he would like to take Shell's offer of talks at “face value”, he hoped this was “not a public relations exercise”.

Shell to Sea campaign spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said if Shell's offer was genuine, there was the “possibility of a breakthrough”, but it would be “unforgivable if they are playing with people's emotions and engaging in a PR exercise”.

The company welcomed this week's publication of the consultancy review commissioned by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, and accepted its recommendations. But Mr Pyle said Shell was very aware of local concerns held by a “minority” in Mayo.

Mr Pyle acknowledged there was a “widely held view” that “it would be very difficult to put the pipeline through Rossport”.

“If people at the end of the day say, 'It's prison or nothing', then we have to find a solution. We can't go forward with people going to prison because of their rightly strongly held beliefs . . . We didn't recognise how strongly they held these concerns and now we need to find a way around it,” he said.

Mr Pyle's olive branch to the residents of Rossport included an expression of “regret” for last year's imprisonment for 94 days of five north Mayo residents – Micheal O SeighIn, Willie Corduff, Vincent and Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin.

“Mistakes have been made. We regret the part that we played in the jailing of the five men last summer. For the hurt that this caused the local community I am sorry,” he said.

He denied he had favoured jailing opponents to the project, and said comments attributed to him last year in a note recorded by his legal advisers on June 10th, and subsequently published in The Irish Times, were a “misinterpretation”.

In discussions recorded by the company's solicitors, Mr Pyle was recorded as asking, “Why not just have all of them committed?”

Responding to Mr Pyle's comments yesterday, Mr O SeighIn said any apology would be accepted, but Mr Pyle also needed to be “realistic”.

Mr O SeighIn said that mediation was “back on track”, contrary to comments made by the company and “earlier attempts by Minister for Marine Noel Dempsey to destroy it”. The five men were simply waiting to hear back from mediator Peter Cassells, he said.

Mr O SeighIn said the company Advantica had pointed out the hazards of the pipeline on page 11 of its safety review of the project. “Advantica was not allowed to find fault with this project under its very tight terms of reference, and it is very disappointing that a Minister who is aware of the real issue should have refused to include this issue in the terms of reference,” he said.

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