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Corrib pipeline dispute report due

By: Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, Irish Times
Published: Jul 14, 2006

The Government’s independent mediator on the Corrib gas pipeline, Peter Cassells, is preparing a report within the next fortnight in a final effort to broker a compromise between the north Mayo community and Shell E&P Ireland.

However, Mr Cassells said yesterday “no agreement is likely in the foreseeable future” between the two parties, based on seven months of “intensive discussions” and “detailed consultations with the local community”.

Reacting to the development, Shell E&P Ireland accused the “principal objectors” of “refusing to engage in face-to-face dialogue” and of “presenting the company with an unrealistic ultimatum”.

Spokesman for the Shell to Sea campaign Dr Mark Garavan dismissed the accusation and said it indicated that the company was never serious about mediation, and “clearly wanted direct negotiations without Mr Cassells as facilitator”.

Mr Cassell’s final report will be given to Shell E&P Ireland, the five men jailed last year over their opposition to the onshore pipeline, and Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey. A spokeswoman for the Minister said he would defer commenting until he had received it.

Issues which Mr Cassells said he would be making recommendations on in his report include “safety concerns regarding the operation of the pipeline; the route of the pipeline and its proximity to local houses; financial compensation for landowners on the pipeline route; the terminal, including environmental concerns; improved benefits for the local people and the region; and monitoring of the project and consultations with local people.”

Mr Cassells said he would “ask the parties involved and people generally to await my report on the mediation and to give serious consideration to the recommendations in that report”.

Shell said it would await the report’s publication. “The Corrib gas partners are fully committed to working in partnership with the local community to successfully deliver the project,” it said.

Mr Vincent McGrath, one of the five men, said that it was important to stress that health and safety was the central issue, and compensation was not.

Central to the mediation breakdown appears to have been Shell’s approach to discussing alternative development concepts for the project.

Immediately after publication of the Advantica safety review in May, the company’s chief executive, Andy Pyle, said it was willing to look at all options and apologised to the five men for their jailing. A day later, in north Mayo, Mr Pyle ruled out the offshore option.

The company says Mr Cassells was aware it wanted to discuss alternative development concepts, but this is disputed by the men, who say that no tangible proposals were put during mediation. A statement from four of the five men yesterday said they were disappointed but not surprised. The company had “ignored the social and cultural reality within which their project must operate”, they said.

The men called on the Government to put in a new plan of development for the Corrib gas project.

An Taisce has recently lodged a complaint with the European Commission over “suspect” ministerial consents issued for the Corrib gas pipeline.

The formal complaint arises from a report for An Taisce by former Bord Gais engineering manager Leo Corcoran, who says that the consents do not oblige the developer by law to comply with a pipeline code of practice, and are in breach of EU directives.

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