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IrelandOn-Line: Greens: Trust needed between Shell and Corrib protestors

24/10/2006 – 18:27:04

Trust needs to be built between giant oil company Shell and protestors in Co Mayo, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said tonight.

Calling for fresh talks to try to resolve the ongoing controversy over the Corrib gas terminal, he said a lot of issues had to be discussed.

Over the last two days Mr Sargent has held talks with representatives from both Shell and campaign group Shell to Sea, who want work on the €200m terminal stopped.

He said campaigners were concerned that they had no evidence Shell were implementing a new route for the 9km high-pressure pipeline that would run to the terminal.

“Scepticism in the community is rising and distrust is preventing any dialogue,” he said.

Last week, protests hit an all time high with up to 300 activists demonstrating at the Bellanboy plant.

Workers were convoyed to the site in buses, vans and trucks, with campaigners, who staged a sit-down protest on a road leading to the site, removed by gardaí.

Today the scene was calmer with just 40 people from the local community holding a peaceful protest at the site entrance.

The Shell to Sea campaign group has said it will continue its campaign against the building of the terminal because it believes it poses unacceptable health and safety risks to the area.

Mark Garavan, of Shell to Sea, said the key to resolving the conflict is for Shell to recognise that the present configuration of the Corrib gas project does not receive the consent of the majority of the people affected by it.

“This position is supported by the majority of the people of Mayo as evidenced in three consecutive independent opinion polls,” he said.

“If Shell acknowledge the need for a re-configuration of the project then the possibility for meaningful dialogue arises.

“We call on all public representatives to insist that Shell recognise their responsibilities to resolve the present impasse, an impasse entirely of their own making.”

For seven months independent mediator Peter Cassells tried tirelessly to work out a solution between Shell Ireland and the Rossport Five, who spent 94 days in jail for their opposition to the pipeline.

At the end he found that no agreement would be likely in the foreseeable future but recommended the re-routing of the pipeline.

Susan Shannon, spokeswoman for Shell Ireland, said the company has always been willing to enter negotiations with protesters.

“We have always been open for dialogue,” she said.

“Throughout the mediation process we suspended all works. The Rossport Five refused to have face to face talks with us during that period.

“We said then we were willing to discuss everything with them, and we remain open to those talks.”

Ms Shannon said the building of the terminal – where hundreds of protestors have demonstrated in recent weeks – had never been an issue to campaigners before and that the company has already agreed to re-route the controversial pipeline.

“Works were carried out on the terminal last year with no protests,” she continued.

“The 9km pipeline is the issue.

“We are not willing to stop any work at the terminal at the moment. It is known an off-shore platform is less safe and less environmentally friendly.

“Although the pipeline is safe, we are re-routing it.

“But it will take up 12 months to find a new route, speak to landowners and to speak to the community.”

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