Three north Mayo priests have called on Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan to consider an alternative location on the Erris coastline for the Corrib gas refinery.
The three priests, Fr Michael Nallen, Fr Michael Gilroy and Fr Seán Noone of Kilcommon parish, have identified Glinsk, near Belderrig, Co Mayo, as an alternative to Bellanaboy, where the refinery is at the early stages of construction.
The same location was identified by Shell consultants, RPS, last summer as a potential landfall during initial work on modifying onshore pipeline routes.
However, the consultants are not involved in any aspect of the refinery, and have since narrowed the routes down to exclude this option.
The priests believe that by locating the actual refinery at Glinsk, it would avoid an onshore pipeline of any significant length, and would help to resolve what they describe as the "current impasse".
The current refinery at Bellanaboy is located within the Carrowmore lake drinking water catchment, supplying 10,000 people. The priests claim the outfall pipe could have a "potential negative impact" on the local fishing industry and the environmental integrity of Broadhaven Bay.
Glinsk has no housing within several miles of the exposed area of bogland, but Shell consultants had noted in their assessment for the pipeline survey that the exposed landfall had steep cliffs of greater than 50 metres. It also adjoins the Glenamoy bog complex special area of conservation.
The priests say they believe that running a high-pressure pipe up a cliff-face has been done before and is "technically and economically feasible" and would "comply with the codes of practice and EU directives".
"While there may be conservation issues wherever the refinery is located, we believe it is paramount that human life is protected," the priests state, urging the Minister to "give serious consideration to this option in an effort to bring the sorry history of this project to a peaceful and just conclusion".
The priests, who are not members of Shell to Sea, have stated that the project as planned "does not have the consent from the community".
Last month, in an initial letter to Mr Ryan, they questioned how "promotional material" distributed by the Corrib gas developers could "validly claim community status".
"We wish to reiterate that we believe most people are not opposed to the gas coming ashore. Benefits for community and country are something that most people would welcome.
"It should be possible to achieve this goal in an environmentally and community friendly way without the flaws which are linked to the Bellanaboy site," they have stressed in their new letter.
Shell E&P Ireland and RPS Consultants had no comment to make yesterday on the proposal.
The Irish Times