DIRECT TALKS involving the Government, Shell senior management and north Mayo representatives over the Corrib gas impasse are expected to continue next month, following almost five hours of discussions in Dublin yesterday.
The talks, involving three members of the Rossport Five, were described last night as “full and frank” in a joint statement issued afterwards by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív.
“Core issues were discussed, and it was agreed to give some time for all parties to reflect,” the Ministers said. They were “hopeful that there will be a follow-up meeting as soon as possible”.
The session, chaired by former Department of Justice secretary general Joe Brosnan, was held at Mr Ó Cuív’s department headquarters in Mespil Road, Dublin.
It represented the first direct talks between Rossport Five members and Shell since the five were jailed for 94 days in 2005 over their opposition to the routing of the high-pressure Corrib gas onshore pipeline.
Shell was represented by John Gallagher, vice-president (technical) of Shell EP Europe, and Terry Nolan, Shell EP Ireland managing director.
When a third Shell nominee was unable to travel, attempts to nominate substitutes, including Shell EP Ireland director John Egan, were overruled by the Erris community delegation before discussions began.
The Mayo delegation included Rossport Five members Micheál Ó Seighin, Vincent McGrath and Willie Corduff of Pobal Chill Chomáin community group, along with Fr Michael Nallen, Mary Corduff and John Monaghan.
Erris group Pobal le Chéile, which represents business interests in the area, was represented by four delegates, including former Air Corps pilot and adventure sports company director Ciarán Ó Murchú and fisherman Anthony Irwin.
Fr Nallen was one of three priests who proposed a compromise location for the Corrib gas terminal at Glinsk, which has been rejected by Shell.
Both community groups support Fr Nallen’s compromise, while Shell to Sea is still holding out for an offshore terminal.
Shell to Sea was not invited to participate, according to its spokesman, Naoise Ó Mongáin, who staged a picket outside yesterday’s discussions at Mespil Road.
“Even if we were invited, we would not talk to Shell, while Maura Harrington is in Mountjoy Jail,” Mr Ó Mongáin said.
Harrington, his wife, was imprisoned for 28 days by Judge Mary Devins at Belmullet District Court earlier this month for an assault on a garda.
Mr Brosnan and the Ministers have said that the discussions will have an “open agenda” – the first time that the State has not tried to confine resolution attempts to particular terms of reference.
Shell EP Ireland has said it welcomes the opportunity to “participate in a positive and open manner in these talks”.
Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile said they had agreed to accept the invitation from the Ministers “in an effort to resolve the issues that have plagued the Corrib gas project since its initiation in 2000”.
An Bord Pleanála is still in the early stages of assessing Shell’s revised plans for a modified pipeline route, and for planning approval for the critical beach valve station at Glengad.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has already indicated that it will initiate separate mediation on the issue between Shell and Pobal Chill Chomáin, following confirmation that a complaint lodged by the north Mayo community is “admissible”.
Shell EP Ireland said in a statement last night it was “very glad to have had the opportunity to meet today with the groups who oppose the project” and the discussions were “open, frank and constructive”.