Tuesday 7 April 2009

Corrib talks collapse over basic 'disagreement'

DIRECT TALKS between the Government, Shell and north Mayo representatives over the Corrib gas impasse have broken down, following more than five hours of discussions in Dublin yesterday.

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, who attended the meeting with Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and junior Minister Seán Power, told The Irish Times there was a “fundamental disagreement” between the two sides, but the initiative had been “very useful”.

“I will be discussing with Eamon Ryan where we go from here, as we are still committed to mediating in some form to resolve this issue,” he said.

Mr Ryan said that these were the first talks of their kind and “should have happened at the start of this project.

“Important issues were raised, and this has been and could still be a very useful engagement. There are no doors closed,” Mr Ryan said.

It is understood that the location of the Bellanaboy gas terminal was central to the divisions between Shell and the community groups.

Vincent McGrath, chair of Pobal Chill Chomáin, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” at the outcome yesterday evening.

“On the positive side, this initiative represented the first public acknowledgment by both Government and Shell of the central role of the north Mayo community organisations, Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal Le Chéile, in resolving this issue,” he said.

“We were also keen to ensure that Royal Dutch Shell heard our concerns directly, and we believe that Shell headquarters is fully aware now of our position,” Mr McGrath said. “We pointed out the benefit to Shell in public relations terms of coming to an agreed solution, given that the legal case against Royal Dutch Shell for human rights abuses against the Ogoni people in Nigeria is due to be held next month,” he added.

The discussions were the first between Rossport Five members and Shell since the five were jailed for 94 days in 2005.

Their imprisonment arose from their opposition to the routing of the high-pressure Corrib gas onshore pipeline.

Shell was represented by Mike Wilkinson, Royal Dutch Shell vice-president for sustainable development; John Gallagher, vice-president (technical) of Shell EP Europe; and Terry Nolan, Shell EP Ireland managing director.

The Mayo delegation included Erris business group Pobal le Chéile, led by Ciarán Ó Murchú, and Pobal Chill Chomáin representatives Micheál Ó Seighin, Vincent McGrath, Willie Corduff, Mary Corduff and Fr Michael Nallen.

Shell EP Ireland had no comment to make at time of going to press last night.

Shell to Sea activist Maura Harrington, who was imprisoned for 28 days by Judge Mary Devins at Belmullet District Court for an assault on a garda, is due to be released today.

Irish Times


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