THE head of Shell in Ireland has admitted the company didn't do a "very good job" addressing local people's safety concerns over plans to put a gas pipeline in Co Mayo.
Announcing a revised route for the controversial pipeline yesterday, managing director Andy Pyle said gas pipelines were "normal practice" in many countries and the company had "probably" failed to explain that to local residents.
The modified route for the onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline is twice as far away from homes and will operate at half the pressure of the previous line.
The revised route was decided after 11 months of consultation with local people. Stiff local opposition, including the jailing of the so-called Rossport Five in 2005, led to mediator Peter Cassells being appointed in an attempt to break the deadlock between the company and locals.
He recommended that it be moved from the vicinity of Rossport because of concerns about its proximity to housing.
Gas pipelines were "well tested" and "used extensively" throughout the world, Mr Pyle said, adding that people not "implacably opposed" to the pipeline would see it as a compromise.
A planning application seeking permission to build the pipeline would be lodged with An Bord Pleanala within weeks.
"Pipelines are pretty common technology and that [level of opposition] caught us on the hop," he said.
"We would see this as very normal practice. We probably didn't do a very good job explaining that. Pipelines have a very good record, safety wise. The end result, I think, will be acceptable. We definitely feel we have the right balance."
The 9.2km pipeline will carry raw gas from a field 83km off the coast. It will come ashore at Glengad before crossing Sruwaddacon Bay into Rossport.
It skirts around the village and along the boundary of the Glenamoy Bog Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) before recrossing Sruwaddacon Bay and continuing onto the Bellanaboy gas refinery, currently under construction.
But the Shell to Sea group said a small village at the centre of the controversy would be sliced in half by the new route, with a spokesman saying it would worsen relations between Shell and locals.
"They are literally dividing a community now,'' John Monaghan said.
"They are now actually physically dividing the village of Rossport itself and that is not going to make them any friends.''
"If they were to get an acceptable route the refinery itself still poses a threat. If this is the only way that they see a solution to this problem then it will never go away.''