Friday 20 March 2009

Ministers hold talks on Corrib gas

THREE MEMBERS of the “Rossport Five” are due to meet senior Shell executives and two Government Ministers in Dublin today in a bid to resolve health and safety issues related to the Corrib gas project.

The negotiations, chaired by former Department of Justice secretary-general Joe Brosnan, represent the first direct talks between “Rossport Five” members and Shell since the five men were jailed for 94 days in 2005 over their opposition to the routing of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.

Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív will discuss the issues with three senior Shell executives – including John Gallagher, a vice-president of Shell Europe, and Terry Nolan, Shell EP Ireland managing director – and 10 Erris community representatives.

The Mayo delegation includes “Rossport Five” members Micheál Ó Seighin, Vincent McGrath and Willie Corduff of Pobal Chill Chomáin community group. Pobal Chill Chomáin will also be represented by Fr Michael Nallen, who proposed a compromise location for the Corrib gas terminal, Mary Corduff and John Monaghan.

The Erris group Pobal le Chéile, which represents business interests in the area, will also participate with its four delegates, including former Air Corps pilot Ciarán Ó Murchú and fisherman Anthony Irwin.

The discussions will have an “open agenda” for the first time in the State’s involvement in the dispute. Both Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile have so far declined to participate in the ministerial forum, established by Mr Ryan and Mr Ó Cuív late last year and chaired by Mr Brosnan, because of restricted terms of reference. Mr Brosnan said yesterday he hoped the talks would be successful.

In a joint statement, the two Ministers said “the aim of this meeting is to try to resolve issues in relation to the Corrib gas project”.

The Ministers said they hoped all parties would “enter the talks in a positive and open manner”, and “have agreed that the meeting will be conducted in an even-handed way and that it will have an open agenda with no predetermined outcome”.

Shell EP Ireland said it welcomed the opportunity to “participate in a positive and open manner in these talks”.

Earlier this week, Shell’s exploration and production division head, Malcolm Brinded, was quoted by Bloomberg financial news agency as stating that the company would complete its natural gas pipelines this year.

However, 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 board is still accepting submissions until April 7th, and the issue is expected to result in an oral hearing – with the earliest final decision date being August 10th.

The company postponed plans to lay its offshore pipeline last year due to several issues.

Irish Times

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