Irish Times: Dempsey accused of Corrib 'ploy': “Three weeks after their release from jail, the men told a press conference in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday that neither Noel Dempsey nor his officials had made any contact with them in relation to proposed mediation.”: "Shell is still seeking a permanent injunction against opposing landowners.": Tuesday October 25, 2005
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
The five Mayo men who return to the High Court today over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline have accused the Minister for the Marine of using mediation as a "ploy".
Three weeks after their release from jail, the men told a press conference in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday that neither Noel Dempsey nor his officials had made any contact with them in relation to proposed mediation.
In a separate development, Mr Dempsey has been informed that there is no legal impediment if he decides to defer his own order to Shell to dismantle an illegally welded section of onshore pipeline.
The Minister had said he intended to submit a list of proposed mediators to both the men and Shell E&P Ireland within a week of their return home. A spokeswoman for the Minister said yesterday that a list of mediators was still being compiled.
"It is obvious that the Minister was never serious about mediation, given his actions in the past week," Micheal O Seighin, one of the five, said. "It was a ploy to facilitate Shell's decision to lift the injunction against us after 94 days in prison, and to try and take the spotlight off the serious safety issues we were highlighting."
Shell had also stated publicly in Mayo a week ago and at an Institute of Engineers of Ireland meeting in Dublin that it would not make any changes to the project, Mr O Seighin said. "Statements like these do not augur well for serious mediation."
Significantly, all but three of the 34 landowners who are bound by compulsory acquisition orders to allow the high-pressure onshore pipeline through their land have expressed support for the stance taken by the five men, Mr O Seighin said. They are among 16,000 signatures to a petition organised by the Shell to Sea campaign in support of the men's stance.
Mr Dempsey's decision a week ago to examine a proposal to defer his order to Shell to dismantle an illegally welded section of the onshore pipeline was "further evidence" of his "lack of credibility", he added.
"The Minister is in effect saying he is trying to find a legal loophole for Shell and that the company isn't really bound by his consents if it agrees to pay over some money and buy its way out of a situation."
The men said they were disappointed at the efforts of an "unrepresentative group" to "facilitate" Shell and the Minister. The Pro-Erris Gas Group, which made the proposal to defer pipeline dismantling in return for a payment by Shell of at least 250,000, said yesterday it had received "overwhelming support".
It listed more than 40 organisations, including all of Mayo's Fine Gael councillors, as endorsing it. However, a member of one of the organisations, the Rossport Group Water Scheme Management Committee, told The Irish Times that her group had not been asked to meet on the issue.
The five men - Willie Corduff, Philip and Vincent McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Mr O Seighin - are due back in the High Court today to face possible punishment. The men were imprisoned for contempt of court on June 29th for refusing to comply with an intelocutory injunction obtained by Shell prohibiting opposition to the onshore pipeline, and were set free when Shell lifted that injunction on September 30th.
Shell is still seeking a permanent injunction against opposing landowners.
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