Irish Times: Dempsey set to name Corrib mediator: “Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey is due to nominate a mediator over the weekend to chair negotiations between Shell E&P Ireland and opponents of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline in north Mayo.”: Saturday 29 October 2005
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey is due to nominate a mediator over the weekend to chair negotiations between Shell E&P Ireland and opponents of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline in north Mayo.
Two senior figures with a trade union background are among a list of five names the Minister has submitted to both Shell and the five men who spent 94 days in jail over their opposition to the high-pressure gas pipeline.
The Minister has also sought to underpin the future of the mediation talks by directing that Shell continue work on dismantling an illegally welded section of the onshore pipeline in Erris in spite of legal advice that would allow him to defer his own order.
Mr Dempsey said yesterday that a deferral of his order pending publication of his safety review, in return for payment by Shell of 250,000 to the north Mayo community, "wouldn't have helped" mediation.
It could have created "difficulties", Mr Dempsey said, and "soured an atmosphere which is slowly improving".
However, the Minister said the proposal to defer dismantling, made by the Pro-Erris Gas Group on October 17th, had "cross-community support" and indicated there was "not just one level of opposition" or "one side" in relation to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.
"While I accept the bona fides of those who suggested suspension of the cutting of the pipeline, I believe that in order to preserve the integrity of the regulatory regime that the directions given by me should be adhered to," Mr Dempsey said in a statement. The order to Shell to dismantle the illegally welded section was issued by him on July 31st, but work on this only began on October 18th.
"It is helpful, particularly in the context of the proposed mediation process, that there are people from the local community who have indicated that they are prepared to look at different proposals," the Minister said, adding that he "hoped that the mediation process will facilitate them in airing their views".
The Minister's decision was welcomed yesterday by the Shell to Sea campaign, representing the five Mayo men who are due back in the High Court for possible punishment early next month. All but three of 34 landowners served with compulsory acquisition orders have given written support to the men's stance on the pipeline.
"We welcome the Minister's affirmation of the integrity of his own regulatory regime, and we believe that the concept of payment by Shell in compensation for deferring an order to be abhorrent," Dr Mark Garavan, a Shell to Sea spokesman, said. "No money can be put on safety, and this issue is not about compensation but about people's lives."
Shell E&P Ireland said it was "looking forward" to negotiations beginning.
It said it would continue to dismantle the illegally welded section of pipeline "as we have always said we will do what the Minister decides".
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