Energy giant Shell today offered to look at any initiative that could secure the release of the five Mayo men jailed over their protests against a gas pipeline.
After a meeting between Shell bosses and Mayo County Council chiefs, the company insisted it was committed to finding a resolution to the crisis.
The men, known as the Rossport Five, have been locked up in Cloverhill Prison for seven and a half weeks over their protests against the onshore pipeline designed to bring gas from the Corrib field to a refinery.
But Shell bosses insisted they were committed to resolving the crisis.
“If the initiative by Mayo County Council could facilitate this dialogue that would be a very welcome development,” said Andy Pyle, Shell E&P Ireland managing director.
“SEPIL is committed to examining any viable initiative that could enable the men to come out of prison and I have taken the opportunity to confirm this to the representatives of Mayo County Council.
“We appreciate their efforts to move the situation forward.”
Earlier this week the Rossport Five penned an open letter to Shell requesting that the High Court order against them be lifted but the company said the matter was in their own hands.
Shell held talks with Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Henry Kenny, and with Cllr Paddy McGuinness yesterday.
Company bosses said the letter was a very signifiant step in advancing dialogue between the parties.
“For its part, the company has taken significant steps to create an atmosphere in which the men could see the merit of dialogue and are pleased that they have agreed to pursue this path,” Mr Pyle said.
“While we are disappointed that this has not been accompanied by a move to purge contempt, we recognise their position.
“Nevertheless, as both sides have expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue, we would like to explore the common ground that clearly exists between us as a matter of urgency.”
Shell E&P Ireland has deferred all work on the laying of a 75km offshore pipeline to allow discussion on the future of the 900m euro project.
In their open letter to the company, the five men said they had refused access to their lands because of the certainty that if the pipeline ruptured, their families and neighbours would die.
It is hoped the gas pipeline will guarantee the country’s security of gas supply for the next 15 years.