Taoiseach urged to intervene in gas pipeline dispute

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern must intervene in the troubled talks process over the controversial Corrib gas project, it was claimed tonight.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern must intervene in the troubled talks process over the controversial Corrib gas project, it was claimed tonight.

Discussions between Shell and protestors jailed last year for their opposition to the gas pipeline broke down this week.

The Government appointed former trade union chief Peter Cassells last October to mediate in the dispute but negotiations have failed to make significant progress.

Tommy Broughan, the Labour Party’s spokesman on Natural Resources, said the complete breakdown of the talks process would be a disaster for all concerned.

“Taoiseach Ahern has been involved in many mediation processes during his career. I believe that he must now bring this experience to bear on an issue of such major national importance and ensure that the Corrib gas is brought ashore in a safe and agreed manner for the benefit of the whole country,” Mr Broughan said.

As talks collapsed, Mr Cassells said no agreement was anticipated in the foreseeable future. But the mediator is due to complete a report to suggest possible ways forward in the dispute.

At the Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Committee meeting on Thursday, Mr Broughan said Minister Noel Dempsey was unable to suggest methods which could be taken to resolve the impasse in the mediation process once the report is published in two weeks’ time.

“The Corrib natural gas field represents a vital indigenous energy source for the Irish people. We are increasingly dependent on natural gas for producing electricity and as a fuel source, yet nearly 85% of our natural gas supply has to be imported,” he said.

“By some estimations the Corrib gas field could provide 60% of our natural gas needs for 15 to 20 years and so would act as a critical bridging fuel into the next sustainable energy era.”

As talks broke down, four of the five Co Mayo men jailed over their opposition to the project said it could only proceed in its present configuration through compulsion and force.

They called on the Government to renegotiate the plans, prioritising health, safety and community concerns.

Oil giant Shell insisted it had made sincere efforts to resolve the matter over the past seven months.

The company said it was prepared to discuss different options and alternative routes for the pipeline but the objectors refused to meet with them face to face.

The protesters claim Shell were at no stage prepared to alter any of its proposals for the €900m high-pressure onshore gas pipeline.

More in this section