Pipeline controversy - Dempsey giving mixed messages

The decision by the Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, to allow Shell Ireland to commence work on the 75km pipeline, part of its development of the Corrib gasfield, will hardly do anything to defuse the ill-feeling which the company has caused locally.

It also seems somewhat ambiguous for him to order the dismantling of a section of onshore pipeline for which approval had not been given, while giving the go-ahead for the offshore section, as he did yesterday.

Local objectors have expressed their dismay at the minister's rather belated display of authority on foot of the company's breach in relation to the onshore pipeline. Shell E&P Ireland took it for granted that they could do undertake the work with impunity and went ahead without permission.

It is understandable the wrong message is being sent to the objectors, who staunchly support the principled stand of the Rossport Five, who still languish in jail because of their opposition to the pipeline, which will carry untreated gas underneath their land.

It is difficult to disagree with the Green Party in their bewilderment that the ministerial consent for the offshore pipeline should be given yesterday in advance, and without Mr Dempsey's promised independent safety review of the onshore section.

The safety issue has to be resolved before this whole controversy subsides.

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