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The Independent: Shell agrees to change route of gas pipeline in west Ireland

By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
Published: 05 August 2006

The multinational company Shell has promised to change the route of a planned gas pipeline in the west of Ireland following a protest campaign.

The announcement is seen as a major corporate turn-around brought about by a vociferous campaign which highlighted safety and environmental concerns over the Co Mayo project.

The campaign centred on five farmers who were jailed indefinitely for contempt of court over their opposition to the plans. Known as the “Rossport Five”, they spent three months in prison before the company relented.

On their release they were hailed as heroes, with thousands welcoming them back.

The scheme envisages an off-shore drilling operation which would pipe untreated gas ashore to be processed on land. Locals claimed this entailed running a pipeline, which they claimed was unsafe, close to houses and farms.

Construction work has been held up for many months while legal proceedings have progressed hand in hand with political efforts to reach an agreement in the dispute.

A week ago, an independent mediator recommended a change in the route of the pipeline, which Shell has agreed to implement. The mediator also suggested more consultation, the use of local labour during the pipeline’s construction and an investment fund for the area.

The Irish government endorsed Shell’s plans but local residents lodged strenuous objections, claiming Shell was riding roughshod over their wishes, ruining the landscape and installing a dangerously experimental new system.

The Shell move has been welcomed in some quarters but the “Shell to Sea” organisation, which runs the campaign of opposition, has said it will not accept the energy giant’s new plan.

A spokesman for the group, Mark Garavan, said: “The reality is that nothing in this project has been changed at any kind of serious level and merely tweaking a pipeline route through more or less the same corridor in Rossport certainly falls way short of what is required.”

It is as yet unclear whether the Shell offer will defuse the dispute or may form the eventual basis for agreement.

The controversy has been going on for more than a year, generating much local distrust and suspicion of both the company and the Irish government, which has backed the project.

In May, Shell softened its original position, saying it regretted its part in the jailing of the Rossport Five. Its managing director, Andy Pyle, said mistakes had been made in the handling of the affair and apologised for any hurt that had been caused in the area.

Shell’s new move has been welcomed by the Irish government, with the minister Noel Dempsey saying he felt that Shell had learned from its mistakes and shown it was willing to address reasonable concerns. He said he felt it was in the national interest for the pipeline to be built.

The controversy has generated many legal complexities, and it remains to be seen whether campaigners continue to press for further changes in the plan. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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