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Mayo groups call for Corrib gas talks

Mayo groups call for Corrib gas talks

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine Correspondent

MAYO COMMUNITY groups have called on Shell and the Government to engage with them in resolving the Corrib gas dispute while a “critical window” exists.

Labour Party president Michael D Higgins has also called on the Government to “take seriously the genuine desire of many” to “bring peace to north Mayo”.

This follows Shell’s decision to send the contracted pipe-laying vessel Solitaire to Glasgow, Scotland, for an “assessment” in deep water berthing facilities. The company said it intends to salvage an 80 tonne section of the ship’s pipe-laying equipment from Broadhaven Bay’s seabed today.

The section “became detached from the vessel” last week, the company said, and will be “removed and disposed of for safety and environmental reasons”.

Shell said no decision has been made in relation to the 2008 offshore development programme for the Corrib gas project, which, it said, “still requires a suitable weather window for successful completion”. The Solitairewould remain in port “while a further assessment of factors including operational, technical and weather issues” is completed, it continued.

The offshore programme was suspended on September 10th following technical problems with the Solitaire shortly after it had arrived in Broadhaven Bay to begin laying the offshore Corrib gas pipeline. The Erris community groups Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile welcomed the announcement, which, they said “was inevitable after it became clear that Shell had no legal entitlement to remove fishing gear belonging to Erris fishermen in Broadhaven Bay”.

“We fully support the right of fishermen to earn a living and commend [fisherman] Pat O’Donnell and others on their principled stand in upholding their rights and the rule of law,” a joint statement from the chairmen of the two groups, Vincent McGrath and Ciarán Ó Murchú, said.

“It is also clear that serious legal doubts now arise regarding the two arrests of Mr Pat O’Donnell and other fishermen,” the joint statement said, referring to the detention on public order grounds of three fishermen last week.

“The suspension of the pipe-laying work provides yet another critical window to finally resolve the Corrib dispute,” the two groups stated.

“The solution – an alternative refinery site at the isolated location such as Glinsk – is clear. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of our community. What is now required is for the Government and Shell to finally engage with us in bringing this about.

“Our community has had enough of conflict and trauma. The time for a solution is now,” it said.

Maura Harrington was making no comment on the company’s announcement last night.

She is in her second week of a hunger strike, which she says will continue until the Solitaire leaves Irish territorial waters.

© 2008 The Irish Times

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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