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Shell campaigners angry at slow progress on mediator

The resolution of the dispute between Shell and protest group Shell To Sea could be in jeopardy as frustration grows with the failure to appoint a mediator.Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey, promised a mediator for the dispute three weeks ago, as part of the deal to secure the release of the Rossport Five.The men had spent 94 days in jail for refusing to obey a court order not to obstruct Shell's pipeline, which the men claim is unsafe.Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the Shell to Sea campaign, said that his group was becoming “very frustrated'‘ with the minister's delay.
“We have no idea when we are going to get a mediator,” he said. “We had a sense the mediator would be appointed very quickly, and we are surprised it hasn't happened yet.”Dempsey's spokeswoman said that the department was still in the process of compiling a list of possible mediators.“Several groups and individuals have approached the department and indicated they would be willing to mediate,” she said. “We are also putting together a list of candidates we think would be suitable.”She said the department would verify the availability of the mediators before putting the list to Shell to Sea and to Shell.The department now has no deadline for the appointment, even though Dempsey told the Dáil on October 4 that he expected to appoint a mediator within days.It is understood that he now favours appointing a company to mediate.A spokesman for Shell said: “It takes as long as it takes. The most important thing is that the mediator is acceptable to both sides.”Garavan said that the mediation process was threatened by a suggestion last week that Shell would pay a €250,000 fine instead of dismantling an onshore pipeline that had been constructed without proper planning permission.Dempsey had ordered Shell to dismantle the pipe and cutting work had already started.But last week the Pro Erris Gas Group (PEGG) asked Dempsey to consider requesting Shell to make a contribution to the local community, rather than require them to dismantle the pipeline.“We would have great concerns over the likely success of mediation if this plan is adopted,” said Garavan.“For us, it's a complete nonsense. I hadn't even heard of PEGG before this week.”Dempsey is seeking legal advice on PEGG's proposal.A spokesman for Shell said the proposal was a matter for the minister.“The company will continue to proceed with cutting the welds on the pipeline in line with the minister's instructions,” he said. “Should the minister issue any alternative instructions in regard to the pipeline, the company will comply with those.”

Posted Date: 
24 October 2005 - 12:23am