A move by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to find a legal compromise to help bring about the release of the five Mayo men jailed for contempt of court over their opposition to the Corrib Gas pipeline has been rejected by Shell Ireland.
Following a visit to the men at Cloverhill Prison, Mr Kenny said a legal precedent dating back to the 1970s might offer hope of a compromise.
However, a spokesman for Shell said the case in question varied in many ways from the current one.
The five men have now been in jail for two months. So far, they have refused to purge their contempt and Shell has refused to lift an injunction it has taken against them.
The Fine Gael leader asked Shell to examine a legal precedent based on a 1977 High Court case which he said might offer the possibility of a compromise between the company and the men.
He said that case had drawn a distinction between criminal and civil contempt.
He suggested to Shell that, as work on the project had been temporarily halted, it should consent to the men's release while leaving open the possibility of seeking the same order if the need arose in the future.
Reacting to the suggestion, a spokesman for Shell said the 1977 case being cited by Mr Kenny varied in many ways from the current one and the company believed a legal impediment to removing the injunction remained.
Efforts to bring about the release of the five men are to continue but, despite several initiatives in recent weeks, there appears to be no sign of an early breakthrough in the controversy.