Irish Republican News · July 25, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Five Mayo men protesting against the construction of a dangerous gas pipeline through their community were sent back to jail on Monday -- despite confirmation that some of the construction work was carried out without official permission.

The five men from Rossport opposing the proposed pipeline from the Corrib gas field are behind bars for contempt of a court order banning them from blocking access by the Shell and Statoil companies to their land.

The five men, Micheal O Seighin, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Philip McGrath and Vincent McGrath, may now be held behind bars until October.

The case in becoming increasingly politically charged as the fall-out grows.

Mr Justice Finnegan also told the opposing parties to communicate with each other and not to “thrash it out in court” -- but controversially refused to release the men pending a resolution.

The hearing of the men’s action against Shell will not now take place before October. They have now been in Cloverhill Prison for 25 days.

The court heard yesterday that the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey, had written to Shell’s chief executive, Andy Pyle, saying the company had acted outside the terms of ministerial consents on certain works, including the welding of sections of pipeline.

Analysts have warned that a rupture of the welds on the high-pressure pipeline to the proposed onshore refinery could lead to a devastating fireball explosion. Local residents have urged Shell to build their refinery offshore.

Minister Noel Dempsey has said, despite the permit breach by Shell, he would not intervene in the judicial process to release the men.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Marine and Natural Resources Martin Ferris slated the court decision, which he described as a “travesty of injustice”.

In a day of protests on Saturday, at least 20 petrol stations were picketed by Sinn Féin activists across the country.

“The judge even refused to listen to the case put before him,” Ferris said. “This is an absolute disgrace. These five men are in jail for simply protecting their community against a hazardous pipeline.

“These men should never have been in jail in the first place and should be released immediately.

“The behaviour of the judge today raises serious questions about the men’s incarceration. Because of his action’s they could now remain in jail until October, which is totally unacceptable.

“Sinn Féin will continue to campaign for the men,s release, for the pipe line to be moved off shore and we will also highlight the deeper injustice of how the government of the day managed to simply sell off one of the greatest resources this state has to foreign companies. Now these same companies hold a community to ransom.”

Spokesman for the five men in prison and their families Mark Garavan called on the Minister and the main political parties to stop behaving like “bystanders” in the current situation.

Speaking after the court hearing, Mr Garavan said the issue was not simply one of the men purging their contempt in court.

“This does not just involve an apology. It involves giving an undertaking not to protest against Shell’s activities on the ground in Mayo and this is something that the men cannot do, given the risk posed to them, their families and neighbours by this high-pressure pipeline.”

Mr Garavan said that the men were disappointed the Minister had not sought to be represented in court yesterday, in the light of his own announcement that Shell was in breach of ministerial consents.

“One would have thought that when the liberty of five citizens was at stake, the Minister or his representatives would seek to clarify the information before the court,” Mr Garavan said.

The five men were all in “very good spirits”, Mr Garavan said. The men and their families were united on the issue, he emphasised.

“This is not easy, it is not a game, it is not pleasant for anyone involved in this, but at this point they have no choice in the matter, unless Shell decides it is going to build this refinery offshore,” he said.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News