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Irish Times: Shell vows to press ahead on Corrib pipeline

Irish Times: Shell vows to press ahead on Corrib pipeline

“The company also accused the jailed men yesterday of having a “wider” agenda than health and safety.”: “Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris said: “Decent, honest people are being criminalised by multinationals”.:

Saturday 2 July 2005

Paul Cullen and Lorna Siggins

Shell E&P Ireland says it has no intention of stopping its operations on the €900 million Corrib gas project or withdrawing from Mayo, but remains available for “constructive dialogue” with the five Erris residents still in prison over their opposition to the pipeline.

The company also accused the jailed men yesterday of having a “wider” agenda than health and safety.

The multinational issued its statement as efforts were being made by the Council for the West to confirm a mediator who would try to secure the men’s release.

Shell said last night it welcomed the Council for the West initiative and would be available to meet the proposed mediator.

Commenting on the situation, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins called on Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey to act, and said it was “unthinkable” that the five residents of Rossport, Co Mayo, would be allowed to remain in jail for an indefinite period.

“These people have been motivated solely by concerns about the implications of the proposed development for the health and safety of their families,” Mr Higgins said, and recourse to courts was “not the appropriate way to deal with a complex dispute like this”.

IFA chairman John Dillon offered his services as a mediator yesterday when he addressed about 100 protesters outside the Bellanaboy terminal site in north Mayo yesterday.

A cross-party delegation of TDs, including Independents Finian McGrath, James Breen and Jerry Cowley, Eamon Ryan of the Green Party and Labour’s Tommy Broughan, visited the men in Cloverhill Prison yesterday, and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is due to visit them today.

The High Court is expected to hear proceedings aimed at securing the release of the five men next week.

Their solicitor, Greg Casey, will apply to the court on Wednesday to have the injunction against the men discharged, on the basis that Shell does not have the necessary consents that it claimed to have at an earlier court hearing in April.

Mr Casey said last night it was “crystal clear” that the company did not have the consents and that it had based its application for an injunction against the men on “erroneous grounds”.

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources confirmed that, while it had issued consents for preparatory work on the pipeline, no consent had yet been given for installing and commissioning the structure.

However, Shell said it had never claimed to have overall consent for the project at this stage. The process involved a series of “phased consents”, with approval for laying the pipeline due shortly, said a spokesman.

Up to 100 supporters protested outside yesterday’s hearing in the High Court, at which further contempt proceedings against three of the men were dismissed. A number of politicians, including Mayo TDs Michael Ring and Jerry Cowley, also attended.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins called on Mr Dempsey to tell Shell to “call it off” and ensure the five were released. The terms under which the State was “giving away” control of national resources to multinationals would have to be revisited, he said.

Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris said: “Decent, honest people are being criminalised by multinationals”.

Mr Ring said: “It’s a disgrace. It’s not right that the full powers of the State should be used against ordinary people.” Mayo would get “all the risk and none of the benefit” of the gas project.

Asked about the stance of his party leader and fellow Mayo TD Enda Kenny, who supports the gas project as being “in the common good”, Mr Ring replied: “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.”

Later the protesters marched to the Dail, although Mr Ring refused to walk alongside Sinn Fein members of the picket.

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