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THE SUNDAY TIMES: Corrib threat to Shell sell-off

THE SUNDAY TIMES (UK): Corrib threat to Shell sell-off

“SHELL’S plan to sell 50 petrol stations in Ireland could be stalled by protesters in Co Mayo. Five men jailed last Wednesday for blocking the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline across their land have called for solidarity pickets at all Shell Ireland and Statoil garages. The multinational company has admitted that a national boycott would threaten its plans for a quick sale.”

Sunday 3 July 2005

Douglas Dalby and Siobhan Maguire

SHELL’S plan to sell 50 petrol stations in Ireland could be stalled by protesters in Co Mayo.

Five men jailed last Wednesday for blocking the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline across their land have called for solidarity pickets at all Shell Ireland and Statoil garages.

The multinational company has admitted that a national boycott would threaten its plans for a quick sale. Protests are planned for tomorrow with hundreds expected to travel to Castlebar, Co Mayo, where the families of the jailed men — dubbed the Rossport Five — will address the crowds.

“The protest will be an act of support for those men,” said Jerry Cowley, the Mayo TD. “If the pipeline was planned for my land, I would be in jail with them as well. Boycotting Shell products is another way people can voice their anger over what has happened.”

Shell announced two weeks ago that it was in talks to sell the 50 forecourts it owns in Ireland and a further 160 it services, saying it “hoped to make a decision in the coming weeks”.

Any sustained boycott could damage the Shell brand in Ireland, having a knock-on effect on the value of its Irish assets, analysts said.

“It would be a very disappointing development indeed (a boycott) and would not be good news for the sale process, which is ongoing,” said a Shell spokesman.

“It should be remembered that the majority of garages with the Shell logo are owned independently. Actions like these would threaten businesses and discomfit drivers.”

The jailing of the men for refusing to end their protest has galvanised local opposition to the pipeline in Erris, a picturesque part of north Mayo. An attempt to secure their release will be made in the High Court this Wednesday.

Three of the five, Willie Corduff, and brothers Philip and Vincent McGrath, were brought to the High Court last Friday in relation to a separate injunction preventing them from obstructing a road leading to the gas terminal.

Contempt proceedings were dismissed after the men gave assurances that they would abide by the court ruling.

The other two are James Philbin and Micheal O’Seighin.

Cowley, who visited the men in Cloverhill prison, Clondalkin, on Friday, said: “These men are determined to stick to their protest: people in New Mexico died in an explosion from a gas pipeline. These five are expected to live within 70 metres of such a pipeline. Can you blame them for their determination to put a stop to this?”

Shell wants to pump gas from the Corrib field off the coast of Mayo along a nine kilometre pipeline to a refinery at Bellanaboy. The objectors want the terminal to be located offshore but Shell says rough sea conditions make that too dangerous and costly.

The oil giant said it has no intention of stopping its operations on the €900m project or withdrawing from Mayo.

The company said it would be available for “constructive dialogue” with the five Erris residents in prison, but campaigners claimed Shell has so far refused to hold any public debate on the matter.
Ed Moran, a local campaigner, said: “There have been many calls for boycotts and protests. There is enormous support for these men who have been jailed because they have come across as sincere men who have been put in the most invidious position.

“Shell believed they had this one in the bag. They were shown the red carpet by the local authorities but there was no way that people who were expected to live with this pipeline could sit back and do nothing. We will carry on supporting this campaign for as long as we have to.”

As the number of protesters swelled to 500 last week, some workers were told not to report to work until Tuesday.

“There was no threat to our safety but the foreman told us it would be better to go while we could, in case the crowd decided to block the road and we would not have been able to drive out,” said one worker.

Locals have now organised shifts to picket the narrow road into Rossport, the site the pipes have to cross on their way to Bellanaboy.

A contractor’s lorry surrounded by parked cars and vans has been sinking into the bog beside the road for the past three weeks.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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