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Irish Emigrant: Five Mayo men jailed in dispute with Shell

Irish Emigrant: Five Mayo men jailed in dispute with Shell

“Up to 200 people protested at Rossport and Bellinaboy on Thursday while at the same time about 100 people assembled outside a Shell depot in Galway.”

Posted Monday 4 July 2005

Five north Mayo men were imprisoned on Wednesday afternoon when they were found to be in contempt of court and then rejected the opportunity to give a commitment that they would comply with a court order. Brendan Philbin, Willie Corduff, Micheál Ó Seighin and brothers Philip and Vincent NcGrath had repeatedly ignored a court injunction which banned them from impeding the Shell oil company in carrying out preparatory work for a high-pressure gas pipeline near the village of Rossport in Erris, Co. Mayo. Shell refused to comment on why the five men had been singled out while no action was taken against a number of others involved in the protests, including landowner Bríd McGarry.

For a number of years locals have been divided over the plan to bring gas ashore from the Corrib field 70 kilometres out in the Atlantic to a terminal at Bellanaboy, some ten kilometres inland. The five who were jailed and their supporters argue that it is dangerous to pipe the untreated gas to the terminal at the high pressures involved. They are demanding that Shell process the gas on a platform at sea, as occurs on the Kinsale field. The men also maintain that Shell does not have the necessary approvals from Government ministers. Shell, of course, rejects all the accusations. It insists that it has all the relevant approvals, that it is using the latest technologies and that the risks being suggested by the objectors do not exist.

In a statement issued after the court hearing Shell described the outcome as “most unfortunate” and claimed that the five men had refused to meet the company’s representatives to discuss their concerns. Shell also pointed out that of the 34 landowners along the pipeline route, 28 had agreed on access and compensation terms.

The jailing of the five men has angered their families as well as many politicians and local people. Despite calls for him to intervene, Minister for Natural Resources Noel Dempsey said it would be inappropriate for him to become involved in a matter in which the court has already ruled. On Wednesday night four Co. Mayo TDs, Marian Harkin MEP and the Bishop of Elphin Christy Jones met representatives of Shell but failed to find a solution to the problem.

Up to 200 people protested at Rossport and Bellinaboy on Thursday while at the same time about 100 people assembled outside a Shell depot in Galway. Further protests were planned for Castlebar and Ballina over the weekend.

On Friday the McGrath brothers and Willie Corduff were back in court in relation to the breaching of a second injunction. On this occasion the men gave an undertaking that they would not obstruct the road leading to the Shell depot in Rossport and the case was dismissed. That, however, didn’t change the situation and the five men will remain imprisoned until they purge their contempt before the High Court, unless their solicitor is successful when he attempts to convince a judge this week that Shell does not have the approval necessary to proceed with the project. Those opposed to piping the untreated gas ashore have created a website to publicise their case.

http://www.shelltosea.com

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