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Irish Times: 1,500 at rally to support jailed protesters

Irish Times: 1,500 at rally to support jailed protesters

“Further protests are due to be held today at the Shell terminal site at Bellanaboy and at the offices of Minister of State Frank Fahey in Galway.”

Monday 4 July 2005

Lorna Siggins in Castlebar, Co Mayo

Jul 04, 2005

Families of the five imprisoned north Mayo men have called for the resignation of Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey and his predecessors in marine, Dermot Ahern and Frank Fahey.

The demand was made at a rally attended by more than 1,500 people in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday in support of the five men, who were jailed indefinitely last week for contempt of court over their opposition to Shell’s Corrib gas field pipeline.

Several engineering and physics experts who addressed the rally, including Dr Werner Blau, professor of physics at Trinity College, Dublin, said the fears of the men and their families in Rossport were justified, given the fatality record in relation to high-pressure pipelines.

In a statement issued by the families of the five men in Cloverhill Prison, Ms BrId McGarry, who is also a Rossport landowner, called for a halt to all “illegal” development at Rossport, a cessation of all operations by Shell onshore and offshore pending a full hearing of the issues, and a direction to the company to clean gas and hydrocarbons offshore “as recommended by Kevin Moore, senior inspector with An Bord Pleanala” in 2003.

The families also called for a renegotiation of the entire State deal with oil and gas exploration companies under the 1992 Finance Act, and appealed to people to lobby their TDs and councillors to seek a “vindication of the Rossport five”.

Mary Corduff, wife of one of the men, Willie Corduff, accused Shell of trying to “divide and conquer and split neighbours and friends”. Chris Philbin, son of Brendan Philbin, said that responsibility lay not only with Shell but with the Government and with “Mayo County Council, where it all started”.

Maura Harrington, campaigner for the Erris residents, said that last Wednesday’s jailing of the five men represented a “Rubicon”. The council for the West did not speak for the men or their families when it facilitated a meeting in Leinster House last week with Shell, she said. The council was “trying to help Shell take the hard edges off a PR disaster”, she said.

Prof Werner Blau, professor of physics at Trinity College Dublin and part-time Rossport resident, appealed to Shell’s shareholders to remind the company of its corporate social responsibilities. He had examined the technical data, and the proximity of the pipeline to houses wouldn’t even comply with US standards, which were “pretty lax”, he said. The US Office of Pipeline Safety has recorded 1,586 incidents including 61 fatalities, 235 injuries and over $408 million of damage from 1986 to 2004, Prof Blau said.

Galway-based engineer Brian Coyle said it was well known that pipelines failed, and if this pipeline was laid along its current route “people will die”.

Mayo TDs Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind), who organised the rally, and Michael Ring (FG) reiterated their call on the Minister for the Marine to insist that Shell build its gas terminal at sea. Several speakers called for a boycott of both Shell and Statoil products.

Mayo TD Beverley Flynn (Ind) and several Fianna Fail councillors attended, but did not address the rally. Further protests are due to be held today at the Shell terminal site at Bellanaboy and at the offices of Minister of State Frank Fahey in Galway.

In a statement yesterday, Shell E&P Ireland Limited said that it remained available for talks.

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