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Freedom setback for jailed Shell pipeline protesters

Ireland OnLine: Freedom setback for jailed Shell pipeline protesters

Posted Thursday 7 July 2005

Five men jailed for their opposition to a Shell gas pipeline in Mayo cannot rely on the quashing of the injunction against them to secure their release, a court heard today.

Micheal O’Seighin, Vincent McGrath, his brother Philip, Willie Corduff and Brandon Philbin are being held in Cloverhill prison in Dublin for refusing to obey the injunction taken out by Shell.

It prevents them from obstructing the construction of the pipeline through their land in Rosscourt, Co Mayo.

At the High Court in Dublin senior counsel Patrick Hanratty, representing Shell, said it was extremely misleading to imply that an application to quash the injunction would free the men.

He said that the impression had been created that a rabbit could be pulled out of the hat.

“The situation is sensitive because five people are in jail. Shell do not want anyone in jail, they just want to proceed with the construction of the pipeline,” he said.

The president of the high court, Judge Joseph Finnigan, said it should be made clear that the application by solicitor Greg Casey to quash the injunction was being brought on the behalf of two people who were party to the injunction granted to Shell but were not in custody.

He told senior counsel John Rogers, representing the five men, that even if the injunction was lifted the men would remain in prison because they would still be in contempt of court.

“The short answer is that their fate is in their own hands still. It’s up to them to purge their contempt,” he said.

Judge Finnigan set a date for mention for next Monday for the application against the injunction to be brought by Mr Casey, who is ill at present.

He will argue that a recent statement in the Dáil by Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey indicated that Shell did not have full consent to construct the pipeline.

The five men were put in Cloverhill prison last week and have stated publicly that they are determined to continue their opposition to the pipeline.

Shell E & P Ireland is seeking to pump gas at high pressure from the Corrib gas field along the pipe to an onshore refinery at Bellanoboy in Mayo as part of a €990m project.

The five men have agreed to respect a second injunction granted to Shell, preventing them from obstructing the road to the company’s construction depot in Rossport.

Judge Finnigan said he was aware there were ongoing difficulties, with recent reports that protesters were continuing to block the road in defiance of the injunction.

He said he wanted the order posted at both ends of the road.

“Anyone who sees fit to disobey that order, certainly if they’re brought before the court, they’ll be dealt with.”

The five men were not in court for the brief hearing.

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