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Irish Times: Erris priests concerned about jailed men’s plight

Irish Times: Erris priests concerned about jailed men’s plight

“Priests in the Erris area of north Mayo have expressed concern about the “current impasse” in relation to the Corrib gas project and about the situation of the five residents imprisoned indefinitely for contempt of court.”

Friday July 08, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Priests in the Erris area of north Mayo have expressed concern about the “current impasse” in relation to the Corrib gas project and about the situation of the five residents imprisoned indefinitely for contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Shell has issued a statement robustly defending the importance of the project to the Irish economy.

In a statement issued yesterday, the priests said they had a “very special concern” for the five men – Micheal O Seighin, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, and Philip and Vincent McGrath – and their families.

The statement was issued on behalf of the 10 priests who cover the Erris deanery, including Fr Michael Nallen, curate at Aughoose; Fr Liam Reilly, curate at Inver; Fr Kevin Hegarty, curate at Kilmore; and Fr Francis Judge, curate at Belmullet.

They said they hoped for a resolution which restored the five men to their families and “addressed all genuine worries about health, safety and the environment” and which “ensured real benefits for Erris and Mayo”.

Earlier this week, Fr Nallen joined the protest outside Shell’s Bellanaboy terminal site, where work has been suspended by the company and its contractors.

Fr Nallen said that he intended to continue to man the picket line when other pastoral engagements allowed. He said that the gas controversy and the jailing of five local men for refusing to undertake not to obstruct the construction of a high-pressure gas pipeline had caused deep unhappiness and division.

Shell E&P Ireland said yesterday that it remained available for “meaningful discussions” with objecting landowners on the pipeline route, and highlighted the strategic importance of the gas project to the Irish economy.

“The project is one of the largest ever private inward investments in the State at almost €1 billion. To date, over €500 million has already been invested in the project,” the multinational said.

“Corrib is the first development of its kind in Ireland in 25 years and this is a hugely valuable development for the Irish State. Corrib gas will provide a secure native energy supply for the next 15 years. Without Corrib, Ireland would almost exclusively require imported gas for the country’s energy demands.

“The Corrib gas project will result in the extension of the Bord Gais distribution system to the west of Ireland and facilitate the improvement of the region’s infrastructure. The provision of gas will also aid the development of an improved electricity supply system.

“Furthermore, through the development of gas and fibre-optics infrastructure, the development of the Corrib project will stimulate the development of existing and new local businesses,” it said.

A protest rally in support of the men has been organised in Belmullet, Co Mayo at 2pm tomorrow by the Mayo TD, Dr Jerry Cowley (Independent).

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