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Irish Times: Minister will not interfere in Shell High Court case

Irish Times: Minister will not interfere in Shell High Court case

“Commenting after yesterday’s High Court hearing, a spokeswoman for the Minister said this position was “absolute” and was not influenced by the fact that Shell E&P Ireland has been found to be in breach of ministerial consents.”

Tuesday July 26, 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey has said he will not interfere in the judicial process, even though five north Mayo residents opposed to the Corrib gas pipeline face imprisonment until at least October.

Commenting after yesterday’s High Court hearing, a spokeswoman for the Minister said this position was “absolute” and was not influenced by the fact that Shell E&P Ireland has been found to be in breach of ministerial consents.

The Minister is due to meet Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte and his colleagues, Tommy Broughan TD and Joe Costello TD, on the issue today.

Shell E&P Ireland, which expressed disappointment at the outcome of yesterday’s court proceedings, said it was “committed” to issuing a formal response to the Minister “in the coming days” on what it described as a “technical breach” of consents granted for the high-pressure onshore pipeline. The company’s legal representative expressed astonishment in court yesterday at a suggestion by counsel for one of the five imprisoned men that their injunction against the landowners had been obtained on a false premise because of the breaches alleged by the Minister.

Spokesman for the five men in prison and their families Mark Garavan called on the Minister and the main political parties to stop behaving like “bystanders” in the current situation.

Speaking after the court hearing, Mr Garavan said the issue was not simply one of the men purging their contempt in court.

“This does not just involve an apology. It involves giving an undertaking not to protest against Shell’s activities on the ground in Mayo and this is something that the men cannot do, given the risk posed to them, their families and neighbours by this high-pressure pipeline.”

Mr Garavan said that the men were disappointed the Minister had not sought to be represented in court yesterday, in the light of his own announcement that Shell was in breach of ministerial consents.

“One would have thought that when the liberty of five citizens was at stake, the Minister or his representatives would seek to clarify the information before the court,” Mr Garavan said.

The five men – Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Philip and Vincent McGrath and Micheal O Seighin – were all in “very good spirits” and were resolute in relation to the need for an offshore terminal, Mr Garavan said. The men and their families were united on the issue, he emphasised. “This is not easy, it is not a game, it is not pleasant for anyone involved in this, but at this point they have no choice in the matter, unless Shell decides it is going to build this refinery offshore,” he said.

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