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Irish Examiner: Oireachtas to debate Shell crisis if men purge contempt

Irish Examiner: Oireachtas to debate Shell crisis if men purge contempt

“But despite the offer, the Rossport Five again indicated yesterday that they would not enter any negotiations until Shell drops the injunction against them.”

Saturday 6 August 2005

By Michael O’Farrell, Political Reporter

THE Oireachtas Communications Committee is to hold urgent hearings on the Corrib gas saga, provided the five men jailed as a result of the dispute purge their contempt.

Committee chairman Noel O’Flynn said the matter was an important one which deserved “urgent priority”.

“Nobody wants to see decent people in jail on a point of privilege. It’s a very important matter the committee should explore,” he said from Gibraltar.

However, legal advice received by the committee has indicated it cannot address the issue as long the Rossport Five remain in jail.

“We want to deal with the matter but we can’t do it until the lads are out of jail. The contempt of court issue has to be dealt with first,” said Mr O’Flynn.

But others – including committee members – rubbished the advice, saying there was no reason why hearings cannot be held as soon as the Dáil returns.

Labour communications spokesman Tommy Broughan said the committee should be able to consider any topic.

“We should be able to discuss anything we like. We can discuss whether or not Shell should have a pipeline and the whole wider issue,” he said.

Rossport Five spokesman Mark Garavan said the legal barrier to committee hearings did not seem tenable.

“I’m not at all convinced they are not able to talk about it because there are lots of other issues aside from the contempt which can be discussed,” he said.

While a spokesman for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey said no request had yet been received, a spokesman for Shell said the company would have no problem attending any Oireachtas hearing.

Shell announced on Thursday it was deferring all work to allow “further discussion and dialogue” on the future of the €900 million Corrib project.

In response, Mr Dempsey has offered to appoint an intermediary in the dispute.

But despite the offer, the Rossport Five again indicated yesterday that they would not enter any negotiations until Shell drops the injunction against them.

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