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Irish Independent: Rossport Five call on Shell to have ban lifted

Irish Independent: Rossport Five call on Shell to have ban lifted

“Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and the Shell to Sea campaign, said if no injunction was in place it would create a legal context for progress and the possible release of the five.”

Saturday Aug 06, 2005

THE five men jailed for over five weeks due to their opposition to the onshore Corrib gas pipeline have called on Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) to stand down the injunction they obtained in the High Court preventing anyone from interfering with their construction activities in the Rossport area of north Mayo.

Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and the Shell to Sea campaign, said if no injunction was in place it would create a legal context for progress and the possible release of the five.

The announcement by SEPIL on Thursday night that it would defer laying the offshore pipeline for the Corrib Gas project until next year did not address the substantive issue of the safety of the onshore pipeline, Dr Garavan stated. “The company is simply acknowledging the reality that they cannot do any work on the ground. Shell is adopting a hard-line position. Essentially they are saying they are not going to change their project one iota. That is a hard-line, uncompromising position.”

SEPIL says the temporary suspension will not materially affect the completion schedule and will allow a period of dialogue.

Dr Garavan says the firm should use the pause to do a root-and-branch review of the project and improve it by providing an offshore terminal, as sought by the Shell to Sea campaigners.

About 30 supporters of the jailed men yesterday picketed the Castlebar constituency officesof Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who was at a funeral at the time. Mr Kenny offered to meet the protesters on Monday morning, but they would not accept this and threatened to maintain the picket over the weekend. Shell welcomed the consent issued this week for the offshore pipeline by Marine Minister Noel Dempsey, but decided to reschedule operations “after carefully considering all of the factors affecting the implementation of this phase”.

The world’s largest pipe-laying vessel, Solitaire, had been booked for the project later this month but the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association indicated it was considering a blockade in Broadhaven Bay in protest at the imprisonment of the five north Mayo residents.

Shell has suspended work on the onshore pipeline pending the safety review which the minister put out to tender. It is taking legal advice on the minister’s order to dismantle 3km of pipe built without consent. The Green Party has accused Mr Dempsey of worsening tensions on the issue by failing to release the environmental management plan for the project. Marine spokesman Eamon Ryan was promised a copy of the original plan in a reply by the minister to a Dail question on November 17, 2004. Failure to release it was a symptom of the “secretive attitude” which helped create the impasse in Mayo, Mr Ryan said. A spokesman for Mr Dempsey said Mr Ryan was sent a copy yesterday, but he did not have it by close of business.

Fianna Fail Mayo councillors Tim Quinn and Frank Chambers have expressed disappointment that the minister has not yet responded to a request from Mayo County Council, issued on July 19, to meet it.

Tom Shiel

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