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Irish Independent: Jailed five urge Shell to lift court ban and allow gas talks

Irish Independent: Jailed five urge Shell to lift court ban and allow gas talks

“They will not and cannot accept the pipeline, but are still prepared to talk to Shell.”: “In their letter, the men say that the dealings of the Government had seen their land rights given to a private company, the lives of families and neighbours endangered and the natural resource of the Irish people given away.”

Tuesday August 16, 2005

By Lorna Reid

THE Rossport Five have asked Shell to stand down their High Court injunction so they can leave prison to attend talks on the Corrib gas pipeline.

The men will have been in Cloverhill prison for 50 days tomorrow, and say that they want to enter talks with Shell to end the impasse over the pipeline.

In an open letter from their jail cells, the men said they are in prison for an indefinite time.

They will not and cannot accept the pipeline, but are still prepared to talk to Shell.

Last night, however, Shell insisted that the continued imprisonment of the five was a matter between them and the High Court.

In a statement, the multinational oil company said that the men had breached a High Court order and Shell could not interfere with this process.

“If the men wish to participate in further dialogue outside the prison, the matter is entirely in their hands should they choose to purge their contempt,” the statement said.

The statement added that the company remained committed to entering into dialogue with the men and their families at the earliest opportunity.

It added that the company had done everything possible to create the appropriate climate for this to take place.

This had included voluntarily suspending all works on the on-shore and off-shore pipelines and the rescheduling of some of the works on the Corrib project until next year.

Shell said it welcomed the statement from the five as a very significant step towards dialogue, and their commitment to enter into that dialogue with the company once they were out of jail.

In their open letter, the men said: “We acknowledge the attempts of Shell to create a period of calm by halting all work on the project in north Mayo.

“We ask Shell and their Government partners to immediately stand down their injunction so that we can leave prison to attend these talks.”

They added: “We have been betrayed by our Government, marginalised by sections of the media and ignored by the ‘alternative government’.

“All we demand is for our families and neighbours to be safe in their own homes, no more, no less.”

The five – landowners Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin and Philip McGrath, schoolteacher Vincent McGrath and retired school teacher Micheal O Seighin – said that they would be free men if a compulsory order for the purchase of their lands to Shell had not been granted by the then Minister for Marine and Natural Resources, Frank Fahey.

In their letter, the men say that the dealings of the Government had seen their land rights given to a private company, the lives of families and neighbours endangered and the natural resource of the Irish people given away.

Yesterday, the spokesman for the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign group Dr Mark Garavan said that in spite of protestations by Shell that they wanted to talk about the pipeline, the reality was that Shell was not prepared to go offshore for the refining process to allow the gas to be purified and depressurised.

“What would one be talking about when the answer is already set in stone by Shell?” asked Dr Garavan.

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