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Irish Times: Jailed Mayo men accuse Shell of ‘vindictiveness’

Irish Times: Jailed Mayo men accuse Shell of ‘vindictiveness’

“In turning down a request from Mayo County Council to with-draw the restraining injunction against the men, Shell said such a move would undermine the entire legal basis for the onshore pipeline. A Shell spokesman said yesterday that setting aside the injunction was not a realistic option.”

Liamy McNally and Tim O’Brien

Aug 30, 2005

The five Mayo men imprisoned for contempt of court in connection with their opposition to the proposed Corrib gas pipeline have accused Shell of “vindictiveness and spite” in not facilitating their release from prison.

The five said the refusal by Shell to withdraw a temporary injunction was hindering their ability to prepare for a full hearing of the case scheduled for October.

In turning down a request from Mayo County Council to with-draw the restraining injunction against the men, Shell said such a move would undermine the entire legal basis for the onshore pipeline. A Shell spokesman said yesterday that setting aside the injunction was not a realistic option.

In response, the men, who have been in Cloverhill Prison for the last 63 days, said that as Shell had suspended work on the pipeline, the injunction not to interfere with such work made little sense.

Micheal O Sheighin, one of the jailed men, said Shell had at all times been only willing to communicate its own agenda “by bullhorn”, and was “not in the least bit interested in dialogue”.

“There has never been any indication that Shell has, in any way, been interested in dialogue.

“We cannot and will not give up our right to protect or turn our backs on our obligation to defend ourselves, our families and communities. This obligation is all the greater where the State refuses to do so.

“The only direct function the injunction now serves is to keep us in jail. No work is being done on the ground or will be done for the remainder of 2005.

“We cannot hinder work that is not being done.”

Last week, the cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Henry Kenny (FG), and party colleague Paddy McGuinness visited the men in prison, and afterwards publicly requested that Shell withdraw the injunction to enable the men to purge their contempt and allow face-to-face talks.

Mr McGuinness said Shell’s decision was a matter of great disappointment.

“We were hopeful that Shell would lift the injunction. This news is a great disappointment but we will not wash our hands.

“We are meeting with the council executive within the next 24 hours to examine further options. We cannot walk away. This is too serious.”

Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the Shell To Sea campaign, said the impasse “has nothing to do with the law but with Shell’s strategy. These men were targeted by Shell”.

He accused Shell of adopting a hardline position in contrast to the moderate approach of the men and their families, who want to see the matter resolved.

Bellanaboy/Leenamore residents, who live beside Shell’s proposed Corrib refinery about five miles from Rossport, also issued an open letter yesterday calling on the company to withdraw the injunction.

The letter, signed by Jacinta Healy, reminds Shell that in their five-year battle opposing the refinery the residents had always treated Shell personnel “with respect, courtesy and dignity at all times”.

It has also emerged that Advantica, the company appointed by the Government to carry out the latest safety review on the Corrib upstream pipeline, is a sister company of Transco, the British gas transportation company fined GBP15 million last week for causing the deaths of four members of a Scottish family in 1999 due to health and safety negligence.

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