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Released men insist Minister must join talks

Irish Times: Released men insist Minister must join talks

“The five Mayo men who spent 94 days in prison over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline have insisted that the Government must participate in mediation talks.”: ”Earlier on Saturday, the five were applauded by several thousand people at a rally in Dublin. In a joint statement, they thanked families, friends, Irish citizens and the incoming Norwegian government for its “respect” and “support”.

Monday 3 October 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent and Tom Shiel

Oct 03, 2005

The five Mayo men who spent 94 days in prison over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline have insisted that the Government must participate in mediation talks.

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey intends to seek an agreed nominee over the coming week to chair the discussions between Shell E&P Ireland and the five men and their community, but the group believes the Minister should be represented.

“The State cannot remain neutral in this,” the five men – Micheal O Seighin, Vincent and Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Willie Corduff, told The Irish Times at the weekend. They also confirmed that they would not be participating in a safety review, which the Minister has commissioned, due to its restricted terms of reference.

The five men and their families received an ecstatic welcome in north Mayo when they returned home at the weekend.

Earlier on Saturday, the five were applauded by several thousand people at a rally in Dublin. In a joint statement, they thanked families, friends, Irish citizens and the incoming Norwegian government for its “respect” and “support”.

“The constant theme in messages and post to us was ‘you are doing this for us’,” one of the five, Vincent McGrath, who lives just 70 metres from the proposed pipeline route, said.

“Today it’s our issue, but tomorrow it could be yours,” Brendan Philbin said to loud cheers, roars and whistles. He and his four colleagues paid tribute to the “hurlers behind the scenes”, who had supported the Rossport community’s case.

Dr Owens Wiwa, brother of Ken Sara-Wiwa, the Ogoni writer hanged by the Nigerian government for his opposition to Shell, said that Irish people should “thank God” that they live in a democracy. “In my country, if you protest against Shell, they arrest you, torture you, lock you up, and if you are a woman they rape you. My brother was one of nine hanged because of his views, and as a result we have told Shell that they will never ever drill oil from Ogoni. You continue to say ‘no to Shell, Shell to sea’,” he said.

Ictu general secretary David Begg paid tribute to the men’s families for their fortitude over the past three months, and to Dr Jerry Cowley TD, who he described as a “credit to public life”. Their case highlighted a “flaw in our democracy”, he said. Toleration of dissent was a measure of a democracy.

Large numbers travelled from Mayo, Galway and Clare for the Dublin march.

The State’s “servility towards corporate oil”, and the “squandering” of natural resources through exemption from royalties was criticised by Siptu president Jack O’Connor. The mistreatment of the five men, their families and community and the issues raised by the campaign ran to the very “core of society”.

There were loud boos when Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan addressed the rally, representing his party leader Enda Kenny.

Asked if he supported a gas refinery at sea, Mr Durkan said he fully supported health and safety issues. Joe Higgins TD (Ind) called for the mobilisation of the entire trade union movement if a “single man is put in jail again” over the Corrib gas issue.

Also addressing the rally were Labour Party marine spokesman Tommy Broughan, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent, Sinn Fein TD CaoimhghIn O Caolain, Independent Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy and journalist Eamon McCann.

Siptu offshore oil and gas spokesman Padraig Campbell noted that the men’s release on Friday came 18 years after a key change in oil and gas exploration legislation was made by former energy minister, Ray Burke.

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