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Rossport Five – Outbreak of reason is long overdue

IrishExaminer.com: Rossport Five – Outbreak of reason is long overdue

“…the court also intends to hear evidence that Shell itself was in breach of court orders by continuing development, despite undertakings not to do so.”: “Dr Mark Garavan, a spokesman for the men, was unequivocal that seven weeks ago, they indicated they would engage in talks once the injunction was removed. That is exactly what happened yesterday.”

Saturday 01/10/05

Reason prevailed in the High Court yesterday with the release of the so-called Rossport Five after 94 days in jail because of their opposition to Shell’s Corrib gas pipeline.

Had it been invoked in the first instance, these men need never to have seen the inside of a prison.

They effectively received a ticking off from the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, who warned them about their future conduct, although later this month he will decide if they are still to be punished for an illegal protest at the gas development site.

It could be respectfully suggested that 94 days in Cloverhill Prison was punishment enough for the five men, especially as they are entitled to feel vindicated, not having had to purge their contempt.

In what should be seen as an even-handed judgement, the court also intends to hear evidence that Shell itself was in breach of court orders by continuing development, despite undertakings not to do so.

It is intriguing that Noel Dempsey, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, had been endeavouring to find a formula for several weeks to get the men out of jail and into talks.

Yet Dr Mark Garavan, a spokesman for the men, was unequivocal that seven weeks ago, they indicated they would engage in talks once the injunction was removed. That is exactly what happened yesterday.

Why it did not happen long before now is perplexing. They were jailed for breaching a court injunction not to interfere with the construction of a Shell pipeline which they believed, rightly or wrongly, constituted a threat to the health and welfare of their families.

While the men could have returned to court at any time to purge their contempt, the perceived threat to their families forbade them taking this remedial action on a matter of principle.

So, too, could the company, by applying to have the injunction lifted, as suggested by Labour leader Pat Rabbitte at a stage when the men were a month in Cloverhill Prison.

The court also had the option of deeming at any time that the men had served justice adequately by spending time in prison.

It might have been a judicious decision then by Shell, had they taken it, because Mr Dempsey had written to them about a breach of the consents given to the company which he regarded as “very serious”.

In the event, they did not act and, from a public point of view, it appeared that a multinational company felt it was entitled to do what it pleased but expected a higher standard of compliance from the local landowners.

The concern their plight elicited was reflected in the fact that the campaign for their release developed into a nationwide issue. It led to the formation of the Shell To Sea protest group, and was even taken to Norway, the country whose state-owned Statoil has a 36% share in the Corrib gas field.

It occupied the attention of the Dáil and yesterday’s High Court hearing followed discussions at a joint Oireachtas committee and Mr Dempsey’s offer to appoint a mediator, which encouraged lawyers on both sides to meet.

He has also announced that a two-day local hearing will be held this month while a safety review is also being conducted on the project.

royaldutchshellplc.com and its sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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