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Irish Independent: Shell denies that it let Rossport 5 ‘languish in prison’

Published: Jan 18, 2007

SHELL has rejected claims that it let the Rossport Five languish in prison for several weeks after the company had agreed to cease work on its gas pipeline.

Shell E & P Ireland had halted the work pending the outcome of a safety review by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, the High Court heard yesterday.

Counsel for Shell Patrick Hanratty said that such a suggestion was “grossly unfair”. Shell had nothing to do with the amount of time the men spent in prison or the fact they were there at all.

He was responding to submissions made by Lord Brennan, counsel for two of the pipeline opponents, Brendan James Philbin and Breege McGarry.

Compliance

Lord Brennan told the court on Tuesday that documents had revealed that Shell had agreed with the minister in early July 2005 to stop work on the pipeline pending compliance issues and the outcome of the safety review.

It was only in September 2005 that the company applied to the High Court to have the five men released from prison, citing the suspension of work and the safety review as the basis for its application.

The men had spent 94 days in prison before they were freed.

They were jailed on June 29 2005 for contempt of court when they refused to obey a court injunction forbidding them to interfere with work being undertaken by Shell.

Yesterday Mr Hanratty said that the minister said that he was commissioning a report in July 2005, but Shell did not not know what form that report would take until the following September.

Mr Hanratty said that rather than obey the court order, or subsequently purge their contempt, the men had opted to go to jail. Shell, he added, were under no obligation to go to court to remove the injunction.

Mr Hanratty also rejected Lord Brennan’s argument that Shell should pay the defendants’ costs to date on a solicitor-client basis (the highest level of legal costs.)

Mr Hanratty said that costs should only be award on that basis in the event of there being any misconduct.

There was, counsel added, “not one shred of evidence” of misconduct on the part of Shell.

Mr Hanratty was speaking on the second and final day of an application by Shell, being heard by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, to discontinue its long-running legal action against opponents of the pipeline.

Agreement

Shell say that the application was no longer relevant in light of its agreement to modify the route of the controversial pipeline following a recommendation to that effect by a Government appointed mediator, Peter Cassells.

Opponents of the pipeline have lodged a series of counterclaims for damages against Shell.

Following the conclusion of submissions, Ms Justice Laffoy said she was reserving judgment on the matter.

Shell is seeking to discontinue an action arising out of the opposition to the proposed route of the pipeline by defendants, Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath, Breege McGarry and Brendan James Philbin.

Ann O’Loughlin

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