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September 30, 2005

Five Walk Free in Pipeline Battle

News about Ireland and the Irish

UT 09/30/05 Five Walk Free In Pipeline Battle


Five Walk Free In Pipeline Battle

Five men jailed for the last 94 days in their battle to stop energy giant Shell building a gas pipeline walked free from court today.

By:Press Association

The men from County Mayo in the west of Ireland were locked up after they refused to guarantee that they would not interfere with construction work on the controversial project.

They had been jailed for contempt of court after breaching an injunction aimed at allowing Shell to complete the €700 million (€500 million) pipeline.

The order was discharged in the High Court in Dublin today after the men apologised for their actions.

As the men walked from the courtroom, bringing an end to the David and Goliath battle, they shook hands with prison officers and were greeted with cheers and applause from hordes of supporters and relatives.

The men - Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin and Micheal O`Seighin - were ordered to return to the court on October 25 when the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, will rule if they will be given any further punishment.

Outside the court, surrounded by dozens of supporters, the men said they had no regrets.

Mr O`Seighin said it was a victory for the ordinary people of Ireland.

"The work is not going ahead, there is no compromise with the safety of lives and families," he said.

"We do not intend to leave the area more dangerous for the kids coming after us than we got it from the people before us.

"It`s a victory for the ordinary people. It`s a victory for the people on the street, it`s a victory for us in that we saw the danger and analysed it early on and we had to dig our heels in so it`s a victory in that sense.

"It`s a different kind of victory, it`s not a personal victory for anyone, it`s a victory for feet on the streets, for the awareness of the ordinary Irish people that things have gone too far, that they have to be stopped, that they can`t go any further."

All five men agreed to continue their fight to get Shell to abandon its plans for the Corrib gas pipeline.

The dispute over the 44-mile pipe from a gas field in the Atlantic Ocean to an onshore refinery near Rossport hit the headlines in June when the men were jailed.

Known as the Rossport Five, the men claimed the pipeline would pose a serious safety threat. They said a gas leak or explosion would devastate nearby towns and villages.

Lawyers for the men said they wanted to express their sincere regret over the court case and apologised for disobeying the court order.

Philip McGrath said the men were proud of what they had done.

He said they had stood up against the power of one of the world`s largest energy companies and insisted he would do the same again to protect his family.

He said all five men greatly missed their freedom over the last three months.

"I suppose the freedom first, we were under lock and key all the time," he said.

Mr McGrath said inmates in Cloverhill prison in Dublin stood by them.

"They were in great support of us, we had full support," he said.

Willie Corduff said he would return to jail if he thought it would stop Shell building the pipeline.

"Why wouldn`t we be proud? Would you not be proud?" Mr Corduff asked.

"I`d go back in there if I had to. But it`s good to be out in the fresh air and in the rain, we miss the rain."

The men will return to the High Court next month where lawyers will make submissions on whether the men should be punished for their contempt.

Campaigners also insisted they would continue protesting against the controversial pipeline. A protest march is due to be held in Dublin tomorrow afternoon.

In a statement Shell said it welcomed the court decision and hoped it would lead to a resolution of the matter.

Andy Pyle, Shell Ireland managing director, said it was hoped the five men would engage in a safety review and proposed mediation.

"We fully recognise the concerns of the objectors and the very difficult situation which the men and their families have been through," Mr Pyle said.

"For the past three months, we have worked to bring about the conditions under which the men could come out of prison while maintaining our lawful right to complete this authorised development.

"We have suspended all onshore and offshore works and have offered to engage in third party, independent, mediation.

"We believe that new information regarding the timing around the safety review, together with the Minister`s initiatives, allow us to now move towards a successful conclusion and a resumption of the project."

Noel Dempsey, Irish Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, said he hoped it was the first step on the road to a solution.

He said: "I welcome the fact that both sides have taken steps forward and that the five men concerned can now return to their families.

"I hope that this move, along with the appointment of a mediator, will allow all those concerned to participate fully in the public consultation process of the safety review and to work together to reach a solution that is acceptable to all."
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