01 October 2005

Free at last

Daily Ireland

After 94 days in prison for trying to protect their families and homes, the men who have become known as the Rossport Five are... Free at last

By Connla Young

The Rossport Five woke up this morning from a three-month nightmare after being set free from jail by the High Court in Dublin yesterday.
After 94 days behind bars, the five Co Mayo men — Willie Corduff, brothers Philip and Vincent McGrath, Mícheál Ó Seighin, and Brendan Philbin — walked unbowed and unbroken from Dublin’s Four Courts after a consortium led by the multinational oil giant Shell withdrew a High Court injunction.
The family men — four small landowners and a retired teacher — were jailed on June 29 after being found to have breached a High Court order taken out by Shell Exploration and Production Ireland — comprising Shell Oil, Statoil and Marathon.
The injunction barred the men from interfering with work on the potentially dangerous Corrib gas pipeline on their land.
Until yesterday, the men were in Dublin’s crowded Cloverhill prison after refusing to purge their contempt and give an undertaking not to interfere with future Corrib pipeline construction work in Co Mayo.
Speaking to Daily Ireland just hours after his release from jail, Vincent McGrath spoke of his relief at being reunited with his family.
“I am just about beginning to recover now.
“It’s not a time for recriminations. It’s a time for family and friends and for all the people who helped us.
“We would like to thank those people who helped us, manned the picket lines and supported us in any way.
“Eventually the pressure came to the fore and it is as much about the people who helped as it is about anybody else.
“Hopefully this situation will not arise again and that Shell and our government will look at the situation in a different way.
“But if the same circumstances prevailed again, we would have no choice but to take the same action.
“Nobody else was prepared to take responsibility for our safety and the safety of our families as Irish citizens.
“The state must now guarantee our safety,” he said.
The five men walked free from court yesterday after Joseph Finnegan, the president of the High Court, said the injunction taken out by Shell and its partner companies no longer served a “useful purpose”.
The men will appear before the High Court again on October 25 when it will be decided if they should be punished further for refusing to purge their contempt.
Andy Pyle, managing director of Shell E&P Ireland, said he hoped to forge ahead with the Corrib project.
“We fully recognise the concerns of the objectors and the very difficult situation which the men and their families have been through.
“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,” he said.

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