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Rossport residents consider Supreme Court appeal in Shell document wrangle

Rossport residents consider Supreme Court appeal in Shell document wrangle
by Fiona McGarry
A decision not to give a number of Rossport residents access to a document belonging to Shell E&P is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
This week at the High Court, Mr Justice Smyth ruled that the document has legal, professional privilege, and refused access to it to Brendan James Philbin (of the ‘Rossport Five’) and Brid McGarry.
Both Rossport locals had claimed the document, which records a consultation session between Shell E&P and its legal team, showed inconsistencies between what the company has said publicly in court and privately to its lawyers, on a number of issues. They said the solicitor’s “attendance docket” shed light on ministerial consents for the pipeline, the issue of damages and the good faith of the company.
Mr Philbin and Ms McGarry, are two of a number of defendants involved in legal proceedings with Shell E&P arising from their opposition to the proposed route of the pipeline through their lands.
Mark Dunne, representing Ms McGarry and Mr Philbin, had told the High Court last month the document showed that, contrary to the impression the company was giving, there were outstanding issues of consent and approval for the gas pipeline. Mr Dunne argued that there was no valid consent, or that it was phased and conditional.
Shell E&P denied this, saying the document had legal privilege and could not be used by the residents in their legal action. Declan McGrath, representing Shell E&P, said no solicitor could have believed that the document did not have legal privilege.
Mr McGrath argued that the document, which was presented to the court during injunction proceedings, was included among court papers by mistake. He also dismissed any suggestion of a delay on the company’s part in claiming privilege over the document.
On July 31 last, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy ordered Shell E&P to produce a number of documents relating to the Corrib Gas project. She ordered that the State’s petroleum lease, the plan of development for the project and the Qualified Risk Assessment be produced. Three days later, Shell E&P signalled its intention to withdraw from legal action against a number of Rossport residents.
This application will be determined by the High Court early next year. On January 16 the High Court will also consider how to deal with counterclaims against Shell E&P brought by Mr Philbin, Ms McGarry, Willie Corduff and Philip McGrath.
Mr Philbin and Ms McGarry had been seeking to use the attendance docket for over a year to advance their counterclaim. They contended it was not legally privileged because some of the content was reported in an article in The Irish Times on July 5, 2005. However, this was rejected by Mr Justice Smyth who said the document retained its legal, professional privilege. Brid McGarry told The Mayo Advertiser she was now considering appealing the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court

Posted Date: 
7 December 2006 - 2:14pm