"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
Rossport Five back in jail over objections By Vivion Kilfeather and Barbara Clinton
THE crisis surrounding activity by Shell in north Mayo deepened yesterday when five men were returned to prison over their continued objections to the work. The five, known as the Rossport Five, have now been in prison for 27 days. A full hearing of the action between the company and the protestors is scheduled for October. Yesterday, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, said that if the men wanted to make any application in respect of which he had a discretion, they would do so when they purged their contempt. At yesterday's hearing, John Rogers SC, for some of the protestors, referred to the works being carried out in the absence of consent and said no explanation for that had been put in by the company. In the absence of any explanation, his clients were able to respond only to what they read in the newspapers.Mr Justice Finnegan said he would get an explanation ''in due course''.Earlier Mr Rogers described as ''an audacious suggestion'' the terms of a letter from Shell which was read in court and stated by the company as maybe providing an opportunity for the protestors to purge their contempt.The Shell letter, which was read to the court by Patrick Hanratty SC, for the company, said: ''In view of the minister's decision to commission a further safety review, no more work will be done on the onshore pipeline element of the Corrib project until after the minister's review has been completed.'' Mr Hanratty said the safety concerns of the protestors were being adequately addressed. He did not know when the safety review would be completed but they may get it during the court's summer break.The judge said during further exchanges in court that he was quite satisfied that he had not been misled by Shell. Local TD Jerry Cowley said afterwards: ''If anyone should be in jail it is Shell's top brass. It is time for Minister Noel Dempsey to have the courage to deal with the issue. He should tell Shell to go to sea. The pipeline is too close to people's houses.'' In a statement read on their behalf, the men said yesterday: ''The freedom the Rossport Five require is the freedom and obligation all citizens have, the freedom to use all peaceful means to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours.''''We cannot agree to a proposal that proposes to ban us from continuing to protect our lives by opposing the Shell works. In light of recent developments, Shell's word is hardly legal tender.''
© The Irish Examiner 2005