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Pipeline group told of role for rights commission

The State's human rights commission could intervene in the case of the five Co Mayo men imprisoned over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline, according to NUI law lecturer Donncha O'Connell.Speaking at a public meeting hosted by the Shell to Sea campaign in Salthill, Galway, last night, Mr O'Connell said the case involved important human rights issues. On this basis, the human rights commission had the statutory power to seek to intervene as an amicus curiae or ''friend of the court''.He said the wider implications of the case in relation to individual human rights arising from use of contempt proceedings could be amplified by such an intervention.It was objectionable in principle that people should be subjected to indefinite imprisonment for civil contempt in breaching a prohibitory order. Indeterminate committal was no longer used in cases of criminal contempt.He said it would be open to lawyers for the five men to seek a declaration at next month's full hearing into the injunction that their indefinite committal in Cloverhill Prison was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.''The court may discharge the order or vary its terms to strike a more nuanced balance between the interests of Shell and the human rights of those affected by the order.''In any event, there was a ''demonstrable need'' for legislation to clarify the law on civil and criminal contempt. The common law in this area left too much to the discretion of the judges and was ''ill suited to contemporary circumstances in which the rights and freedoms of individuals must be protected against violations - not just by the State but also by powerful private interests''.He said the European Convention on Human Rights had been incorporated into Irish law since late 2003, and this presumes a compatibility of Irish law and law under its terms.Speaking at the meeting, Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the five men and the Shell to Sea campaign, again called on Shell to lift its injunction against the five as an essential prerequisite for any progress.He also criticised the Government for trying to portray itself as ''neutral'' in this conflict.''It is not. It has actively created the Corrib gas project, and is the direct cause of the project's present shambles.''Also speaking at the meeting were Bríd Ní Sheighín, daughter of imprisoned Micheál Ó Seighín, and Sr Majella McCarron of Ogoni Solidarity Ireland.Cáitlín Ní Sheighín, wife of Mr Ó Seighín, is accompanying Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley and other family members on a visit to Norway this week to highlight Statoil's role in the Corrib gas row. The group will meet representatives of Statoil and the main Norwegian political parties.

Posted Date: 
21 August 2006 - 1:08am