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Norwegian mission was deciding factor - Cowley

THE Rossport Five spent 94 days in prison but Dr Jerry Cowley, TD, perhaps their most fervent spokesperson, feels the men may still be behind bars but for a Norwegian mission he and members of the men’s families undertook two weeks ago.
Statoil, who are represented in 30 countries worldwide but have their headquarters in Stavanger, Norway, own 36% of the Corrib gasfield.
The Norwegian Government in turn own 71% of the company and supporters of the Rossport Five felt their plight would be looked on compassionately if brought to the attention of high-ranking Government and union officials in the Scandinavian country.
“The main prerogative of all the supporters of the Rossport Five was to get those men out of jail, nothing more, nothing less,” said Dr Cowley on Monday.
“Our whole summer has been taken up with this plight but from the word go we knew we would get nowhere unless our plan was orchestrated and organised.
“So family, friends and supporters of the men met every Wednesday and Sunday nights in Glenamoy to decide how best we could act and get these innocent men out of Cloverhill. We did our best to keep their plight in the media spotlight throughout the summer and organised marches and garnered support from every corner.”
Dr Cowley stated the idea to travel to Norway first came to light at one of these meetings and he sought to make contact initially with journalists he had met from Norway who were in Ireland covering the story.
“Through the journalists I got contacts details for the relevant parties in Norway and before we embarked on the journey we arranged to have a full list of people to meet. The timing of our visit was deliberate in that elections were just over and a new Government was in place. The unions were very involved in the new Government of the Green-Red Alliance so we also organised numerous meetings with unions officials.”
The delegation who arrived in Oslo on September 19 were Caitlín Ní Sheighin (wife of Michéal Ó Seighin), Chris Philbin (son of Brendan Philbin), John Monaghan (son-in-law of Michéal Ó Seighin), Anthony Irwin (neighbour) and Dr Cowley.
“We received national coverage on Norwegian television for the whole visit and the public reaction was enormous. They were very sympathetic to the plight of the men.
“As a result, we met with many top-ranking union officials, opposition politicians and most importantly the Minister for Oil and Energy, Thorhild Widvey. The message we got was that people could not understand how innocent protestors could be jailed for standing up for their families.”
The delegation also spoke with Senior Vice President of Statoil, Helge Hatlestad, and he listened to their concerns over the project. Andy Pyle, Shell’s Managing Director has denied this week that any senior Statoil officials who visited Ireland from Norway had brought pressure to bear on Shell but Dr Cowley believes this not to be true.
“Well we didn’t expect Mr Pyle to come out and says his company had to succumb to the pressure, but it’s plain to see by the timing of the lifting of the injunction that Shell’s hand was forced by someone.
“It can be no coincidence that Mr Hatlestad was in Ireland less than a week after he met with our delegation. Statoil wanted no part in a story that had innocent men behind bars for 100 days.”
Dr Cowley is keen to emphasise that the trip to Norway was self-financed by the delegation and no money from the Rossport Five campaign was used.
“I know there were people out there who thought we were mad going to Norway but I believe our delegation made the necessary impression with the right people and our efforts bore fruit,” concluded Dr Cowley.

Posted Date: 
21 August 2006 - 1:09am