"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
Stephen O’GradyAS the fate of five landowners from Rossport, in north Mayo, remained in the balance on Monday evening last, the continuing Bellanaboy stand-off between Shell-to-Sea campaigners and representatives of Shell E&P Ireland Ltd (SEPIL) showed no sign of resolution.
Four members of the so-called Rossport Five, along with up to 20 supporters, were in the High Court on Monday morning last, when President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, again postponed his decision on whether Willie Corduff, Micheal Ó Seighin, Brendan Philbin, Philip McGrath and Vincent McGrath should return to prison.
The five, who served 94 days in Cloverhill Prison last summer, will discover on April 7 if they are to be punished for contempt of court.
Mr Justice Finnegan will consider if the High Court is in a legal position to deliver punishment in a situation where a court order no longer exists. An order committing the five men to prison was lifted last September when Shell applied to lift the temporary injunction, which had restrained interference with pipeline works at Bellanaboy. Counsel for the five have argued that a punitive sanction is unnecessary considering the term served behind bars last summer.
Meanwhile, SEPIL has described as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ continued blockades and threatened blockades at the entry to the Bellanaboy terminal, which have prevented Shell staff and contractors from accessing the site to commence installation of further water treatment equipment. This resistance was continuing on Monday afternoon last.
“Shell plans to bring some equipment on site related to the testing of additional equipment on the Roadbridge, and plan to bring a digger and dumper on site to prepare the foundations for the proposed extension of the Axonics plant,” explained spokesperson Christy Loftus.
Shell has also expressed ‘grave concerns’ about what it describes as ‘a major incursion’ onto the Bellenaboy site by more than 20 Shell-to-Sea protesters on Wednesday last.
“Shell-to-Sea were putting themselves, including very young children, in danger by refusing to obey site safety rules. Furthermore, this incursion was a breach of a long-standing agreement that SEPIL had with Shell to Sea whereby two accredited protestors would come on site at any one time,” a spokesperson commented.
Shell-to-Sea representatives, meanwhile, brought their campaign to the Traveller’s Friend Hotel in Castlebar on Sunday, where Minister Noel Dempsey was officiating at the Fianna Fáil selection convention. Up to 20 campaigners bore placards and distributed leaflets, urging the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to ‘stop hiding’ the long-awaited, independent Advantica report on the Corrib controversy.
“Noel Dempsey is directly responsible for this dangerous and unprecedented project, which is not only endangering people’s lives but, through the deal, is robbing this country of its precious natural resources. Our message for the minister is that it is not acceptable to put our lives in danger so that Shell can profit,” explained spokesperson for Rossport Solidarity Camp, Eve Ní Chathmhaoil.
Members of the Rossport Five and SEPIL are expected to hold independent talks with Mr Peter Cassells this week in a move to advance the mediation process, after the ground rules were unveiled last week. Independent mediator, Mr Cassells, has issued a five-part description to both parties, including the deployment of Minister Dempsey as ‘a consultative partner as required’. All other parties will be excluded from formal mediation, absolute confidentiality will be maintained and neither side will report to a third party during the process. The methodologies for the mediation will be discussed and agreed.
“The mediation will be carried out properly, professionally and in an independent manner in accordance with these ground rules,” said Peter Cassells. “The overall task of the mediation will be to reconcile the two interests of bringing the gas in the Corrib gas field to market and ensuring safety. For mediation to work both of these objectives must be achieved.”
Mr Cassells has proposed that the parties may set down core non- negotiable issues.