"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.”
JUNE 29 is a date that will be forever etched in the memories of five men from north Mayo whose collective name, the Rossport Five, is now part of the vernacular across the country.
Tomorrow (Thursday) is the first anniversary of the day when Michael Ó Seighin, Willie Corduff, Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin were first incarcerated in Cloverhill Prison and this week they have denied reports that there is ‘a split in the camp’.
A report in last weekend’s issue of The Sunday Times suggested that the ‘five’ had become ‘four’ after Brendan Philbin decided to ‘pursue his case against Shell through a separate legal strategy’, but Dr Mark Garavan, spokesman for the Shell to Sea group, denied this, stating that Mr Philbin was ‘still very much in touch with what is going on but the other four men are, for the most part, conducting the negotiations’.
Dr Jerry Cowley, who has maintained a close relationship with the five men since the very beginning of their much-publicised campaign, is adamant that all five men remain committed to the cause.
“There is no doubting the fact that the Rossport Five are still a ‘five’ and they remain more determined than ever. They may have two legal teams representing them but the goal remains the same and we all do our best to attend the Sunday morning meetings which are held every week. The next week will be tough for the men as it is the first anniversary of when they were first denied their liberty, but the community is still united behind them,” stated Deputy Cowley.
To commemorate the imprisonment, a number of events will take place on Thursday, starting with a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of Michael Davitt in Straide at 1pm. A cavalcade of cars will then travel to Glengad, Rossport and Bellanaboy and at 3pm there will be a barbeque at Bellanaboy followed by music. Prior to the ceremony at Straide, a letter of protest will be handed in to Mayo County Council regarding their failure to adequately supervise Shell’s activities in north Mayo.
Dr Garavan claims one year on that ‘the issues that led to the men’s jailing remain unresolved’.
“Despite their claims, Shell, Statoil and Marathon continue to refuse to listen to the demands of the communities directly affected by their proposed project in north Mayo. It is now clear that Shell has refused the compromise solution of an off-shore processing of the Corrib gas. The consequence is that, because they do not have the consent of those communities for their present proposal, Shell’s project cannot proceed.”
Dr Garavan also rejected criticisms this week from Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Mr John Dunne, that opposition to the Corrib Gas Project was stifling the economy of the region.
“It must be emphasised once again that the Shell to Sea campaign favours exploiting Ireland’s natural gas reserves. In addition, we support in principle the development of the Corrib Gas Project. However, we want to see the benefits of this project better secured for the country as a whole and, more particularly, for Co Mayo. As the recent Irish Times poll showed, opposition to Shell’s project is backed by a large majority of the Irish people. It is time for Shell and the Government to listen to the people and completely reconfigure this project,” added Dr Garavan.