Skip to main content

An uncertain freedom

Home at last The Rossport Five took their first steps on home soil in over three months, when they walked their Bellanaboy lands last Sunday morning.

AMIDST the unbridled celebrations that swept Rossport this weekend, Shell E&P Ireland Ltd introduced a sobering note to the occasion by denying weekend speculation that they will consider altering the route of the contentious onshore pipeline.
After the release of the five Rossport men who spent 94 days in Cloverhill Prison for defying a court injunction, reports suggested that SEPIL would look at alternative routes for the pipeline as mediation gets under way in the coming days to try and break the impasse between local protesters and the company. However, the company’s Managing Director, Mr Andy Pyle, told The Mayo News this week that no such plans were being considered. He also flatly denied that any pressure had been exerted by SEPIL’s partners in the development of the Corrib gas field, Norwegian company Statoil, in setting aside the injunction on Friday last that facilitated the men’s release.
“We certainly have not done anything regarding plans for the re-routing of the pipeline,” said Mr Pyle. “We will not be initiating such a proposal. We will be looking at a range of options as part of the mediation process, but that [an alternative route] is not an option at the moment. The proposed route was chosen over other options for a number of reasons, and we have got to try and find a solution within the remit of the consents that have been issued for the works.”
Despite meetings between SEPIL and an executive from Statoil last week, Mr Pyle dismissed claims that the Norwegian company, which is partly state-owned, had agitated for the release of Willie Corduff, Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin and Micheál Ó Seighin. “That is absolutely untrue,” he said. “There was no pressure from anybody in fact, and especially not from our partners in the project.”
While legal issues remain outstanding following the release of the five men, the decision of protesters not to co-operate with a safety review ordered by Minister Noel Dempsey remains unchanged. This is because of difficulties they have with the review’s remit, but Andy Pyle claimed it would be ‘very disappointing’ if they did not participate. “It was set up to address their concerns. It is open for them to air their concerns. The review is an important step in gaining everybody’s confidence.”
The possibility of the men being penalised by the High Court over their contempt of court remains. They must appear before its President, Justice Joseph Finnegan on October 25 next, and could face a fine or further imprisonment for breaking the injunction. While they apologised to the court on Friday last, they did not purge their contempt, or rule out further protests in the future.
Andy Pyle expressed regret that the men had been imprisoned, but also focussed on upcoming efforts to seek resolution. “I regret that it came to a situation where people had to be imprisoned. But we have to look forward now, we have the mediation process and the safety review coming up.”
The five men finally made it home to Rossport in the early hours of Sunday morning, following two days which included appearances on the RTÉ evening news and The Late Late Show. They were greeted there by large crowds of people who had travelled from all over the county to welcome the men and their families.
An attendance of up to 400 turned up at Bellanaboy on Sunday afternoon to hear the five men make their first public utterances in Mayo since their release. The five were given an enthusiastic welcome at the homecoming rally which was also addressed by Mark Garavan and Maura Harrington.
All five men spoke of their delight and relief at being home with their families and they paid tribute to their wives, family members and the community who had stood behind them during their time in jail.

Posted Date: 
4 October 2005 - 4:34pm