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Call for Shell to drop gas line as Mayo men are freed

Brother of murdered Ken Saro Wiwa backs Rossport 5
Controversial plans to build a gas terminal in the west of Ireland came under renewed attack last night after the brother of murdered Nigerian anti-Shell activist Ken Saro Wiwa called for the firm to abandon the scheme.
It follows the energy company's decision to drop an injunction against five county Mayo landowners who were imprisoned for three months for attempting to obstruct the laying of a high pressure gas pipeline under their land.
Dr Owens Wiwa - whose brother Ken was an opponent of Shell's activities in the Niger delta and was hanged by the Nigerian government after a show trial in 1995 - was in the High Court in Dublin to see the so-called Rossport Five released from custody on Friday.
He said the mens' courage in going to prison for their cause gave inspiration to the Ogoni people of southern Nigeria, who he said have suffered environmental devastation at the hands of Shell.
'It gives hope to the African people... to see that Shell can be made to back down. This fight is ongoing but the Rossport Five have won an important battle.
'Their story has spread around the world and it is being watched with interest by many involved in similar situations. If multinationals can behave in this way in Europe, what chance have the African people got? Shell must take this plant offshore in accordance with the wishes of the community.'
Dr Wiwa travelled to Ireland at his own expense to address a rally in Dublin yesterday in support of the Mayo mens' protest.
Following their release from prison, the Republic's Minister for the Marine, Noel Dempsey, is to appoint a mediator to negotiate between the landowners and Shell within weeks.
Meanwhile, senior Shell executives are understood to be concerned about the damage done to the company's image by jailing the five men. It follows publication of a damning report on the issue in the Washington Post in the US last week and hostile publicity generated by a visit of the mens' supporters to Norway where they met with Shell's partners in the Rossport project, Statoil.
Although Andy Pyle, managing director of Shell Exploration and Production in Ireland, insists his action in dropping the injunction was not a climb down, a consultant on the project said there was growing dissatisfaction about the management of the controversy.
'The bottom line is that this plant was supposed to be up and running two years ago. People are starting to ask questions. This sort of publicity is never welcome,' he said.
At issue is the laying of a high pressure gas pipeline through the tiny, isolated village of Rossport to service Shell's proposed ¿800 million (£545m) gas processing plant at Bellanaboy, which would be the largest of its type in Europe.
The Rossport landowners say the prospect of the pipe running under their lands terrifies them and they want the gas to be processed offshore - which is standard practice but more expensive.
Within hours of the men being released from Dublin's High Court last Friday, Pyle admitted that mistakes had been made in Shell's handling of the issue. He denied that senior Statoil officials who visited Ireland from Norway this week, had brought pressure to bear on him.
However Mayo TD, Jerry Cowley, who was part of the delegation which visited Statoil in Norway, says senior executives there were alarmed by what was happening in Mayo. 'We told them Shell was giving their company a bad name in Ireland and they were very concerned,' he said. Yesterday the men addressed a rally of their supporters at Parnell Square in Dublin. They vowed to continue their fight until Shell abandons its plans to lay the pipeline.
'We will do anything to save our land and our livelihoods, we are desperate and we are weary but we won't give up,' said Willie Corduff, a farmer and father of six.

Posted Date: 
4 October 2005 - 4:37pm