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Battle for Corrib has only begun, say Five

The Rossport Five, their families and friends were celebrating a victory this weekend after their release from prison last Friday. But the battle proper has not even begun yet. With both parties resolved in their respective stance on the controversial on-shore gas pipeline, the landowners and Shell E&P Ireland are bracing themselves for what could be a very drawn out mediation process.There will be intensive debating of the Corrib gas project in the coming months as the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources set a mediation process in motion. Both Shell and the Rossport Five are eager to engage in talks but as things currently stand it would appear that they will have a long way to go to find some common ground.The men are calling for a complete reassessment of the Corrib gas project. But Shell insists that the issues at stake relate to the safety of the onshore gas pipeline. It will use the mediation process to address the people’s safety concerns and explain its proposals so the locals can “take a proper view”.The fact that Shell is proceeding with its application for a proper injunction may overshadow this new era of negotiations between it and the landowners.But Shell MD, Andy Pyle, told the Western People that the company believed that the injunction proceedings are necessary.“Given that there has not been a settlement of this dispute it is in everyone’s interest to go ahead. The main issue at stake is the validity of the consents we have been given to carry out this work. The landowners say they are not valid. We need to go through this hearing so that the courts can see that they are valid,” he explained.Mr Pyle stressed that the injunction was not being sought by Shell as a mechanism to punish the landowners. He maintained that the company had no intention of taking further action against the men and was happy to be entering a mediation process.Dr Mark Garavan, spokesperson for the Rossport Five, indicated that the men were also happy to participate in mediation but would be requesting that the Government itself is involved. “We are happy to go into negotiation with Shell but we want a three-way consultation. The Government is a part of this.” He pointed out that the terms of reference had yet to be laid out for the mediation process but said the Rossport Five agreed to it in principal. “We have argued for this and the lifting of the injunction from day one. First we need some time for the men and their families to recover.”Dr Garavan was critical of the fact that Shell’s injunction application will proceed while the mediation process is ongoing and noted that the latest independent safety review is also expected to be completed in the coming months.“Each of these things will address the same types of issues. We are concerned that this is itself a divided process. We wonder how all three will knit together.” With regard to the public consulation which the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has arranged for October 12 and 13 next, Dr Garavan insisted that this event was merely an allusion to consultation. The Rossport Five will be focussing their energies on the mediation procedure.But the nightmare of their imprisonment in Cloverhill is not over yet for Micheal O’Seighin, Willie Corduff, Vincent Mr Grath, Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin. At the High Court last Friday, High Court President Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan indicated that the men may yet be punished for their contempt. He will address that matter at the High Court on October 25 next.The Judge has also requested that Shell provide him with a full sworn affidavit on that date addressing its breach of an undertaking not to do anything not permitted by the licence of Minister for the Marine, Noel Dempsey.

Posted Date: 
6 October 2005 - 4:26pm