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Rossport Five must wait to hear their fate

The High Court reserved judgment today on whether the Rossport Five will suffer any further punishment for their protests against a controversial gas pipeline.

The five men from County Mayo were jailed for 94 days for refusing to obey an order preventing them from obstructing the construction of the gas pipeline by oil giant Shell.Today Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath, Brendan Philbin, Micheal O`Seighin and Willie Corduff, and dozens of their supporters, were in the High Court to hear if they will suffer further punishment for their actions.But the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, said he would reserve judgment on the court`s right to impose punishment for two weeks.Lawyers for the five men argued that to re-imprison them would be a draconian measure at this stage.Frank Callanan SC, representing Philip McGrath, Vincent McGrath, Micheal O`Seighin and Willie Corduff, said the men had already suffered the sanction of imprisonment.He assured the court the men did not consider the injunction to be anything other than serious or that the orders of the court could be defied with impunity.'These are persons who have already spent a significant time in custody and the injunction obtained by the plaintiff stands discharged.'It`s hard to see what could possibly be served in the public interest by the imposition of further sanctions,' he said.But the president said there was a distinction between the original imprisonment, which was to compel them to obey the High Court order, and a ruling punishing them for their contempt of court.He said a jail term was not the only form of action he could take against the men.Lord (Daniel) Brennan QC, representing Brendan Philbin, said at this stage of the process no action should be required by the court.'Your Lordship is considering what`s to be done with a group of contemptibles who thought themselves to be protecting their own land.'They were concerned whether there was lawful authority, not only to enter their land but to install this gas pipeline,' he said.He said the men`s concerns that the pipeline was being built when permission had only been granted for preparatory work led to an emotional reaction from the protesters.At this stage enough was enough, he added.Outside the court, the men were greeted with applause and cheers from their supporters.Mr Corduff said the men were prepared to go back to prison if necessary.'If we have to we have to, we have no choice in the matter,' he said.'It`s to protect our homes and families, we`re not going to prison for fun or to try to make fun of the courts, we`re going to prison to protect ourselves.'It`s a genuine case we have, there`s nobody that wants to be hurt outside their home or killed in their home, that`s the sad part about it.'We`ll get justice at the end of the day hopefully,' he added.

Posted Date: 
21 August 2006 - 1:09am