"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.”
The three weeks during which the Rossport Five have been out of jail has been wasted with no attempt being made to find a resolution of the differences between the men and Shell.There was no contact directly or indirectly between the Five and the oil and gas company and there is now a complete breakdown of trust not alone with Shell but with the Government.“There has been no contact (with Shell),” said Mr Micheál Ó Seighin. “A few shots (feelers) were fired by Shell, but there was no contact and no change in the Shell position. The three weeks were a waste of time. There has been no consultation, there has been no dialogue. Nothing was done to seek a resolution of our problem.”According to Mr Ó Seighin, neither Shell nor the Government had bothered to look at what the effect of jailing the men would be. And they had not bothered to see what the freeing of the men might achieve.“They hoped that everything would settle down and that our movement would die. They were wrong. Our movement has got stronger and our resolve is firmer than ever with more and more people all over the country and throughout the world offering support,” he added.In the view of the men they have no choice but to go back into jail as they will not allow a pipeline that does not comply with normal safety codes and they “don’t trust Dempsey, the PAD (Pertoleum Affairs Division of the Dept of Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources) or Shell.”One of the Five, Mr Willie Corduff, told a press briefing in Castlebar: “We have no problem with a Bord Gais pipeline but we will not accept a pipeline with raw gas. We have no choice but to go back to jail and it is not that we want that.”The Rossport Five are due in the High Court this morning (Tuesday) and the probability is that the men will shortly be back behind bars.They have no confidence in the safety review ordered by Minister Dempsey because it “seeks answers to the wrong questions” and they are of the view that the Minister has treated them with contempt by halting work on the de-welding of a section of unauthorised pipeline.Ms Bríd McGarry, a spokesperson for the men, and some of the men themselves, made clear their distaste for the activities of the Pro-Erris Gas Group (PEGG) which intervened in the issue by suggesting that rather than spend money de-welding the pipeline, a fund should be established to provide social amenities in the area.Dr Jerry Cowley, TD, said Minister Dempsey had been incompetent in his handling of the issue and managed to jeopardise the “entire negotiating process” by calling a halt to the de-welding of the pipeline which was in conflict with his ministerial consents. “He has undermined his own credibility,” Dr Cowley added. Mr Ó Seighin accepted that they were now faced with a stand-off. “My view is that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, to protect us.“We do not enjoy being in the courts but when the government fails to protect us and guarantee our safety we are left with no option but to protect ourselves.“Our lives have been turned upside down. We were in jail. So what? “All the Rossport community is in jail. We are all subject to a form of persecution that is most unusual in a democracy,” he stated.Mr Vincent McGrath said ultimately the government was responsible. It was up to the government to make Shell accountable.During the course of the briefing the former Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey, came in for special mention and was described as a “patronising pup” who told the people of Rossport that they “could object to the gas but they could not stop it”. And an ominous note was sounded by Mr Ó Seighin who referred to the shooting, by police, of local woman Ellen McDonagh at the turn of the 20th century. “They can bring in the police and the army (to force the pipeline through) but the government is there to protect the people not do an RIC on them,” he said.