'Rossport 5' set free after spending 94 days in jail


(From the left) Micheal O'Seighin, Brendan Philbin, Willie Corduff, Vincent and Philip McGrath stand outside the Four Courts

Five Co Mayo men jailed over their opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline were set free today.

Brothers Philip and Vincent McGrath, Micheál Ó Seighín, Willie Corduff and Brendan Philbin had spent 94 days in Cloverhill Prison for defying a court order that they stop protesting at work being carried out by Shell in Co Mayo.

But at today's hearing, lawyers for Shell E&P Ireland claimed that since there was no prospect of further work on pipeline in the short term the injunction against the men was effectively redundant and served no useful purpose.

Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan agreed to vacate the injunction but ordered that the men appear before him on October 25th when he will consider if they should be punished for their contempt.

Lawyers for the men said the five were apologetic for their previous behaviour but they felt they had been forced into a position where all they could do was break the court orders to protect their families and the area around their homes.

But Mr Justice Finnegan said this was not purging their contempt and ordered them to return to court on October 25th when he will consider the matter further.

As the five men walked from the courtroom, they shook hands with prison officers and were greeted with cheers and applause from supporters and relatives.

Micheál Ó Seighín said it was a victory for the ordinary people of Ireland.

Mr Ó Seighín said: "The work is not going ahead, there is no compromise with the safety of lives and families," he said.

He said: "We do not intend to leave the area more dangerous for the kids coming after us than we got it from the people before us.

Willie Corduff said he was proud of what he had done. Mr Corduff said he would go back to prison if he had to.

All five men said they would continue their fight to get Shell to abandon its plans for the Corrib gas pipeline.

The dispute centres on a 44-mile pipe from a gas field in the Atlantic Ocean to an onshore refinery near Rossport.

Yesterday Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey said the Government was willing to appoint a mediator "if both sides were willing to participate in a mediation process".

Shell E&P Ireland today said it believed that the Government-proposed mediation process, together with the safety review - currently underway - will allow constructive dialogue to begin.

The company said it hopes this will lead to a final resolution of the issue.

"To facilitate the process, it said it had applied to the High Court, to have the temporary (interlocutory) injunction, that the company was granted in respect of the Corrib, in respect of the onshore pipeline, now set-aside," it said.

The five men are due to appear at a rally to be staged in Dublin tomorrow. It is being organised by campaign group Shell to Sea, which had campaigned for the men's release and against the building of an onshore pipeline at Rossport, Co Mayo, by Shell E&P Ireland.