Shell welcomes jailed men's appeal for talks


Shell this afternoon welcomed an appeal from five imprisoned Mayo landowners for talks with the company over the Corrib gas pipeline.

The company's statement did not mention today's request from the men known as the Rossport Five, for Shell to withdraw the injunction under which they were initially jailed but claimed it had "done everything possible to create the appropriate climate" for the men's release.

Shell said that the continued imprisonment of the five men was "a matter between them and the High Court".

"If the men wish to participate in further dialogue outside of prison the matter is entirely in their hands should they choose to purge their contempt," added the statement.

Micheál Ó Seighin, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Vincent McGrath and Philip McGrath are into their eighth week in Cloverhill Prison for breaching a court order restraining them from blocking Shell's access to their lands in Rossport.

In an open letter from prison, the men had today welcomed Shell's agreement to halt work on the €900 million project and the company's offer of talks.

But the men stood by their decision to protest at Shell's plans to build a gas pipeline across their lands.

"Our crime was to refuse access to our lands. We have refused access because of the certainty that if this pipeline as currently proposed ruptures we, our families and neighbours will die," the letter reads.

"What would you do if a court ordered you to accept the installation of a potentially lethal pipeline which no State agency has or will take responsibility for?"

The men attacked the Government for "betraying" them. They said they were in prison because former marine minister Frank Fahey granted a compulsory purchase order for their lands.

They accused the Government and Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey of being complicit in a deal that has seen their "land rights given to a private company, our families and neighbours' very lives endangered and the natural resource of the Irish people given away".

"The Norwegian people, through their state oil company Statoil holding 38 per cent of the Corrib Field, will receive more from this project than the Irish people who have a 0 per cent holding," they said. In addition, 400 acres of Coillte-owned forest have been provided for the pipeline to be laid.

The five men also attacked Fine Gael leader and Mayo TD Enda Kenny for what they called his "abandonment" of them in their time of crisis.

Shell has suspended all work on the pipeline pending a safety review by an expert group established by Mr Dempsey.

The company today began dismantling a 1.86-kilometre long section of pipeline in accordance with an instruction by Mr Dempsey, who ruled that Shell were in contravention of a ministerial order when the company welded the pipe together on land.