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The Sunday Times: Shell presses on with injunction against Rossport Five

The Sunday Times May 07, 2006

Shell presses on with injunction against Rossport Five

Aine Ryan

SHELL is still seeking a permanent injunction to stop the Rossport Five and two other landowners in north Mayo from closing off their land.

Despite offering an olive branch and apology to locals last week, the company wants a court order allowing its personnel to enter the objectors’ land. The High Court case is due for mention on Tuesday before Justice Mary Laffoy.


“We do not anticipate a situation where people would go back to jail and we are determined to find a negotiated solution to this issue,” said Susan Shannon of Shell.

“However, like any other large infrastructural project, we do need to have legal protection.”

Shell says the continued court action does not contradict the spirit of last week’s concessions by the company. But Maura Harrington, of protest group Shell-to-Sea, insists the company is speaking with a “forked tongue” by pursuing the injunction.

According to Padraig Ferry, a solicitor for four of the Rossport Five, the defence case will rest on the constitutionality of the compulsory purchase of the proposed pipeline route, and it will challenge the consents given by locals and the government to the company.

It was Shell’s decision to lift an interlocutory injunction last September that led to the release of the Rossport Five from prison. The men had spent 94 days in Cloverhill following their refusal to comply with a temporary injunction and to purge their contempt.

Shell also discounted media reports that it has been examining new routes for the pipeline in nearby Erris. John Egan told Mid-West Radio on Friday: “I don’t know where they got that, it is entirely speculative.”

He said the present route was still the “optimal route” and that last week’s Advantica report acknowledged Shell’s “proper consideration” of all the options.

Shell would not process the gas offshore as protesters are demanding, Egan said, because it had examined that option before and discounted it. He did say that all options would be examined again, a point that was confirmed by Shannon. “The ground rules that Peter Cassells (a government-appointed mediator) has proposed for mediation state that all development concepts and all routes should be considered,” she said.

Egan said Shell wanted to avoid any further conflict and that the company’s apology was sincere and was “in no way toying with people’s emotions”.

Mary Corduff, wife of one of the Rossport Five, said: “I genuinely wish I could believe that Andy Pyle (Shell’s managing director) is telling the truth. Our personal torture started long before our husbands went to jail last summer. I cannot forget listening to Pyle on local radio last year stating ‘the way forward is dialogue’ and, three hours later, his officials, flanked by gardai, were forcing their way on to our land.”

Willie Corduff, her husband, has said he would die rather than allow the pipe be laid through his land. He claims the controversial pipe runs a metre from his house.

It is believed that Shell has already spent around €500m on the €900m project to bring gas ashore. The company declined to say whether it was now running over budget due to the protracted protest. The Sunday Times revealed last week that around 7,000 pipes for the project, that are being stored near Killybegs in Co Donegal, are rusting and need regular preservation, costing the company about €3m last year alone.

Shell has also declined to comment on whether it would consider offering to relocate residents. There is a rumour in north Mayo that the company has had the village around its terminal, Bellanaboy, valued by estate agents.

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