Five men jailed for their opposition to a gas pipeline today called for a public boycott of all petrol stations owned by Shell and Statoil.
The men, farmers Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath and Brendan Philbin, and retired school teachers, Vincent McGrath and Michael O’Suighin, spent last night in prison after refusing to give assurances to the High Court in Dublin they would not obstruct the construction of the pipeline for the €990m Corrib gas project in Mayo.
At a news conference hosted by their families, the men released a statement in which they claimed the people of North Mayo were being used as guinea pigs.
“We urge the people of this country to picket and boycott Statoil and Shell, the main shareholders in this project.”
They added: “This pipeline is unsafe by Shell’s own international standards. It must not pass the houses. There is an easy solution – clean it at sea".
Shell E&P Ireland want to pump gas from the Corrib gasfield along a 9km pipeline to a refinery at Bellanaboy in Mayo.
However, Caitlin Ni Suighin, 68, whose husband, Michael, is one of the men in prison, said they were determined to prevent the gas from being piped across their land.
“Yesterday in court just angered me and we’re not lying down and taking this rotten gas in to be refined in Bellanaboy. It better be refined at sea,” she said.
Her daughter, Brid Ni Suighin, 33, said supporters were protesting on the roads outside at the Shell depot in Rossport, Co Mayo.
Irish politicians have called for the immediate release of the five men, who will be kept in jail until they purge their contempt of court.
Local Mayo TDs Michael Ring, Jerry Cowley, Marian Harkin, Beverly Flynn and Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny all raised the matter in the Dáil.
Mr Ring said: “The safety concerns of the residents were not taken into account when they are the ones who will have to suffer the consequences of the Shell pipeline.
“It’s not right that people should be in prison, are in prison. Shame on the Government. Shame on the Government.”
Sister Majella McCarthy, a member of the Our Lady of Apostles Order, said she was supporting the men because of her involvement in the protests against Shell’s activities in Nigeria.
She was a friend of the author Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the Nigerian Government in 1995 for his part in protesting against environmental problems caused by Shell.
“I think the Shell story is the same everywhere. The abuses in the Niger Delta are just totally unbelievable. That’s as bad as this company gets when there is no regulation.”
In 2002, Shell E&P Ireland became the first ever private company to be granted a compulsory land purchase order.
The gasfield, which was discovered 11,00 feet below the seabed in 1996, is due to go into production in 2007.
Shell Ireland chairman Andy Pyle said the families had refused to meet the firm in the months before the High Court conviction for contempt.
But he hinted that some compromise may be still possible if contact was established.
“It’s a very difficult situation and I can’t see an easy solution unless we can get into an open dialogue about the concerns of the individuals and what we can do to allay and address those concerns.”
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Corrib Gas project had been through the rigours of the planning process and added that Shell was well within its rights.
“It is regrettable that it has come to this stage. It’s a decision for the courts. The Government doesn’t lock up anybody. The reality is you comply with the obligations and decisions.”