Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte today proposed a plan to resolve the plight of the five men jailed over their protests against a controversial gas pipeline, which he said was bordering on becoming a national disgrace.
The five men from Rossport, Co Mayo, were imprisoned after they refused to abide by a High Court injunction stopping them protesting over the gas pipeline being built by Shell.
Under Mr Rabbitte’s three-point proposal, Shell would withdraw its injunction while the Rossport Five would simultaneously apologise to the court.
The third part of the plan would see a mediator appointed with the agreement of both sides to report on the issues of concern for the protesters.
“Specifically, as far as the third point is concerned, the mediator ought to be required in addition to the health and safety issues to report on what measures are proposed by the oil companies to contribute to the development of this region of Mayo,” the Labour Party leader said.
Mr Rabbitte said he had not been able to extract from either Shell or the Government details of the benefits the local area might receive from the development of the Corrib gas field.
He said the proposals he was advancing would come as no surprise to the Government, Shell or the five protesters, but said he was hopeful his plan would break the deadlock.
“It’s unconscionable that five law-abiding citizens should be imprisoned indefinitely. Somebody has to break the impasse because this can’t go on,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte said there were precedents for Shell to waive their interests under the injunction without causing the company problems further down the line.
But in a statement issued today by Shell E&P Ireland Limited (SEPIL), the company said there were legal impediments to lifting the injunction.
“SEPIL cannot understand why the objectors will not purge their contempt, given the significant steps we have already taken in regard to suspending work on both the onshore and offshore pipelines, our continued commitment to dialogue and our support of the safety review, which has been commissioned by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources,” the company said.
Shell said it did not believe the men would undermine their position by purging their contempt and said it had already made a number of concessions to the protesters.
The oil giant said its legal representatives had been in contact with those of the objectors to examine what options were possible to overcome the current impasse.