The battle to stop energy company Shell building a controversial gas pipeline on the Co Mayo coast has only just begun, protesters claimed today.
Cheered on by hundreds of supporters at the front gates of the Dail, five men jailed over their bid to block the work insisted they would not give up their fight.
Tasting their first full day of freedom after 94 days behind bars the men -Vincent McGrath, Philip McGrath, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin and Micheal O’Seighin – claimed the Government had let them down.
Mr O’Seighin joked with the boisterous crowd: “Without the backing and support of so many people we would still be in Cloverhill jail.
“I was going to say languishing but obviously from the appearance of us we weren’t doing too much languishing.”
After a march through Dublin city centre the men and their families were joined at a rally by politicians including Socialist TD Joe Higgins and Green Party leader Trevor Sargent and Jerry Crowley, Mayo Independent TD.
Rallying the demonstrators Mr Crowley claimed it was a red letter day for Ireland.
“The human spirit cannot be bought, the human spirit cannot be sold and now Minister Noel Dempsey and the Government know that the human spirit cannot be imprisoned,” Mr Crowley said.
Addressing his supporters, the 65-year-old Mr O'Seighin, the oldest of the Rossport Five, said he was proud.
“Today I am proud, I am very proud to be Irish, it is great to get pride back again,” he said.
All five men, who were freed yesterday after Shell asked the High Court to lift an injunction which led to their detention, spoke briefly.
Vincent McGrath said he was overwhelmed at the amount of support the men had.
“I would like to talk about heroes,” he told the crowd. “We are not the heroes, you are.
“The common message through all of this was that we were doing it for you, now you are doing it for us, thank-you very much.”
Brendan Philbin added: “Today and yesterday was our fight but tomorrow it could be yours, sadly the system has let us down.”
Among the hundreds of supporters were trade unionists including Unison and SIPTU members, Labour Party, Green Party and Sinn Fein supporters and Friends of the Earth.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny turned down an invitation to join the protest march. His party colleague Bernard Durkan, Mayo TD, took to the stage but was roundly booed and jeered by the crowd.
Mr Durkan claimed his party leader had stood by the Rossport Five over the last three months, but his words were drowned out by the noisy protesters.
Organisers of the rally also claimed Dublin City Council had threatened them with prosecution if they placed banners and posters around the city calling for people to support the march.
The men were locked up after they refused to guarantee that they would not interfere with construction work on the controversial 700 million euro project through land near their homes.
The 70km pipeline is due to run from the Corrib gas field in the Atlantic to an onshore refinery near Rossport.
They are due to return to the High Court at the end of October to find out if they face any punishment for their contempt of a ruling ordering them to agree not to interfere with work on the project.
And in a further twist the High Court will also examine whether Shell breached an order requiring them to halt work while a review takes place.