Rossport Five's waiting game
The Rossport Five are due in the High Court on Friday 7 April to hear whether or not they will be punished for disobeying the court in 2005. The five men were jailed last June at the request of Shell E&P Ireland for refusing to undertake not to obstruct the laying across their land of the Corrib Gas pipeline. They were released 94 days later, again at the request of the company.
However, this prison time was "coercive" rather than punitive, meaning it was intended to persuade them to purge their contempt – which they never did.
At a hearing on 25 October 2005, the President of the High Court, Justice Finnegan, reserved judgment "for two weeks". However, the hearing was either adjourned or postponed a further four times, most recently on 27 March, when the court spent less than ten seconds dealing with the case. On most of these occasions, the men and their families and supporters have made the 10-hour round-trip from Rossport to Dublin.
In October, the judge warned the men that there were "more severe penalties than prison", but did not elaborate.
Referring to the delay in hearing their fate, one of the five men, Willie Corduff told Village: "We had three months' punishment inside and now six months punishment outside."
As well as a protest outside the Four Courts on Friday 7 April (10am), the Shell to Sea campaign has organised a lunchtime protest on the same day at Statoil's offices at George's Dock in the IFSC. Activists will deliver a symbolic section of the pipeline to the company. Statoil is a major shareholder in the project, but has, according to a Shell to Sea spokesperson, "behaved from the beginning as though the pipeline had nothing to do with it".
Shell is expected to resume work on the pipeline in the coming weeks.
The Rossport issue continues to arouse interest around the world. The Al Jazeera website recently ran a lengthy feature on the subject, as did Saudi Arabian newspaper the Saudi Gazette.