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Irish Times: Union calls for oil and gas royalties

Ronan McGreevy,
Published: Feb 10, 2007

The deal which exempts oil and gas companies from royalty payments is a disgrace and needs to be immediately renegotiated, one of the country’s largest trade unions has said.

The Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) is supporting a demonstration to highlight the issue of how the Government has granted energy companies licences to explore off the coast of Ireland.

The demonstration is being organised by the Shell to Sea campaign which has been opposed to plans by Shell to build a gas refinery at Bellanaboy, Co Mayo.

AGTWU branch chairman Des Bonass criticised the decision by former minister for energy Ray Burke in 1987 to change the terms of how exploration licences were granted. He said the decision was later supported in 1992 by Bertie Ahern when he was minister for finance.

Under the present arrangement, the State forfeits any right to royalties from new finds in return for a 25 per cent rate of tax which would be paid on all discoveries after the exploration companies have written off the cost of development against tax.

Although it is now undertaking a review of its gas and oil exploration policy, the Government has repeatedly defended it because of the cost of exploration and the relatively low levels of success to date.

However, Mr Bonass said: “The taxpayers got nothing out of it. It was sold away, even though our gas prices have gone up by one-third.” He said the existing agreements should be renegotiated.

The protest march takes place on Saturday, February 24th, in Dublin and is being supported by Sinn Fein, Labour Youth and the Socialist Party.

The AGTWU says it will also be looking for the support of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to back the protest.

The trade union movement is supporting a day of support for protesters against the Corrib gas pipeline next Friday.

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