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Irish Times: Renegotiate State resources deals, say councils

By Lorna Siggins and Fiona McGarry
Published: Mar 21, 2007

Two Mayo local authorities have adopted motions urging the Government to renegotiate all deals regarding the State’s natural resources, including the Corrib gas field.

Also, NUI Seanad candidate Dr Mark Garavan has lodged a petition with the European Parliament’s petitions committee referring to alleged breaches of a series of EU directives over the Corrib project.

The motion to review the State’s financial terms for oil and gas exploitation was tabled by Sinn fein councillor Gerry Murray and adopted unanimously at last week’s meeting of Mayo County Council. A similar motion was carried last week by members of Westport Urban District Council.

Further motions by Sinn Fein local representatives have been tabled for several urban district council meetings in Mayo this week.

During Mayo County Council’s debate, Seamus Weir (FG) described Corrib as “a horrible deal”, while a number of councillors warned against making a political football of the Corrib gas issue. Mr Murray said “the most banana of republics” had done better deals with regard to their natural resources.

The Government could follow the example of other countries which were now claiming back up to half of what they had given to oil and gas companies, he added.

The motion was seconded by Johnny Mee (Lab), who noted that former Labour minister Justin Keating had attempted to secure a better deal. Eddie Staunton (FG) said his party would never have allowed Irish resources to be signed away, but he refused to be drawn when Mr Murray repeatedly asked if party leader Enda Kenny would renegotiate the gas deal.

Fine Gael whip Paddy McGuinness said it would be “churlish and foolish” to oppose the motion. The deal was “a disgrace” and had created “a very unfortunate issue”. Jimmy Maloney (FF), who was the only member of his party in the chamber, noted that Fine Gael had had its time in power and had a chance to renegotiate the gas deal.

Shell E&P Ireland said yesterday that the matter of licensing terms was one for the relevant authorities and was currently being reviewed by the Department of Marine and Natural Resources. The company has also disputed claims that it has breached a number of EU directives in relation to the Corrib project.

Dr Mark Garavan, who is running as an Independent candidate for the Seanad, says EU directives on environmental impact assessments, Seveso II, water quality, public consultation and habitats have all been breached. He has urged the European Parliament’s petitions committee to initiate a “comprehensive inquiry”.

Shell has said the Corrib gas partners are confident that all proposed operations are in line with all relevant Irish legislation, which conforms with the EU directives. The company noted that pipelines were explicitly excluded from the Seveso II directive on transfer of hazardous substances. The integrated pollution prevention and control licence for which the developers have applied would ensure that it “complied with all relevant water quality legislation”.

The company said there was “no opinion stating that the project is in breach of the habitats directive”. The Corrib gas partners were committed to building and operating a “world-class facility at Bellanaboy in partnership with the local community” and “all decisions are taken with due concern for the protection of the environment”.

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