3 August 2006 Edition

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Cassells report fails to address gas giveaway

The corrupt former Minister for Energy and Communica-tions Ray Burke and his successor Micheal Lowry who jointly brought about the conditions by which exploration companies can search for and exploit our natural resources free graitas, ultimately made a huge political blunder. Attention has been focused on the issue by the Shell to Sea Campaign who oppose the gas being brought on shore for processing. Amidst this protracted and bitter dispute some interesting facts have emerged about the Corrib gas.

Over the next fifteen years the find has the potential worth of 15 Billion Euros from which the Irish people will get exactly zero. This figure is based on today's values but other factors such as the increasing crisis in the Middle East and the approach of peak capacity are sure to sky rocket this estimation with an ever increasing cost of gas for the general public. This is nothing less than an indictment of successive governments. Shell themselves have confirmed that there is enough gas in the field to cover at least 60% of Ireland's gas needs for the foreseeable future. We will not get any special deals however and will pay full market price for it.

The Shell to Sea campaign sprang out of the decision of the then Minister of the Marine and Natural Resources, Frank Fahey - another colourful character - to grant compulsory purchase orders on the land for the proposed route. Last Summer five local men were imprisoned for ignoring a court order prohibiting them from opposing work on the pipe. This brought the issue to national prominence and the Shell to Sea campaign gained real momentum putting the political establishment under pressure. The leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny in whose constituency was even force to issue a lame statement saying how awful the situation was but of course, not a lot more.

Finally at the beginning of this year the Government was forced to appoint Peter Cassels, former President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, as a mediator with a brief to produce a report on the issue and how it should be resolved. Last week and seven months later his report was finally published. His recommendation was to move the route of the pipe. He did not address the issue of processing the gas offshore in any meaningful way and in fact went on to say that the majority of people in Rossport and the whole county were in favour of the project. It is not clear where he got this information from but Shell to Sea conducted their own survey of 2000 households on the Erris Penninsula. They claim 97% support for processing the gas offshore. The survey was conducted in the last fortnight. Dr Mark Garvan of the Shell to Sea campaign rejected it out of hand saying it amounted to simply moving the problem to another community. Shell of course welcomed the report.

Sinn Féin TD spokesperson on Marine and Natural Resources Martin Ferris responded to the report by saying "two key issues are unaddressed in the Cassells' report. Firstly, the report seems to accept without question the position of Shell that it cannot process the gas at sea, which is the central demand of the campaign. Re-routing the pipeline, simply reroutes the problem." He went on to say "there is still a complete failure to understand, right up to government level, that the economic benefits for the Irish people from the Corrib field are negligible. Bord Gáis have acknowledged there will be no benefit for the bills of Irish gas consumers."

In another development Donegal County Council unanimously supported a Sinn Féin motion calling for the immediate suspension of the current round of applications for explorations licences with similar terms to the one Shell obtained. They did so on the same day that Island Oil and gas announced a significant gas deposit find off the south coast of Ireland. Local Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse Doherty said "Donegal County Council's support for my motion is an important step forward in the campaign to insure that our natural resources that lie of our coast are not exploited by large multinational oil and gas companies but are instead harnessed with a clear benefit being brought to the Irish people"

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