7 June 2001 Edition

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Call for inquiry into Burke's Corrib Gas deal

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called for an inquiry into the deal done by former Fianna Fáil Minister Ray Burke with the multinational consortium which is exploiting the Corrib gas field off the West of Ireland. Ó Caoláin was speaking in the Dáil on 30 May when he also called for the new natural gas find in the border counties to be used for maximum national benefit.

The Cavan/Monaghan TD described the deal done by the government with the private companies exploiting the gas field as ``a disastrous failure'' which ``could emerge as one of the greatest scandals''. He told the Dáil:

``I refer to the sweetheart deal enjoyed by the consortium currently exploiting the massive Corrib gas field off the coast of County Mayo. This gas field is a hugely valuable national resource but it has been virtually handed over to a private company.

``Sinn Féin has consistently argued for the deal brokered by Ray Burke in 1992 to be renegotiated. The deal ensured that the consortium led by Enterprise has not had to pay one penny in royalties to the government for the Corrib Gas find. The consortium can write off exploration expenses against any tax payable. Income is taxed at 25% - the lowest rate for Oil or Gas exploration in Europe. Compare this to the world average of 40%.

``It is a scandal that Irish national resources have been sold off at a knockdown price. The fact that somebody with Ray Burke's track record was centrally involved in this deal has to raise questions about the nature of the negotiation and its outcome.

``SIPTU represents Irish oil workers and has called for an inquiry and the Western Development Commission has questioned the handling of this resource by the government. The circumstances and details of the negotiation of these terms should be investigated and made public in the interests of transparency so that the people of Ireland can assess whether we have benefited or will benefit from the potential oil and gas bonanza in our coastal waters.

``In June a US company is due to begin drilling for gas in the border counties. It is exploring a huge area centred on Enniskillen, straddling the border, and known as the Northwest Carboniferous Basin. This is another potentially massive national and natural resource. I do not want to see the Corrib experience repeated in this case. What we need is an integrated strategy, North, South, East and West to ensure that it is the Irish people who benefit from our natural resources. Local authorities, the trade unions, community organisations, small business representatives must be given a real say in how these resources are used to maximum national benefit.''

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