At a time when the government continues to implement savage cuts on working people on the one hand it is still in the process of giving away billions of euro worth of our natural gas to private interests. Two onshore gas fields are next to being a gift. One in Clare and one in the North West. The closing date for the licence applications is 11 June.
The way it is set up is that whatever the license holders find they can keep. And whatever start-up and development costs they incur will be written off to the measly amount of tax they have to pay once the gas starts to flow. So effectively they are getting all this gas for absolutely nothing.
Conor Lenihan, the junior minister in Éamon Ryan’s department, has invited applications for licences that will give the holders the right to explore and exploit any hydrocarbons under about 8,000 square kilometres in what are known as the North West Carboniferous and the Clare Basins. Included are large areas of Counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Clare, Cork, Limerick and Kerry. According to the Minister Eamon Ryan “this presents an exciting opportunity for the petroleum industry to invest in exploration onshore Ireland”.
This is symptomatic of all the establishment political parties, looking after the whims of billionaires before the needs of its working people and a continuation of a scandalous policy that gave away the Corib gas field to Shell.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Corrib gas field should be nationalised and a state exploration and production company set up to explore all potential oil and gas resources off the Irish coast. This nationalised company could assemble the necessary expertise and make an independent assessment of what resources are available and then harness those resources in the interests of the majority of the Irish people, while ensuring the environment is protected.
You would think Eamon Ryan would be concerned with the ecological and safety track record of some of these multinational oil and gas companies, especially Shell. Not so, a neo-liberal politician first and foremost and protector of the environment and our people, way down the list of his priorities.
The Fianna Fail / Green Party want to give away our natural gas reserves because it fits in with their light regulation, neo-liberal ethos, not because the excuse that getting the risk capital and expertise to do it ourselves poses a major problem. Simply put, they believe these things should be done by multinational oil companies with a small tax take. They don’t believe in reversing the downward spiral into poverty and lower living standards for our people, which these resources could alleviate. The government believes in keeping multinationals happy in the hope that they will do the heavy lifting for them and create jobs. For this, the payment is hundreds of billions worth of our resources.
What is required is a concerted campaign to resist these giveaways, nationalise all of our natural resources, put the fields under democratic workers control and use the revenues to roll back on the cuts and Implement massive public works to create jobs.
Since the gas is a limited resource, we should use some of the revenue from it to develop, wind and wave power projects on a scale that can meet the countries energy needs. At the moment, this plan is dependent on private sector funding which is a shortcoming in capitalism’s current vegetative state and will always proceed on the basis of what is most profitable for the shareholders and not what is in the best interests of the majority in society.