Oil exploration contracts means another “Great Giveaway” of natural resources

Dublin’s Socialist Party MEP, Paul Murphy, who was assaulted by members of the Garda Siochana last week while taking part in a peaceful sitdown protest in Rossport, Co. Mayo, has called the decision to approve new exploration licenses to gas companies reprehensible.

I find it incredible that the Minister responsible should think it is correct to proceed with a Fianna Fail policy of handing over our natural resources to major corporations, prior to the promised review of the licensing terms.

The fact that this round of licensing had attracted the highest number of applications shows that the major gas and oil companies believe there are significant resources to exploit. Exploration companies do not undertake expensive investigation and exploration if they do not think there will be a financial return or justification.

Minister Rabbitte knows this, despite his constant talking down of the possible reserves off the Irish coast, which makes him sound like an ambassador for the oil tycoons. His Department in 2006 estimated that there was an estimated 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent off the west coast alone, which would be worth well in excess of €750 billion today.

I also find it incredible that Mr Rabbitte had ‘no response’ to a SIPTU document which clearly outlined the great oil and gas giveaway which has taken place in the last number of years and outlined a number of measures which could be adopted. It underlines why SIPTU and the trade union movement should halt their funding of the Labour Party which no longer in any sense represents the interests of working people.

Given what we have learned from the scandal and debacle that is the Corrib Gasfield, I believe the discredited approach of previous governments must be torn up. No new licences should be issued until a fundamental debate is held about how to use Ireland’s oil and gas resources.

A new policy must be developed which has at its heart the interests of working people and our environment. This means nationalising the vast oil and gas resources under democratic public ownership and developing these with a state-owned exploration and extraction company. Not only could this generate potentially great sums of wealth for the economy which could be used to improve vital public services, but it could also be a source of job creation and developing our national skills base.