THERE HAS been widespread criticism of a decision by Minister for Energy Pat Carey to sign key consents for the last section of Corrib gas pipeline on the day of the general election.
The Department of Energy has said the consent to construct the pipeline and approval of the project’s amended plan of development was issued as a matter of course after An Bord Pleanála approved the new pipeline route in January.
However, Green Party sources say a recommendation on the consent application by Shell EP Ireland had not arrived on former energy minister Eamon Ryan’s desk before he left office.
An Taisce says it is seeking a judicial review of the Bord Pleanála decision, as it believes it is in breach of several EU directives.
The approved 8km of pipeline linking the landfall to the gas terminal at Ballinaboy runs through a special area of conservation in Sruwaddacon estuary.
Sinn Féin’s spokesman on natural resources Martin Ferris described the Minister’s move as “sharp practice”.
“Pat Carey issued this order on the day that he lost his seat and Fianna Fáil lost power. He had no political or moral authority to give the go-ahead to a pipeline over which many concerns still exist even with the changes made following the Bord Pleanála ruling.
“The Corrib field will bring little or no economic benefits to the Irish people under current revenue terms.
“Indeed, Shell now have been given the go-ahead to build infrastructure that will pump the gas from the west coast to their interconnectors in Britain,” Mr Ferris said.
Outgoing Labour spokesman on marine issues Michael McCarthy expressed concern at the timing of the Minister’s action.
“I would be very worried about ministers signing orders in relation to projects like this, in the dying days of the Government. Making decisions of this scale at this juncture in terms of where we are politically is very serious indeed.”
Socialist Party MEP and re-elected TD for Dublin West Joe Higgins said: “This is just outrageous and it is grotesque that a government whose credibility has been shattered and that has been utterly disowned by the Irish electorate would make such a momentous decision.
“I call on the incoming government, which looks like Fine Gael and Labour, to denounce this and say that it just will not honour this decision.
“This is an attempt to complete the total sell-out by Fianna Fáil to the multinationals. Mr Carey is putting the final stamp on this monumental and shameful sell-out.
“The Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance will be strenuously campaigning in the Dáil and outside it for natural resources to be brought back into public ownership and developed with public investment,” Mr Higgins said.
Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said last night that it was “very wrong” for such a decision to be signed on the day of the election, given the public interest in the project.
“This is not a decision that one would regard as “clearing one’s desk” as minister, as it has very serious implications,” Mr Higgins told The Irish Times .
“This project has been dogged by decisions taken which were not before the public gaze, and this will just add to the lack of accountability. It is very unhelpful,” Mr Higgins said.
Pobal Chill Chomáin chairman Vincent McGrath, whose group had objected to the pipeline routing, said he was “not surprised” at Mr Carey’s move.
“I’m sure nobody will be surprised that the final act of this discredited Government was to put the interest of a major developer ahead of those of a community,” Mr McGrath said.