Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Shannon LNG Project
Arthur Spring (Kerry North-West Limerick, Labour)
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter, the importance of which is evident from the fact that four Deputies from County Kerry have tabled it for topical issue debate.
I was angered by the decision of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, to produce a report following a meeting in the Taoiseach's office in the week leading up to Christmas between the Taoiseach, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resource, Deputy Rabbitte, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Deenihan and myself and Shannon LNG at which there was a lengthy discussion on what further steps could be taken to resolve this matter. Two solutions were identified, including that the parties could sit down at a table and try to come up with a solution and investigation of whether the complaint made to the EU Commission could be suspended until such time as a consultation process had been concluded. Unfortunately, neither happened.
The report issued last week by the CER ultimately determines the framework upon which all further decisions on whether this project will go ahead will be made. I come from a county and constituency which has enormous unemployment. There has been much talk about export growth. This project could result in more than $1 billion being brought into the country and the creation of approximately 700 jobs. The McCarthy report, often condemned in this House, states that this would provide fuel security. It further states that if we increase the supply of energy to the country it should be possible to lower the price. I acknowledge the interconnector between Ireland and the UK, which supplies 95% of our gas at a cost of €50 million per annum.
None of the solutions put forward suggest to me that this matter will be resolved soon. This issue needs to be addressed in an open and transparent manner. The date of 17 March was set as the deadline for finalisation of talks on this matter. It is imperative that the regulator is brought before a committee of the Oireachtas to explain why he produced a report which prefixes a framework that could ultimately prevent this project going ahead. It is essential that this matter is given urgent consideration as it could benefit north Kerry, the county and the country.