The Government has said licence applications that have already been approved will be allowed to proceed and will not be included in its planned phased ban on oil exploration in Irish waters.
Clarifying the terms of the Government’s new exploration policies, Minister of State Seán Canney said all future and new licensing rounds in Ireland’s coastal waters — from the Atlantic to the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea — will only be for natural gas and will be closed to oil exploration.
He said all authorisations in place before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement of the planned oil ban, last month, will not be affected by the decision.
The main representative body for exploration companies, the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association, - or will meet the Government to discuss the revised policy next week, but has welcomed clarity around existing exploration licences.
“Our members are committed to playing their part in ensuring that Ireland can have the energy security needed for jobs, investment, and a vibrant economy while at the same time meeting its international commitments on carbon reduction,” said association chief Mandy Johnston.
Mr Canney said the new exploration policies — as part of the Government’s wider climate action plan — will put Ireland on course to meet its 2030 target for carbon emissions.
However, People Before Profit — which earlier this year attempted failed to push through legislation to ban all offshore drilling activity — said the Government is being hypocritical over its climate action claims.
“These comments to the oil and gas firms give us clear insight into the actual climate policy of this Government — that is, ‘We are not drilling enough’,” said People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.