A bill targeting a ban on all future drilling for oil and gas in Irish waters has hit a wall after a draft report on the motion was voted down.
The joint Oireachtas committee on communications, climate action and the environment has rejected recommending People Before Profit’s bill to the Dáil after a tied vote.
The bill is entitled Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Climate Emergency Measures Bill.
While the draft form was voted down, the bill remains live and at committee stage pending proposals on how to proceed, potentially with certain amendments. The committee next meets on January 22.
In opposing the bill in its current form, senator Michael McDowell said a ban on future exploration would be “deeply irresponsible” as Ireland will be dependent “for a considerable period of time on either imported or domestically-exploited fossil fuels”.
He said it was the primary duty of government to keep open the option of availing of domestically-generated fossil fuel.
Fine Gael senator Joe O’Reilly said that a stop to exploration could damage Ireland’s perception from an inward investment point of view and damage the country’s security of energy supply.
Rural affairs and natural resources junior minister Seán Canney reaffirmed his opposition to the bill saying, while well-intentioned, it could create more problems than it solves.
The architect of the bill, People Before Profit’s Brid Smith said more jobs would be at risk in the marine industry from future drilling than in the exploration sector from a ban.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the really irresponsible action would be to continue with oil and gas exploration and produce yet more carbon emissions.
He called a ban “a huge issue of principle”.
Also in favour of the bill, Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley accused the exploration industry of “a bit of scaremongering” over security of supply claims, adding there is no guarantee of future oil and gas finds.
Mr Ryan said if the bill was not supported it would show where Ireland stands on the climate change issue. He called for a principled stand to be taken on tapping into wind energy and claimed the prospect of major oil and gas finds are minimal despite a number of major drilling rounds scheduled over the next few years.