Bureaucracy ‘holding up’ 800 jobs

The chief executive of a semi-state company yesterday claimed “a €1 billion investment that will provide 800 jobs is being held up by bureaucracy”.

At a conference in Co Clare, chief executive of the Shannon Foynes Port Company Pat Keating expressed his frustration with the delays concerning the Shannon LNG proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal on the Shannon estuary at Ballylongford, Co Kerry.

Planning permission was secured for the development four years ago and work has yet to commence on the project, that will be able to supply up to 45% of Ireland’s gas requirements to the national grid.

Shannon LNG has already spent €40 million on the plan and Mr Keating told delegates at the Mid-West Regional Authority annual conference in Ennistymon yesterday: “It is like we are putting a red light up to investment, despite all of the rhetoric about attracting investment into the country.”

Mr Keating said that the terminal secured planning permission within six months, but that the company had to wait two years and nine months for a foreshore licence.

“It is now being held up by a consultation process with the Commission of Energy Regulation, which has been ongoing for the past 14 months,” Mr Keating said.

He added: “This has the potential to be a huge boost to the region. It is on our doorstep. The general feedback from Shannon LNG is that they find it difficult to deal with the agencies.”

Currently, the Government is planning to designate the Lower Shannon estuary a Special Protection Area for birds, and has received 124 objections against the designation.

The Shannon Foynes Port Company handles 34% of Ireland’s seaport trade and Mr Keating said a planned blanket nature designation of the Shannon estuary “is, make no mistake, a show stopper to future investment in the estuary”.

Yesterday, Mr Keating told the conference that the nature designations in the estuary “have the potential to be a major stumbling block and totally alienate the future potential of the estuary from economic development”.

Mr Keating said: “It is quite simple, if you are in Foreign Direct Investment investor in New York and evaluating a number of sites, one of the first criteria is nature designation.

“If you have that box ticked, they move to somewhere else where there are no nature designations,” he added.

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