The weekend statement led to fears for the Co Kerry-based project — which endured several years of wrangling over proposed operation tariffs.
However, Energy Minister Alex White said yesterday his predecessor Pat Rabbitte was consistently supportive of the proposal by Shannon LNG to construct a LNG terminal near Ballylongford, Co Kerry.
The minister said: “I would seek to continue this approach. The LNG facility would provide additional security of supply to Ireland in that it would bring diversity to Ireland’s supply sources and would bring connectivity for the first time to the global LNG market.
“The prospect of such a facility is, therefore, a potentially positive step for the island of Ireland.”
Mr White also stated the department was “not aware of any announcement made by Hess in this regard”.
He said: “I would be keen to encourage and facilitate investments and jobs in the energy area. The Shannon LNG proposal is a project with potential in this regard for the north Kerry area.
“Recent contact with Shannon LNG has been in the context of facilitating the proposed investment by the company, while recognising that the investment decision is ultimately a commercial decision for the company.”
However, with the regulation of the gas market the responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), a department statement said: “The minister for energy has no direct statutory function in relation to liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.”
Meanwhile, Tralee-based county councillor Jim Finucane said yesterday his information, locally, was that it was business as usual for the company.
He admitted, however, to being concerned by the latest reports about the project which had been dogged by delays since it was launched in 2006.
“One can understand the frustration of a company proposing to invest €1bn — impediments have been put in all along the way. This kind of uncertainty for a commercial company doesn’t make sense.”
Calling on Mr White to deal personally with the project, he said north Kerry and the country in general could not afford to lose a project that would provide an alternative source of energy, as well as positive knock-on benefits.
Mr Finucane, who is Tralee Town mayor, said €60m had already been expended locally by the company. He said a mechanism was needed for a round table agreement on how to expedite the project and a timeline should be set for a resolution.
The north Kerry and west Limerick areas have been hard hit by unemployment and consequent emigration and the proposed LNG terminal is seen as a lifeline. Upwards of 500 jobs, it is envisaged, would be created during a four-year construction period and 50 permanent on completion of the project.