The controversial Corrib gas field off Co Mayo must be developed to supply Ireland’s future energy needs, the Progressive Democrats claimed today.
A Government-appointed mediator is currently attempting to resolve a long-running dispute, which saw five local men serve more than three months in prison last year for breaching a High Court order halting a blockade of the construction of an inshore pipeline by Shell.
But the junior Government party today urged the rapid development of the gas field as a key priority in its Power The Future discussion document on Irish energy.
Launching the blueprint, Progressive Democrat (PD) TD for Dun Laoghaire, Fiona O’Malley, said the Atlantic Ocean field has the potential to supply 50% of Ireland’s gas needs and 15% of the country’s total energy needs.
Ms O’Malley said the junior Government party fully supported the current efforts of mediator Peter Cassells to find a solution to the issue.
“We have to find a solution. It is in the national interest. The potential that is there is huge,” she said.
However, Independent Co Mayo TD Jerry Cowley later said the PD proposal was disgraceful and showed how divorced the party was from reality.
“This inshore pipeline development cannot be railroaded through the communities of local people opposed to it and it’s irresponsible of the Government partners to make this their stated policy,” he added.
The 12-page PD document believes Ireland should aim to produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2015.
The Government is expected to publish its official energy policy in the coming months.
“I’d be concerned that there isn’t an official Government energy policy,” Ms O’Malley said.
She pointed out that energy issues had now shot to the top of the political agenda.
Ireland, as an island nation, was very vulnerable in EU energy terms, like Malta and Cyprus, she added.
The energy blueprint calls for grants for biomass plantations and increased use of wave and wind power to produce renewable energy.
It also proposes tax relief for converting diesel vehicles to run on vegetable oil.
An east-west interconnector between the UK and Ireland will also lead to a more efficient electricity market, the party said.
Multi-nationals should be encouraged to locate renewable energy R&D facilities in Ireland, Ms O’Malley noted.
The Government partner also calls for new market structures and improved regulation, as well as advanced research and development in energy technologies.