After all the angst, back-biting, and protests surrounding the Corrib gas field, it emerges that oil company Royal Dutch Shell is to sell off its shares in it for more than €1bn.
Any chance that the Irish taxpayer will see any of that?
Not likely. Shell has invested many millions in the development of the field and it can write every cent of that off against tax liabilities. Secondly, despite attempts as far back as 1975 to secure partial state ownership of potential oil and gas fields, we have allowed major corporations to rule.
Late last year, it was reported that Shell, and its partners, were generating sales of more than €1.2m a day from the gas flowing from the Corrib field. So, how much has the exchequer actually gained from bringing gas ashore there?
It is still far too early to tell, although in 2011 Leo Varadkar played prophet when he forecast taxpayer profits, stating that “the State stands to gain at least 25% of profits from Corrib and the sooner the gas is brought ashore, the sooner that money can be used to fund essential services”.
Can anyone pretend that that has really happened?
When industry minister Seán Lemass,signed the State’s first exploration agreement, in January 1959, the Irish subsidiary of US company, Messman-Rinehart, was given exclusive rights to both onshore and offshore — for £500.
It looks like we are still selling ourselves short.