Drilling off Dalkey coast may be challenged


Discussions are at an “advanced stage about taking a legal challenge against exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Dublin Bay, a public meeting in Killiney heard last night.

Close to 500 people attended the meeting, at which a new, “non political” campaign was launched aimed at building a wider coalition against the project.

Stephen Vard, a Dún Laoghaire resident, who is one of the prime movers behind the group Dublin Bay Concern, drew loud applause when he urged the media to “stop going for the cheap shots” by linking objections “to Dalkey and talk about a gold coast”.

He said national issues were at stake, including the Government’s licensing regime which meant oil companies could extract 100 per cent of resources and pay no royalties, but corporate tax of 25 per cent, rising to 40 per cent, which could be written off against the cost of drilling.

“The lack of transparency is endless,” added Mr Vard, describing a legal challenge to the project as “essential”.

The Department of the Environment awarded a foreshore licence to Providence Resources on October 4th for exploratory drilling six kilometres from the Dalkey coast. If oil or gas reserves are found, an application for a commercial licence will have to be made.

Legal deadline

Barrister John Kenny, who has given legal advice to the group, said there was a three-month deadline for seeking a judicial review and “a number of individuals and groups are thinking of going down that route”.

He did not want to pre-empt those discussions but said there were grounds for challenging the absence of an environmental impact assessment on the project, among other issues.

Other speakers from the platform at Killiney Castle Hotel included Eddie Hobbs, who described Ireland’s licensing regime as “completely out of line” with international best practice. “There is no requirement to bring oil on shore or generate jobs.” He noted that in two surveys of more than 100 licensing regimes, Ireland was “second worst” to Cameroon in one and Peru in the other.

Earlier he said that for legal reasons, it would be difficult to “unpick” the Providence deal “but what we can do is make sure future licences are properly set up”.

Pádraig Campbell, a former oil rig worker, said the authorities adopted an attitude of “the oil company knows best. We rely on what the oil companies tell us; full stop.”

Mary Anderson from Shankill said the issue was not just about Dalkey but 69 exploration sites and “we have got to think of the bigger picture”.

Providence has argued the project would be of “significant economic benefit to Ireland Inc”. It said: “Up to 40 per cent of profits from production of such a commercial discovery would accrue to the State over and above the employment that would be created in support of these activities.”

Dublin Bay Concern said it was campaigning on three platforms: the environmental concerns, licensing and taxation issues, and what it sees as inadequate public consultation.