Greens urge Ryan to consider moving Corrib gas refinery

Fri, Jul 11, 2008, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Energy Eamon Ryan has come under renewed pressure from his own party over his stance on the Corrib gas project, following a national Green Party motion on the issue.

The motion, which was passed by a two-thirds majority at the party’s last national executive council in June, calls for relocation of the Corrib gas refinery from its north Mayo site at Bellanaboy.

The motion states the party believes relocation to be the “only way to resolve the Corrib gas issue”. It “strongly recommends” that strategies for examining other potential sites be initiated immediately by an independent body, representative of local communities, the Government and petroleum companies.

The party’s Mayo constituency, which moved the proposal, estimates the gas field is worth €8 billion-€10 billion due to rising gas prices. The refinery cost is one-fortieth of this, at €200 to €300 million, and relocation would cost under €100 million, it estimates. The current site could be “modified” to become a research centre for renewable energy, it notes.

Green Party chairman Dan Boyle told The Irish Times the party had “admitted defeat in negotiations on the Corrib gas project” during last year’s post-election discussions on forming a coalition government. On this basis, the motion was “passed as something we would like to see happen, but which we also realise is unlikely to happen”, Mr Boyle said. Mr Ryan “has to take the motion into account”, but there was the issue of “State liability”, Mr Boyle said.

“While in Government, we are trying to put in place legislation, regulations and provisions to make sure that an issue like this does not happen again,” he added.

Andy Wilson, spokesman for the Green Party Mayo constituency, said he believed there was still an opportunity to act, and the motion was not “aspirational”. Grassroots members are known to be uncomfortable with an apparent U-turn on the project by its parliamentary party.

In February 2007, members unanimously backed a motion at their annual conference promising that the party “in government would not approve of a productionpipeline consent being signed as part of the Corrib gas project until the completion of a full independent review of the best development concept for the project”.

In August 2007, two months after entering Government, Mr Ryan told The Irish Times the Government “could not commit to a proposed review of the entire Corrib gas project”.

A new group representing community leaders in Erris, Pobal Chill Chomain, has already received the backing of Labour Party president Michael D Higgins, Fine Gael TD Michael Ring and Bishop of Killala Dr John Fleming for an alternative location at Glinsk near Ballycastle on the north Mayo coast.