Irish energy policy: McEntee says nothing should be ‘off the table’

‘We need to look at the targets that we’ve set and how can we change and amend’

Nothing should be "off the table" in Ireland's energy policy given the fallout from the war in Ukraine, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said.

Asked about whether the Government should reconsider commitments made in the Programme for Government on Liquefied Natural Gas, which is staunchly opposed by the Green Party, she said “give what’s happened in the last six weeks, I don’t think anything should be taken off the table”.

Speaking on Thursday, Ms McEntee said that because of the difficulty in predicting the impact of the war, “we as ourselves need to look at our overall energy policy.

“We need to look at the targets that we’ve already set ourselves, and how can we change and amend, taking on board that changing dynamic.”

“But obviously we have very clear policy in that regard. If anything were to change it would have to be a Government decision, it would have to be agreed by all parties,” she added.

The Programme for Government states the Coalition does not believe it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas.

She also said the Government will continue to consider further supports for households and businesses impacted by the energy crisis.

“We’ve acknowledged that this is already having a significant impact on people on their lives, be it in their homes, the cost of fuel, but also the travel and our haulers in particular and that’s why we’ve provided a number of supports in recent weeks.

“And of course, if there was further support needed then we certainly take that on board.”

She said that the ‘triple lock’ mechanism that governs the deployment of Irish troops overseas needs to be examined as part of a national conversation on defence and security, the Minister for Justice has said.

The mechanism requires a vote by the UN security council or general assembly, a Cabinet decision and a Dáil vote before troops can be deployed, and has long been a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy.

Asked on Thursday about comments made by Tánaiste Leo Varakdar at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, she said: "I think anything in relation to our neutrality, in relation to the triple lock, the Taoiseach recently pointed to the potential for a citizen's assembly to discuss that. I would agree with that."

She said many of her colleagues in Fine Gael “would agree that’s the route we need to go”.

At his parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening, Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael should consider a policy statement on neutrality and the triple lock outlining that it is in favour of moving towards a more common European approach to defence and that it wasn't in favour of the triple lock. It would have to be adopted by the Parliamentary Party, he told the meeting.

The Tánaiste has said in the past that he doesn’t agree with the triple lock because it gives overseas powers an effective veto on Irish foreign policy.

Russia is a permanent member of the UN security council, meaning it or any other member could block a resolution which would in turn mean Irish troops could not go on peacekeeping missions under the strictures of the triple lock.

Ms McEntee defended the Tánaiste’s contribution on the long-standing policy, saying “there is an onus on him to make sure that we are constantly looking at policy, reviewing policy, putting forward ideas, examining different ideas, and that’s exactly what he does.”

She said the commission on the future of the defence forces set out “some very stark information and details” and potential paths to take on security policy.

“The situation in Ukraine has just highlighted more than ever the need for us to progress this quickly. So I think he’s been clear that we need to have these conversations. It’s important that we have these conversations within our own party as well,” she said.

Regarding the cost of living, Ms McEntee said there was a need to review the State’s overall energy policies in light of the war in Ukraine. Asked about the future importation of Liquefied Natural Gas, which is opposed by the Green Party, she said “given what’s happened in the last six weeks, I don’t think anything should be off the table” adding that there was, however, a “very clear policy in that regard”.

She also indicated that the Government will continue to consider further supports for households and businesses impacted by the energy crisis.

“We’ve acknowledged that this is already having a significant impact on people on their lives, be it in their homes, the cost of fuel, but also the travel and our haulers in particular and that’s why we’ve provided a number of supports in recent weeks. And of course, if there was further support needed then we certainly take that on board.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

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