Forty Foot ‘next in line’ for oil exploration, claims Senator

Green Party accuses Minister of ‘complete doublespeak’ on low-carbon economy

Christmas Day swimmers at the Forty Foot. Photograph: Frank Miller

Christmas Day swimmers at the Forty Foot. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The Forty Foot swimming area at Sandycove, Co Dublin, is “next in line” to be affected by oil exploration licences, it has been claimed in the Seanad.

Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan accused Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten of “complete doublespeak” following the granting of an oil exploration licence to Providence Resources to drill for oil in the Porcupine Bank off the Kerry coast, without a strategic environmental impact assessment being carried out.

She told the Seanad that the permission, granted just a week after a Bill to ban onshore fracking was passed, was “just one of a slew of drilling expeditions recently permitted by the Minister, with the North Celtic Sea basin off the coast of Cork and the Kish Bank off Dalkey’s Forty Foot swimming spot next in line”.

She claimed that Providence Resources “in a desperate plea for investment . . . states that it expects to find five billion barrels of oil”.

She said the company would drill for up to 60 days over the summer without an environmental assessment having been conducted and she called for the Minister to revoke the licences.

Ms O’Sullivan said the Minister talked about a “just transition to a low-carbon economy” but “in complete doublespeak, he is inviting the destruction of our coastal fishing, marine resources and tourism industries and a marine ecosystem for one of the lowest Government tax takes for oil and gas in the world”.

Laggards of Europe

Ireland should “follow the lead of France by putting a stop to oil and gas exploration in Irish waters. We need a just transition to a low-carbon economy. We are the laggards of Europe.”

She said “extraction of oil and gas from the Irish Sea is not even profitable. Shell Oil recently left the Corrib gas field with a loss of €2 billion.”

Ms O’Sullivan questioned whether the Minister had thought about the impact of these drilling expeditions from a social, environmental and economic point of view.

The Waterford-based Senator said that “in June 1991, the Government declared all Irish waters to be a whale and dolphin sanctuary, the first of its kind in Europe, but the seismic blasts from exploration and drilling are deadly for these mammals because they give rise to disorientation, deafness and internal bleeding from distances of up to 100 miles”.

Ms O’Sullivan added: “A deaf whale is a dead whale. One blast also kills 64 per cent of zooplankton, which is the basis of the marine ecosystem, for up to 0.7 miles. We cannot afford to look for any more fossil fuels.

She said international climate experts warned that 80 per cent of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground in order to avoid going over the safe 2 degree limit in respect of global warming.

This investment in fossil fuel infrastructure would lock Ireland into a “completely discredited economic model” built on a form of fuel “that is fast becoming irrelevant”.

The Green Party Senator said “this shows inconsistency and incompetence on the part of a Minister and a Department named in honour of climate action and environment”.