Independent Media Centre Ireland

Rossport Solidarity Night in Donegal

category donegal | environment | news report author Friday July 21, 2006 02:48author by Searc

Where were the Politicians?

Big crowd in Ballybofey support the Rossport Campaign but, as usual, where were the TDs?

The Donegal Rossport support group held a well attended benefit for the Rossport Campaign in Ballybofey tonight.
The assembled heard Donegal man Fr Kevin O'Hara relate the horrendous situation in Nigeria where, for forty years, the Nigerian people have had to endure the ignominy of having multinational oil companies exploit their natural resources without giving anything back to the local communities, rather they are heavily polluting the Niger Delta.
Kevin showed a dvd of his parish in Nigeria where water and ground pollution is everywhere and where the local people have now resorted to violence to eject the oil companies.
He introduced the concept of the 'social license' and how oil companies must earn the right to exploit natural resources - something which evidently has not operated in Ireland to date.
He explained how the social license of such companies has long since disappeared in NIgeria - how the oil companies promised to reinvest in the community initially but instead have blantantly destroyed the environment. He also explained how their valiant and legal methods to try and make the oil companies lessen the pollution fell on deaf ears at the courts in the Hague.
He then asked a very poignant question - How can the Ireland be the only County in the world to give away the rights to our natural resources to big business?
This was reiterated by the 3 of the Rossport 5 who attended the gig - they are under no illusion about the methods of big business and their government collaborators.

So why then is Sinn Fein backing a private company's application for the license to exploit the Donegal oil and gas fields?
Do they really believe that half a dozen Donegal businessmen have the resources to drill and will then deliver up their profits to the people rather than sell the license on to those who have the money to bring in the gas or oil for profit?
This a global issue with a parochial twist - parish pump politics or as Kevin O'Hara's documentary was so aptly titled 'the goat in the flow station'...

What was blantantly clear was that all there knew that Rossport today could be Donegal tomorrow.

The oil and gas off the Irish coast belongs to the people living in Ireland - the law must be changed to limit the rights of private enterprise in relation to our natural resources, and any decisions must be taken by referendum of the people and not by a politician's stroke.

Comments (10 of 10)

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author by Jonahpublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:23author address author phone

"So why then is Sinn Fein backing a private company's application for the license to exploit the Donegal oil and gas fields?"

Any more details on this?

author by Searcpublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 13:25author address author phone

Pearse Doherty spoke at the meeting and said he welcomed the license application by Grianan Energy Ltd - a cover company recently established which has applied to get the exploration licenses off the Donegal coast.
This company has South American and Donegal connections and have been plying the media with promises to invest in the County and give 10% (tax free) profits to local people if they are successful in gaining the licenses but this is nonsense they will just sell on the licenses at a profit and why Sinn Fein are backing them is anybody's guess... or maybe the wannabe TD Pearse has decided his bread will be better buttered by backing business.
Who are Grianan Energy Ltd? Why do they think the people of Donegal will give them permission to exploit our natural resources for profit and why is Sinn Fein backing them?
Pearse always struck one as sensible before this but they that was before he was elected Councillor.

author by Jonahpublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 15:45author address author phone

Right. I still don't understand your difficulty.

You object to Grianan Energy Ltd because you believe they will sell the licences on at a profit rather than live up to their obligations. You don't cite any evidence for this however.

As for why Sinn Féin would back them, I had never heard of the company before this, but having just read the transcript of their discussions with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Natural Resources, I think it seems fairly obvious to me. What exactly in their presentation did you object to?

author by supppublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 17:39author address author phone


One reason for our company’s better principles and tighter rules on environmentalism is simply that we all live there. I live by the sea in a wee village called Dunfanaghy *puke* and if I was to begin to rip up the countryside or to profiteer on the backs of my own people, I would not live there for very long. Having spent most of my life in South America, I returned to Ireland to seek new opportunities at home.

yeah yeah we've heard it all before.

author by MTpublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 00:54author address author phone

You can choose to take him at his word, or you can refuse to, that's your choice. perhaps you'd prefer that the license went to Shell or Exxon? Because it's going to go to somebody...

What the bid does is highlight that this company have a business plan which shows that hey can make a healthy profit for their shareholders while giving ten per cent back to the community, AND base their operation off shore. Why can't the other companies?

If they receive the license under these conditions and then sell it on, the new buyer would have to adhere to the same conditions, so it would make no difference.

That's all sense of course, and doesn't involve bashing Sinn Féin, so some people may not be interested in it.

author by Jonahpublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 16:54author address author phone

Thatnks for clearly that up. I wasn't sure if the comments about Grianan were motivated by facts or coherent analysis or merely ignorance, Sinn Féin bashing and paranoia. At least it's clear now.

author by Owenpublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 20:18author address author phone

Suspend Oil and Gas licences applications off Donegal Coast
11 April, 2006

"...I acknowledge and welcome that the application by Grianan energy offers a tangible difference to the other applications. This Donegal based company have agreed to allocate 10% of their profits to an independently run charitable trust that will invest this money in infrastructure, health and education projects in Donegal and the west of Ireland. However Grianan energy Ltd are only one of the five applicants for these licences, and none of the other four share the same social conscience as the Donegal based company does. Therefore the only way to ensure that Donegal benefits is to change the term and conditions to ensure that all companies that are allocated licences pay their fair share to the state and also bring benefits to the local economy..."

Related Link:
author by supppublication date Sat Jul 22, 2006 21:13author address author phone

Well if we were go by Norwgian standards the goverment would have to have a substantial share of the private company of Grianan... this 10% charitable thing looks like a local sop, greenwash, is it any different to PEGGs suggestion of donation to the local community.

author by AS - DS2Spublication date Thu Jul 27, 2006 00:15author email petulax1 at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone

Further clarification on bids for Donegal- Erris- Slyne Basin

In relation to Grianan Energy, the company have promised to allocate 10% of their profits (tax free) to the county. The company state that an independent monitoring body will be set up to manage the funding and allocate this funding in the three key areas of health, education and infrastructure. On the surface the company seem a great alternative to the other oil majors in that they vow to put money back into the communities in which they are based, however there are many issues surrounding their application. The successful bidders for the hydrocarbons in the Donegal/ Erris/ Slyne basins (be it Shell/ Grianan/ Serlica etc), will be allocated a Frontier Exploration License which means the company can mine for gas/ oil for a period of 15 years. Once they discover hydrocarbons the successful company must apply for a ‘declaration of commerciality’, which is in essence a new contract.
While Grianan Energy now state in their application for the exploration license that they will return 10% to the county, once they find hydrocarbons they are under no obligation to keep to their 10% promise. The ‘declaration of commerciality’ is fundamentally a new contract allocated once the company has shown a profit will be made from mining. According to the Petroleum Affairs Division (Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources), from their initial application the only area the PAD insists the successful applicant adheres to is their workplan, there are no structures in place to ensure the applicant keeps to any social promises. So while Grianan Energy now promises to put 10% back into the county, once they find gas/oil they are not under any contractual agreements to maintain this promise. They are also not obliged to maintain an independent monitoring committee.

There is also the strong possibility that the company’s license can be bought by the likes of Shell or Statoil. Grianan Energy state that 80% of their company’s shares will be sold to individuals – but who will stop the individual chairpersons or shareholders of each of Shell’s / Statoil /Island Oil and Partner’s subsidiary companies, buying up Grianan Energy’s shares?

Irregardless of the most socially minded application, it doesn’t change that fact that the Government has put in place structures which allow multinational companies to mine our hydrocarbons without putting a penny back into the area in which they explore. The Government states that hydrocarbon exploration will benefit employment – but these companies won’t benefit the local communities in Donegal in that the employees the companies seek are highly skilled/ qualified personnel, and will make little difference to the population of Donegal which has the highest unemployment rate in the country, the highest rate of early school leaving and one of the lowest rates of third level educational attainment.

The companies state they will mine offshore- realistically it is financially and environmentally unviable to mine offshore which leads to a Rossport like situation with high pressure, dangerous pipelines being brought through the lands of local people.

The Fianna Fail Government has created the conditions where Multinational or Irish companies can mine for oil and gas without a penny from profits going back into the country. The Nigerian Government insists that 60% profits go back into their country, the Irish Government does not insist that any profits go back to Ireland. The only contribution the companies in Ireland must make is a possible 25% tax rate, which is offset against production costs, realistically they contribute very little to the Irish Economy. The gas and oil mined won’t benefit the Irish Economy as any hydrocarbons sourced will be sold on the International rather than domestic market. Our hydrocarbons can be sold across the world without a reduction in costs for the country in which it was sourced. Bord Gais is looking for a 34% increase while our hydrocarbons will ensure other countries reap greater benefits than the country of origin.

This information is not provided to accuse or support any one political party, instead it raises serious questions to each elected representative around why our government is freely giving away our natural resources without a return in benefits? Why is the Government seeking to give away a potential 10 billion barrels of hydrocarbons (according to PAD) belonging to the most disadvantaged counties in Ireland? Why is no one answerable?

author by Pearse Doherty - Sinn Féinpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 14:08author address author phone

In response to a number of posts, i would like to state quite clearly that Sinn Fein do not support the application from Grianan Energy LTD. We have told the company this, but believe that their application confirms all of our beliefs that the terms and conditions are a disgrace. I would urge all of us who are genuinely concerned at what is happening in relation to oil and gas exploration, to stay focused and not engage in a ill-informed political slagging match. I attach my recent press release to clarify my own position.

Donegal county council calls for the suspension of the current round of oil and gas applications

Today’s announcement from Island oil and gas that they have discovered a significant gas find of the south coast of Ireland reinforces correct decision taken by the council

Donegal County Council has unanimously supported a Sinn Fein motion calling on the government to ensure that any future oil and gas exploration licences are only granted when clear benefits can be guaranteed for the people of Ireland. The council also called for the suspension of the current round of applications that are due to be granted this week, until the terms and conditions attached to the licences are reviewed and a better deal struck for the people.

In welcoming the decision taken by Donegal county council, Cllr. Pearse Doherty said that today’s announcement from Island oil and gas, that they have discovered a significant gas find of the south coast of Ireland reinforces the correct decision taken by the council.

Cllr. Doherty said,
“Donegal County Council’s support for my motion is an important step forward in the campaign to insure that our natural resources that lie of our coast are not exploited by large multinational oil and gas companies but are instead harnessed with a clear benefit being brought to the Irish people. A clear signal has now being sent to this government that all parties on Donegal county council accept that there has been little benefit to the state in the granting of previous exploration licenses, and are now calling on the government to immediately address this disgraceful situation where our oil and gas reserves are being given away.
“I have consistently called on the government to suspend the Frontier Exploration Licenses applications off the coast of Donegal and have demanded an immediate review of the present terms and conditions that apply to these offshore oil and gas exploration licenses. I have done so because the current licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration are highly flawed and represent an extremely bad deal for the Irish People.

"Theses terms and conditions end any hope of Ireland benefiting from what nature has provided for her. The terms include an oil tax rate of 25%, the lowest in the world, all of which can be written off, it includes the abolition of royalties, which mean that we now have to buy our own gas back from these companies at the current market cost with no reduction to the state and it also has ended all other production- related levies. The fatal flaw in these terms and conditions is that there is no commitment by the oil companies to use any Irish jobs, goods or services. All of these initiates have resulted in that out of the 102 oil and gas producing countries, Ireland has the most generous terms and conditions for the oil companies in the world.

”In debating this motion the application from Grianan energy, the Donegal based oil exploration company was discussed, as an example of a company that agree that these licenses are a giveaway, and as a result have offered to allocate 10% of their profits to an independently run charitable trust that will invest this money in infrastructure, health and education projects in Donegal and the west of Ireland. While recognizing that this application offers a tangible difference to the other applications, it is my belief and as I stated during the debate on the motion, that the harnessing of our oil and gas must result in real benefits to the Irish and 10% of own resources does not go far enough.

”Therefore the only way to ensure that Donegal and other counties benefit is to change the term and conditions, to ensure that all companies that are allocated licenses pay their fair share to the state and also bring benefits to the local economy.

"Sinn Féin has consistently challenged the government to suspend this current round of applications which are only 30 kilometers of the Donegal coast until terms and conditions could be agreed that would benefit the Irish people. We need a major review of the 1992 legislation and until such times as this happens the Government must put the interests of the Irish People before the corporate interests of the oil and gas companies.

"The Marine Minister Frank Fahey, in 2001, said that in the event of a significant discovery off the Donegal coast during that year that the Government would seriously consider changing the 1992 oil and gas legislation. With today’s announcement from Island oil and gas that they have discovered a significant gas find of the south coast of Ireland I now challenge the government to end the giveaway and live up to ministers Fahey’s commitment of 2001.

"There is no doubt that with proper terms and conditions any oil or gas find of the Donegal coast would have massive benefit for Donegal. However it is reckless in the extreme for Minster Dempsey to issue new licenses without first carrying out a major review of the 1992 legislation. The time has come for this Government to start putting the interests of the Irish People before the corporate interests of the oil and gas companies. In the present economic crisis we must have a clear explanation from the government with regard to their handing over of potentially billions of euro worth of Irish resources that will be of little benefit to the Irish state and I and Donegal County Council are calling on the government to stop issuing licenses that will have little benefit to the state and to suspend these applications until a full review has been conducted.” ENDS

Note to editor
Sinn Féin motion adopted by Donegal County Council
“That this council recognize that the granting of oil and gas licenses to multinationals has had little benefit to Donegal and call on the government to ensure that the current round of oil and gas exploration licenses are granted to ensure that the people of Donegal will benefit from the natural resources that nature has provided for her.
In the absence of this that the current round is suspended and the terms and conditions of the licenses are reviewed.”

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