[Sinn Fein]

31st March 2003

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2003

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris speaking during the environment debate

Government handing away natural resources

I would like to propose this motion which sets out the steps which we believe are necessary in order to establish proper control over our oil and gas reserves. As the motion states, the terms under which those resources are currently held by multi-nationals like Shell and Marathon are probably of less benefit to this state than those which apply in some of the most corrupt and undemocratic regimes in the world.

Indeed, when one considers that the most significant change made to the licensing terms in favour of the companies took place while our old friend Ray Burke was Minister for Energy, it is hardly to be wondered at. The demand for those terms to be revoked has been raised by myself and others in Leinster House and I have called for the circumstances of the changes introduced by Burke to be subject to examination by the Flood Tribunal.

I have also pointed to the ongoing close relationship between Fianna Fáil and the oil and gas multi-nationals, one of which has for a number of years hosted a fund-raising event for the party at Galway Races. When I mentioned this during the course of a radio interview, I had the pleasure to receive within hours my very first demand to withdraw what I had said with an implied threat of legal action.

The letter came from Enterprise Oil, the wholly owned Irish arm of the charming Shell corporation. They demanded that I withdraw my reference to the Galway Races event. I am happy to report that I treated this threat from those associated with the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and other activists in Nigeria with the contempt it deserved. I have heard no more from them since.

Shell are currently involved in the planning appeal over the proposed development of the Corrib Gas field and on behalf of our party I would once again like to assure the local community in North Mayo that Sinn Fein and our local representative Vincent Woods stand fully behind them in their fight to prevent the exploitation of this resource and the destruction of the local environment that this will entail.

The potential benefits of developing the oil and gas that lies beneath our waters is immense. We only have to look at the example of Norway to realise this. The difference, between this state and Norway, however, is that the Norwegians have maintained their national interest in their resources unlike successive Governments here who have given them away.  

Not only that but they expect us to be pleased that anyone would be even interested in taking our oil and gas. This would be like leaving the key in your front door and coming home to find that burglers had arrived and stolen all your belongings but feeling happy that they thought you had something worth stealing in the first place.

It is vital that the current terms and conditions are revoked. If they are not then the exploitation of these resources will bring minimal benefit. As one person with long experience in the industry said to me, the way things stand at the moment it would be better if the oil and gas was left where it is rather than be taken up by the multi-nationals. I commend this motion as the policy which Sinn Fein will follow and which will form the basis of our approach to mineral exploration when in Government.

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