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Concerns Raised Over Onshore Prospecting For Natural Gas In Clare

Katrina Doyle - The Clare Herald

A Sligo-based activist Gerry Casey has slammed the Fianna Fáil/Green party coalition for inviting applications for licences to carry out onshore prospecting for natural gas in the north-west and south-west, including County Clare.

Eirígí activist Gerry Casey also highlighted the potential for disputes similar to that ongoing in the Rossport area of north Mayo if they proceed as under current arrangements.

He was responding to the public invitation by Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources to the petroleum industry to apply for licensing options to allow prospecting in the area for up to two years.

The vast area which has the potential to develop Ireland's first on-shore gas fields, known as the Northwest Carboniferous Basin - covers 8,000 square kilometres including parts of counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Mayo, Roscommon and Monaghan.

Mr. Casey claims Minister Lenihan is also inviting applications for the Clare basin which includes parts of counties Clare, Cork, Limerick and Kerry.

Casey said: “Such exploration and extraction has the potential for grave environmental damage and danger to human health and safety. We have the seen in north Mayo the conflict that can arise when such developments, with the potential risks involved, are imposed on local communities. Once again in these instances, there has been no proper in-depth consultation with local communities who may be effected by this prospecting and potential extraction of gas.”

He added: “If our natural resources are to be exploited, then it needs to be done in consultation with local communities, in a manner that protects the environment and protects peoples health and safety. To date, the record of the political establishment and of the exploration companies, as exemplified in the ongoing dispute over Shell's planned pipeline in north Mayo, on environmental and safety issues does not breed confidence.”

“Where natural resources can be extracted in a safe manner, then the right to extract that enormous wealth should not be handed over to private companies to make profits at the expense of the Irish people. While the Dublin government are slashing health and education budgets as well as cutting pay and social welfare, they are shamefully giving away hundreds of billions of euros worth of oil and gas to private companies such as Shell, who have an appalling environmental and human rights record worldwide.”

“This wealth shouold instead be used for the benefit of the Irish people, to create employment, eradicate poverty, deliver efficient well funded public services and ensure a decent standard of living for all.”

He concluded: “Lenihan need to put a stop to this entire process. They need to begin a serious and genuine consultation with the local communtities in the areas involved. They need to nationalise all our natural resources, including the corrib gas field off the Mayo coast, and any future discoveries off-shore and on-shore, including here in the north-west. If Lenihan continues on his present course, then conflict similar to the ongoing dispute in north Mayo which has been ongoing for the past decade, is more than likely.”