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The Great Gas Giveaway - We deserve better

Thérèse Ruane - Sinn Féin Councillor
A chara,

The value of our oil and gas fields off the west coast is estimated at more than €500 billion; money which should be used to reverse this savage budget, to reverse the cuts in social welfare, minimum wage, lower and middle incomes; to invest in vital infrastructure, health education; to create jobs and stem the flow of emigration from our shores. It should be used to tell the IMF/EU to hump off with their exorbitant loans. It should be used for you, for me, for everyone, to build a brighter future for the children of this nation.

But, of course, we the Irish people don't own any of it; we don't benefit from our gas off our Mayo coast. No, nor will we benefit, from other oil and gas fields off the west coast, such as the Porcupine basin, the Dooish project, Dunquin gas field. Multinationals, such as Shell and Marathon will reap rich rewards for their shareholders, while the people of Ireland gain nothing.

The people of Norway will also benefit from our oil and gas; the huge profits from the Corrib field will flow into the coffers of the Norwegian exchequer. Why? Because Statoil (Norway owns more than 71 per cent of Statoil) has a 36.5 per cent stake in the the Corrib field. (Shell has 45 per cent and Marathon 18.5 per cent.) That means that the citizens of Norway effectively own 25.5 per cent of the gas from the Corrib field.

What many people have also forgotten is that the Norway offered to assist the Irish government, to share their expertise, in setting up an Irish State company to develop Irish oil and gas resources in the 1970s; this offer was rejected. What kind of fools are we at all? Norway now run a profitable, debt free, self sufficent state with close to $200 billion in reserves. Norway has managed its natural resources in a prudent way, ensuring that their social and economic development benefits all citizens. In fact, Norwegian government policy state that "the whole population should benefit from the depletion of these resources. This implies that our petroleum revenues must be managed with the view of improving the welfare of present and future citizens of Norway."

We have so much to learn from their prudent management of their natural resources and economy. Our country is going down the tubes, our economy has collapsed. A draconian budget is being forced on us which targets the most vulnerable in our communities. Yet the oil and gas sector in this state has escaped any reform. We prefer to let the people of Norway, and multinationals and corporations reap the rewards; we just give it away for free.

We must demand that our natural resources are nationalised, that the dubious deals made by Ray Burke in 1987 and Bertie Ahern and 1992 be renegotiated. Other countries such as France, Russia, Bolivia and many more have renegotiated the ownership and royalty rates with corporations; who invariably complain but don't walk away from what remains a highly profitable business. Enough is enough. We must demand this now. 

Thérèse Ruane
Sinn Féin Councillor
Co Mayo