"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
October 14 2002
Sinn Féin Leader in the Dáil Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin this afternoon challenged the Taoiseach over the purpose of his recent meeting with the President of Shell Oil. Speaking during Leaders Questions the Sinn Féin deputy demanded to know if the meeting was called to specifically discus the Corrib gas project and if it was just a 'coincidence that the proposed Critical Infrastructure Bill surfaced in the wake of the meeting.' He also pointed out that Shell would pay no royalties and the lowest tax in the world to exploit our natural gas. Deputy Ó Caoláin said: 'it is entirely inappropriate for a head of Government to be discussing a major planning matter which is still going through the planning process with this multinational. It is even more inappropriate for the Taoiseach to be discussing with the president of Shell a major piece of legislation, to fundamentally alter the planning process in this State, which has not even been signalled in the Government's Programme of Promised Legislation, let alone considered in any way by the Dáil or any Oireachtas Committee.
'It's a very strange coincidence indeed that the proposed Critical Infrastructure Bill as the Taoiseach described, or the National Infrastructure Bill, as Minister Cullen described it in Killarney last weekend should surface in the wake of the meeting with Shell.
'This is a prime example of the unacceptable, undemocratic and privileged access to the corridors of power in this State which wealth and power guarantees.
'How can the Taoiseach justify his Government's special treatment for a company like Shell which will pay no royalties and the lowest tax rates in the world for its exploitation of our natural gas resources?
'Bord Pleanála was correct in its refusal of planning permission for the gas terminal in West Mayo and that it was proven correct by the subsequent landslide which showed that the proposed method of disposal of peat was unsafe. This proves the absolute necessity to have the best planning and the best planning safeguards for all projects, regardless of size. We all agree that the planning process should be faster but we are opposed to the railroading of projects regardless of the wishes of communities and regardless of real environmental and health concerns. '