Despite the mounting swell of criticism from economists, commentators, campaigners and politicians, Pat Rabbitte is stubbornly insisting on granting more exploration licences – on Ireland’s notoriously bad terms – to companies keen to extract Ireland’s oil and gas reserves. In a stunning display of contempt for democracy, he has said that he will go ahead and issue the licences under the current round, regardless of (and even in advance of) the outcome of an upcoming Oireachtas committee review of the issue.
Following two Irish Times columns by Fintan O’Toole on the issue in successive weeks (on August 16th and August 23rd, the second of which cited my research*), and numerous letters on the topic, the Irish Times took the rare step of publishing a leader article (i.e. an editorial) on the issue on August 29th, attacking Rabbitte’s “contradictory” position:
This is an absurd approach to such a serious question: decision first, debate afterwards. It is not the way a healthy democracy considers issues of vital public importance. There should be a pause in the issuing of licences until the end of the year, to allow the Oireachtas committee to conduct a rigorous review.
So far this week, there have been three letters in the Irish Times on the issue. All three are supportive of the newspaper’s call on Rabbitte to halt the review. The authors of these letters are: a former Irish ambassador to Denmark and Norway (Monday), the Professor of the School of Business at Trinity College Dublin (Tuesday) and a former director of Statoil EP Ireland (today, Wednesday). [I might post these letters here on the blog soon.]
Also this week, economist and author Colm Rapple used his Irish Mail on Sunday column to expose the utterly flawed nature of Rabbitte’s approach. (Of course, this approach is identical to that of his predecessors, Noel Dempsey, Eamon Ryan and Conor Lenihan. Why? Because they were all briefed by the same civil servants who have so quickly turned Rabbitte from critic to defender of Ireland’s disastrous terms.)
For more than a decade, Rapple has been critiquing successive Irish governments’ management of our oil and gas resources. The past five years’ worth of his columns are available on his blog: colmrapple.com
His latest column is well worth a read. As he explains, in the civil service/Rabbitte approach, “success is measured solely in terms of exploration activity.” But because of our terms, increased exploration may bring no financial return at all in the short to medium term. Even in the longer term, the returns are likely to be minimal.
(* In his column of August 23rd, 2010, Fintan O’Toole referred to the findings I published in this article in July 2010: Ireland’s share of revenue from its gas fields could be as low as 7%, report shows)