The Corrib Gas Controversy.

Can someone recommend a balanced book or source on Ireland’s natural resources off the west coast? My gut instinct is to regard the Shell to Sea crowd and their allies as nutters opposed to pretty much everything who would be happier if nothing was ever built in Ireland and we all lived in a hole in the ground with a broken bodhran.

Yet I can’t help having a niggling doubt that there is something fishy about the exploitation of our natural resources, especially when you see which Fianna Fail ministers were involved. I’m constantly being told that we have gotten a raw deal on royalties compared to other countries, yet I’m told that by people who regard all oil companies as evil. I also can’t help worrying that, as with the banks, our national ministers may not have been as much corrupt as just plain incompetent and out of their depth in dealing with Big Oil.

Where can I get a balanced analysis? Any suggestions? 

11 thoughts on “The Corrib Gas Controversy.

  1. Oh dear, I’m just reading some of the Shell to Sea articles, they really are anti-capitalist nutters.

    Trying to find a balanced account of this issue is not easy, I tried similar last summer but couldn’t get an opinion from anyone I trust. Most are anti-oil, period.

  2. Thanks for that Mary Kate. What I can’t understand is that whilst it may be expensive to extract the minerals, the fact that all expenses can be written off, which seems reasonable enough, means that only pure profit is taxed. So why so low a rate?

  3. The CPI referred to was actually the Centre for Public Inquiry (Chair Fergus Finlay, also Frank Connolly, Prof Enda McDonagh, Alice Leahy and others), set up circa 6 years ago with backing from Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philantropies; it’s first report covered planning issues surrounding some hotel built up beside a castle. Its next report was on the Corrib Gas Controversy – immediately after the publication McDowell threw 10 hissy fits, tried to shoot the messenger Connolly by making comments under privilege in the Dail and generally kicked up such a fuss that Feeney, I believe, withdrew his funding. End of that CPI, don’t know about the other one!

    In terms of your question about whether or not the return to the country is good – there are no royalties, no state equity and no special taxes; a CT (Corporation Tax) rate of 25% kicks in only AFTER all expenses – exploration, development, court cases, decommissioning, etc – not necessarily well specific are written off.

    That is perilously close to ‘sometime, never’.

    Meanwhile the country continues to go down the tubes …

  4. Do you know, that’s what I thought it meant, then I thought: Nah. They’re not still going, surely?

  5. It’s an interesting point in itself that everyone
    who examines this issue, from Lorna Siggins in the Irish Times to
    the CPI, to an Irish film board funded documentary maker, all come down to greater or
    lesser extents against Shell.

    The only pro Shell voices have been the rather shrill tones of Senator Eoghan Harris and The News of the World’s Paul Williams.

    What does this tell us?

  6. Jason, I tend to agree with you that many of those who are most prominent in the Shell2Sea campaign would put many people off giving their arguments any credence but like you I’ve never been able to shake the notion that the whole thing has a fishy smell to it. To be fair to the Greens, I strongly expect that had there been some means to repudiate the exploration contracts and licenses they would have gone for it. I would love to know more about how and when we might be able to revisit those licenses but most of the information out there quickly descends into people tarring every Garda as the equivalent to a member of the CRS or that every employee of Shell is sacrificing babies at the weekend in vats of burning oil.

  7. I looked at Siggins’s book today, and the cover blurb gave one the distinct impression it was anti-Shell. My problem with Shell to Sea is that their allies are the anti-Lisbon, anti-Israel, anti-NATO, anti-nuclear, anti-business, anti-IMF people who are against nearly everything I’m in favour of. If they are wrong on everything else, can you understand why I have problems accepting their bona fides on this? When I read their online stuff, it degenerates into global cpaitalist conspiracy and I just don’t have any time for that. Having said that, I still have serious doubts abou what is happening out there. I can’t understand how Norway seems to be able to build up a massive oil funded strategic fund, and yet we seem to get next to nothing. How?

  8. Jason, it’s a bit Fianna Failish to refer to Shell 2 Sea people + suppourters as nutters.

    I suggest you read Lorna Siggins’ book Once Upon a Time in the West. She’s an Irish Times journalist. See Fiosrú ‘The Great Corrib Gas Controversy. There’s also the book, Rossport 5.

    Plus, check out The Pipe, an award winning docu on the debacle. And if you want to delve further, see the WikiLeaks cables that estimate there’s 20 other gas fields as big as the Corrib field off the West Coast.

    And no, I’m not a member of Shell 2 Sea. Just an informed citizen.


  9. It’s tricky to find that sort of thing. There was a TV3 documentary made by Gerry Gregg and Paul Williams, but it was crazily biased in the pro-Shell direction. Frank McDonald had some good articles on the matter in the times and, while of course he has his own views, they tended to give a fairly decent explanation (or at least a timeline) of the events so far.

    That said, though, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable proposition that all major international oil companies are “evil” (if you get interpret evil as meaning deeply, deeply unethical). Shell’s actions in Nigeria would be fairly good evidence of that. If they’re willing to do what they did there, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that they turned around and behaved wonderfully in Ireland.

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