From Socialist Voice, August 2006

Shell to be rescued by “divide and rule”

The recent report produced by Peter Cassells, former general secretary of the ICTU and one-time Labour Party candidate, produced no surprises. It was a classic case of divide and rule.
    It did not address the real concerns of the local population about the dangers of a pipeline coming directly in from the gas field at extremely high pressure. The proposal that has subsequently been adopted by Shell, to shift the site at which the pipeline comes ashore away from Rossport, is only shifting the problem.
    The proposal that An Bord Gáis, the state gas company, should be involved in the construction of the pipeline so as to allay fears is also a non-starter. The pressure in local gas lines is only a small fraction of the offshore pressure; and the board has no experience of high-pressure pipelines.
    The sweetener in the package is the proposal that the Government should set up a local development organisation to bring more investment into an economically depressed and marginalised community. This is all designed to divide the community and to fracture the opposition.
    The gas in the Corrib Field will bring no real benefit to the Irish people, nor to the development of the western seaboard. What it will mean is huge profits for Shell and other oil and gas corporations. We will still have to pay world market prices for the gas, despite the fact that it is just off our own shore.
    We will get little monetary return. Royalties are virtually non-existent, as with corporation tax, since they are deferred until all expenses incurred have been cleared: in finding the gas, in bringing in on shore, and even in decommissioning the field and the pipeline when the gas runs out. (This deal on royalties was done by the corrupt Fianna Fáil politician Ray Burke when he was minister in charge of natural resources.)
    The Government has no plan to use and develop our natural resources in a more rational and environmentally responsible way. Burning the gas is not the most efficient use of this increasingly scarce resource. The recent announcement of a new and potentially big gas find off the Cork coast shows that we have rich resources waiting to be developed, and it is urgent that they be brought under public ownership.
    We need to step up the support for the local community in their campaign to send “Shell to sea.” This report is about isolating the local community and fragmenting the large public support they undoubtedly have throughout the country. The old tactic of divide and rule must not be allowed to succeed.
    The whole question of the control of our natural resources needs to become a major political question. Why should our resources be owned and exploited by foreign transnationals, to make a few shareholders richer than they already are? These resources belong to all the Irish people and should be owned by and developed by the Irish state.
    It is urgent that we have an all-Ireland exploration and development agency to manage and exploit these valuable resources for all our people, north and south.

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