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Eamon Ryan says he'll 'eat his hat' if new licences for gas exploration aren't stopped within a year

He said new licences would not be countenanced in any future negotiations on a programme for government.

Image: Sam Boal

GREEN PARTY LEADER Eamon Ryan has promised to “eat his hat” if the issuing of licenses for oil and gas exploration offshore around the island isn’t stopped within a year.

There’s much speculation since the local elections and recent polling results that the Green Party may enter into a coalition government after the next general election. 

Ryan has agreed to talk to all parties, however, speaking in Donegal yesterday, he made it clear that oil exploration would not be countenanced in any future negotiations on a programme for government.

“I will eat my hat if within a year we have not stopped the issues of new oil and gas explorations.

“I do not believe it will survive in the programme for government negotiations, no matter who is in it,” he said. 

TD Bríd Smith’s Climate Emergency Bill, which seeks to end the awarding of any new licences for the explorations for fossil fuels off Irish shores, has been blocked by government. 

Environment Minister Richard Bruton said he had difficulty with the bill because there was “absolutely no evaluation” and no attempt to look at what the impact of the legislation would be on energy supply in Ireland.

However, Ryan said such a move flies in the face of the government’s Climate Action Plan. 

When asked if the awarding of licences would be a red line for the Green Party entering government in the future, Ryan said:

“I don’t believe you go down the red line route… I believe in principles, and one of the principles is we are going to have to be really ambitious, much more ambitious than Fine Gael are currently.

But aside from that I was just expressing what I see as a political reality, and perhaps send a signal to the industry, because they know this, they think maybe they are out the gate and it is business as usual, it is not.

“There is no chance in the world that the next government is going to allow additional licences to be issued. That is not just a red line from our party, Fianna Fáil have voted that way, Sinn Féin have voted that way, socialists have voted that way, independents have voted that way, the only block is Fine Gael.”

He added that there “is no way I could countenance it, even if we weren’t in government, say someone else is in government, there is no way they are going to do a deal that doesn’t lead to the end of export licences because they know that the environmental movement, it is just a non-starter, you would lose the entire environmental movement from day one”.

When asked would Fine Gael acquiesce to a demand to scrap new licences being awarded in order to get a programme for government over the line, Bruton said he is not party to any negotiations for the formation of a government.

“I am giving you the reason why government has not supported this bill. It has not been thought through, the sort of evaluation needs to be done hasn’t been done and I think it’s important to bear in mind that our problem is not excessive reserves, that is not the problem that Ireland has.

“Ireland’s problem is we’re 85% dependant on fossil fuels and that is going to be hard to change so that’s the reality,” he said, adding: “So the issue for us is reducing our usage and the question for us is what role can ceasing exploration have, it doesn’t reduce our dependency, it doesn’t reduce carbon by any amount.

“There is no doubt if we had a gas find beside Corrib and we could continue to supply from Corrib that would be of immense benefit to us in that transition, it would allow us to have gas as a transition fuel because when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine you need a transition fuel. 

“So I am certainly open to evaluating a route that is credible in this area. But to without notice end all exploration without considering the implications for energy security is not the way policy should be made and I want o make policy on a proper basis making sure the choices we make are the ones that impose least burden and the most help to make the transition.”

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