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Sam Boal

Bruton: 'When the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, we need a back-up - and it remains oil and gas'

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Fine Gael can’t be taken seriously on climate action if they support oil and gas drilling.

GREEN PARTY LEADER Eamon Ryan accused Fine Gael of using “every trick in the book” to block the People Before Profit’s Climate Emergency Measures Bill.

The Dáil voted to ban oil and gas drilling in Irish waters in March, despite government opposition.

The ‘Keep it in the Ground’ Bill, if passed into law will make Ireland the 5th country globally to ban oil and gas exploration. 

It aims to stop the issuing of any new licences for the exploration of fossil fuels, something Costa Rica, Belize and France have already implemented. 

The Bill passed the Dáil in February 2018 but it has since stalled due to the Oireachtas Environment Committee refusing to progress the Bill back to the Dáil.

Cher’s support

In the last year, there has been cross-party support for the Bill (as well as support from pop superstar Cher who tweeted her support).

The government maintain the Bill is unworkable and forces Ireland to rely on imported oil and gas from abroad. 

Ryan said the carry on by Fine Gael to block the Bill is “scandalous”.

The Green Party leader was speaking in the Dáil today following what has been dubbed a “green wave” in the European elections.

In the local elections, the party also dramatically increased its seats in a number of councils. 

A number of ministers and the Taoiseach stated over the weekend that such a green vote will be listened to, adding that  it will ensure there is little opposition to government initiatives which due to be rolled out after the publication of the Climate Action Plan. 

Attacking Fine Gael, Ryan highlighted how the government had put down a ‘money message’ which prevents the Bill from moving forward due to the estimated cost it would impose on the Exchequer.

Ryan said this was just a tactical move to halt the bill, stating that the government has since reversed that decision, but is still preventing the bill from being debated in committee. 

He added that Fine Gael “cannot be taken seriously” when they are still supporting the exploration of oil and gas of Irish shores. 

Ryan accused Minister Richard Bruton of “burning Fine Gael’s reputation” with such blocking tactics. 

‘No magic bullet’ 

Defending the government’s position, Bruton said pretending there is a “magic bullet” to solve the problem is an “illusionary” policy, adding that stopping oil and gas exploration overnight is not the answer. 

Bruton said countries that have banned exploration have other sources of energy, such as nuclear power. He said it was wise to move towards renewables, but said banning oil and gas exploration overnight would only force Ireland to rely on imports. 

Ryan said wind energy should be prioritised, stating that it could fill the gap. The minister acknowledged that a greater focus on wind energy was needed. 

“When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine we need a back-up,” said the minister, adding that the “back -up remains oil and gas”.

The minister also told the Dáil today that the government’s Climate Action Plan will be published in the coming weeks, and stated that public bodies such as local authorities will be pivotal in leading the way on climate action. 

Junior Minister Sean Canney was criticised by environmentalists last year for commenting about the benefits of oil and gas exploration off the coast of Ireland. 

Speaking to Irish oil and gas exploration stakeholders at the Atlantic Ireland Conference, the Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Seán Canney dismissed the Climate Emergency Measures Bill, telling the stakeholders at the event that the Irish government “recognises that the realisation of Ireland’s offshore oil and gas resource potential can deliver significant benefits to the people of Ireland”.  

 Ireland imported 100% of the country’s oil needs in 2017, while for gas, it was a much lower figure of 34%, largely because of the addition of the Corrib gas field in late 2015.

A protest against the stalling of the Climate Emergency Measures Bill is currently taking place outside the Dáil. 

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