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MEP Maria Walsh defies FG and supports motion to block controversial Shannon LNG terminal

A motion to veto the ‘Projects of Common Interest’ list because is contains 55 fossil fuel projects was rejected by MEPs.

FG MEPs such as Sean Kelly voted to block the motion today, However, Walsh said she is against fracking.
FG MEPs such as Sean Kelly voted to block the motion today, However, Walsh said she is against fracking.
Image: Sam Boal

Updated Feb 12th 2020, 3:00 PM

FINE GAEL MEP Maria Walsh has defied her party colleagues in the European Parliament today and supported a motion to veto a number of energy projects, including the controversial Shannon LNG terminal in Co Kerry.

The parliament voted on a motion to veto the list because it contains 55 fossil fuel projects.

In total, 443 voted down the motion, with 169 MEPs voting in favour of the veto. 

The motion had been tabled by 100 MEPs, including Irish MEPs Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan and Ciaran Cuffe , Luke Ming Flanagan and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Walsh said: 

“I am opposed to fracking and like many other people was pleased when the process was outlawed by the Fine Gael Government in 2017.

“As yet, the long term consequences of fracking are unknown but most likely it is significantly damaging to our planet and to people’s health.

“There are many reasons why fracking is bad for the environment and public health ranging from the contamination of drinking water to the use of highly toxic and carcinogenic products in the process,” she said. 

In relation to public health, she said she was alarmed to read the documented negative health impacts, particularly those on pregnancy and birth outcomes.

The impact it has on our environment means its use is something I cannot condone.
I want to thank everyone who made contact with my office to voice their concerns.
I will continue to listen to my constituents and my own conscience on all issues voted on in the European Parliament.

In the midst of a Climate Emergency, I firmly believe we need to be looking through all issues with an environmental lens.

I believe we need to invest in sustainable renewable energy, not fossil fuels.

Despite Walsh voting in favour of the motion rejecting the projects, her Fine Gael colleague in the parliament, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly defended his support for the list of priority projects across the EU.

As well as Shannon LNG, there are three other Irish projects on this list, which he said are important. 

“There are 150 projects across Europe, there are four or five in Ireland – Shannon is one of them, the hyrdropower one in Tipperary, the interconnecter with France and also the interconnecters with the United Kingdom. 

“So if you were to reject one, you reject them all and that makes no sense whatsoever. ”

TheJournal.ie was informed by the party that the party’s position is outlined above by MEP Kelly. 

It is understood that MEP Mairead McGuinness did not vote today as she was chairing plenary votes at the time. 

Opposition parties, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo, and Extinction Rebellion activists are among those who have demanded that the government should drop its support for the Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal plan because of its proposed use of fracked gas.

The last government insisted that Ireland needs energy security in future, and that the proposed LNG terminal could be part of the answer to that.

The gas terminal was included on a list of EU ‘Projects of Common Interest’, which allows it to gain access to funding and a fast-track planning process.

If it’s constructed, it is proposed that the project will form part of an EU gas interconnector scheme from running north-south from Scotland to Malta.

Speaking to EuroParl Radio, Grace O’Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South, said:

Just last year or in the last two years Ireland banned fracked gas being taken in Ireland and there was a real jubilation there and Fine Gael really strongly, they brought that legislation to the Dáil and to the Seanad and there was really great excitement that it passed.

“To then turn around and actually allow the fracked gas come in through the back door, as I call it, into Shannon is definitely the wrong way.”

O’Sullvan said it is important that the European Parliament prioritises renewable projects and that “public money is spent in those areas and not going down a regressive path”. 

What is Shannon LNG?

The Shannon LNG is designed to be a natural gas terminal.

The terminal, which is being proposed by US company New Fortress Energy, would be constructed in Ballylongford, Co Kerry, and would be the first of its kind in Ireland.

LNG terminals work by importing natural gas in a liquefied state at an extremely low temperature – making it easier to transport – and then turning it back into gas for use in a new market.

An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the project in 2008, but that has since expired. However, developers are currently considering lodging a new application. 

In a statement, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said in order to receive European funds, the projects on the list will have to support the European Union’s ambitions under the Green deal. 

“Quite rightly, there was significant concern expressed by many in Ireland about the sustainability of some projects but with this announcement, we can be confident that all projects will now comply with the ambition of the European Green Deal,” he said. 

“Ireland needs energy security. As an island nation, we cannot just hope for the best. We need a diverse and secure energy supply and many of the projects on the PCI list are essential to meeting that goal.”

Kelleher’s statement did not make specific reference to the Shannon LNG proposal. 

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment said “gas will continue to play a crucial part in the transition to a low carbon society – both at a European level and also here in Ireland as we move from 30% to 70% renewable electricity as part of the Climate Action Plan”. 

In the context of concerns raised about the project, Minister Richard Bruton intends to ask the European Commission to review the relevant evidence on LNG in the context of adopting more ambitious climate targets. A review on the security of supply will investigate what fossil fuels are required, and how they are sourced, during the transition to a low carbon economy, added the department. 

With additional reporting by Christina Finn 

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