06 March 2006

Govt must honour gas pipeline pledges to North West


A call has been made on the Government to fully honour clear commitments given in relation to extending the natural pipeline from the Corrib field to serve households and businesses in counties Sligo and Donegal.


The Council for the West has again renewed its demand that those commitments, made in 2001 in the lead up to the last general election, be implemented instead of the Government engaging in further procrastination and ducking under the fence.


Council Chairman Sean Hannick commended Independent Deputy and MEP, Marian Harkin for raising an issue the Council had been pressing for action on for some years.


Deputy Harkin recently said the publication of a Government tender for a feasibility study to determine the technical and economic feasibility of a natural gas pipeline to Sligo and Donegal was "an extraordinary development in view of a Government announcement in June 2001 that natural gas supply to Sligo was 'set in stone.'”


Towns in Northern Ireland with lower populations than Sligo or Castlebar would be provided with natural gas through a pipeline part funded by Bord Gais, making them more competitive while towns of the North West have to prove viability," under the proposal Deputy Harkin had claimed.


"We agree with Deputy Harkin's assessment that the Government is shifting the goalposts in turning a commitment to provide gas infrastructure to a feasibility study five years later.


Mr Hannick said it was ironic that the commitment given by Ministers Frank Fahey and Tom Moffatt five years ago was being clearly reneged upon at a time when the natural gas find in the Lough Allen basin was now estimated to have nine times the volume of the Corrib field.


"In 2002 Ministers Frank Fahey and Tom Moffatt had confirmed the Cabinet decision to provide gas to Sligo, and there can be no going back on that.  The fact that the Lough Allen find exists under the counties of Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh should surely have copper fastened that decision," said Mr Hannick.


He accused the Government of being less than committed in relation to the provision of spur connections in the west and north west region, even if the Sligo/Donegal pledge had been 'set in stone.'


"We believe the thinking in relation to service from the pipeline has been too woolly and has not grasped the fact that the Corrib find can benefit the region enormously. That would happen if coherent, far-seeing policies were in place.


"Where are those policies? Where is the imagination? Where is the will? Where is the commitment to Balanced Regional Development?" he asked.