A decision by the outgoing Minister for Energy Pat Carey to sign permissions for the last section of the hugely controversial Corrib gas pipeline on the day of the general election has drawn a furious reaction.
Carey took up the post following the decision of the Green Party to quit the coalition government with Fianna Fail in January. He failed to win re-election on Friday.
Nevertheless, officials in Carey’s office said the permissions were granted “as a matter of course”.
However, Green Party officials said a recommendation on the consent application by Shell EP Ireland had not arrived on former energy minister Eamon Ryan’s desk before he left office.
Fianna Fail has routinely been accused of corruptly attempting to hand the extensive gas field to Shell in exchange for ‘brown envelope’ cash payments.
Conservation group An Taisce says it is also seeking a judicial review of the recent planning decision to allow the pipeline, which is in breach of several EU directives.
The approved 8km of pipeline linking the landfall to the gas terminal at Ballinaboy runs through a special area of conservation in Sruwaddacon estuary.
Sinn Fein’s spokesman on natural resources Martin Ferris described the Minister’s move as “sharp practice”.
“Pat Carey issued this order on the day that he lost his seat and Fianna Fail lost power. He had no political or moral authority to give the go-ahead to a pipeline over which many concerns still exist even with the changes made following the Bord Pleanala ruling.
“The Corrib field will bring little or no economic benefits to the Irish people under current revenue terms.
“Indeed, Shell now have been given the go-ahead to build infrastructure that will pump the gas from the west coast to their interconnectors in Britain,” Mr Ferris said.
Socialist Party MEP and re-elected TD for Dublin West Joe Higgins said: “This is just outrageous and it is grotesque that a government whose credibility has been shattered and that has been utterly disowned by the Irish electorate would make such a momentous decision.
“I call on the incoming government, which looks like Fine Gael and Labour, to denounce this and say that it just will not honour this decision.
“This is an attempt to complete the total sell-out by Fianna Fail to the multinationals. Mr Carey is putting the final stamp on this monumental and shameful sell-out.
Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said last night that it was “very wrong” for such a decision to be signed on the day of the election, given the public interest in the project.
Pobal Chill Chomain chairman Vincent McGrath, whose group had objected to the pipeline routing, said he was “not surprised” at Mr Carey’s move.
“I’m sure nobody will be surprised that the final act of this discredited Government was to put the interest of a major developer ahead of those of a community,” Mr McGrath said.
* The Court of Criminal Appeal has quashed an anti-war activist’s conviction for damaging a US warplane with an axe.
In 2004, Galway woman May Kelly received a two-year suspended sentence over the January 2003 incident at Shannon airport in County Clare.
The court said it would not direct a retrial against Kelly because of the “undoubted confusion” which afflicted her trial.
The prosecution had argued a change in the law providing a justification for her actions made no difference to the case, but this “complicated and far-reaching legal issue” was not explained with sufficient clarity to Ms Kelly, the appeal court said. Ms Kelly had represented herself at the trial.
The trial judge had also “not fully appreciated” this change in the law until well into the case, the appeal court said.