The decision of the coalition government in Dublin to sell Bord Gais Eireann, a state-owned energy company, to a British corporation, Centrica plc, has been described as an act of ‘treachery’.
The 1.1 billion euro sale -- significantly less than the price that had been predicted -- was announced on the eve of the exit from the international bailout programme of the 26-County state. Although no longer considered insolvent, the Dublin government still struggles under the rigorous conditions imposed by the the Troika, the managers of 74 billion euro bailout deal.
Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins said the privatisation of Bord Gais is a “treacherous betrayal” of the Irish people and of energy workers. It was also a capitulation to the demands of the Troika, who he said were acting on behalf of the European financial markets.
He called for the sale to be resisted by unions and workers. “The track record of privatised companies has been a disaster with dire consequences for the jobs and conditions of the workers involved,” he said.
“Workers and the trade unions should now mobilise and actively resist the privatisation of Bord Gais Energy.”
Government officials denied the money was being used to re-inflate the economy prior to local elections next year. Energy minister Pat Rabbitte claimed the arrival of a “big player” into the 26-County energy market was “a good thing” and would increase competition.
But Sinn Fein energy spokesperson Micheal Colreavy described the decision as a betrayal of the public money invested to date.
“This offer still under values Bord Gais Energy as when the sale was first mooted it was estimated that the company would be worth up to 1.5 billion euro, he said.
“But even had that price been realised the sale would still represent a shortsighted decision given the massive potential facing the Irish energy sector over the next decade.”
Bord Gais had been a “successful operator” in the energy markets, he added, and warned of increases in the price of gas and electricity.
“If the Eircom [telecoms firm] sale is anything to go by, and if the operations of Centrica who control British Gas are anything to go by, then Irish consumers will pay heavily for this decision in the future.”
The move has been linked to the cut-price sale of Ireland’s national energy resources, including the Corrib gas field, the subject of ongoing protests in County Mayo.
Campaigners from the Shell to Sea organisation have been protesting against the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline for the past seven years.
This week it emerged that a sum of 1.5 million euro has been spent policing protests at the controversial Shell E&R refinery project in north Mayo, since February 2012 alone.
And concerns are also mounting over the planned use of ‘fracking’ to extract gas through the Earth’s crust in counties on both sides of Ireland’s north-south border.
A test bore hole is being planned for the near future in county Fermanagh by fracking company Tamboran Resources. Scientists have expressed concerns that the new and largely untested technology could weaken the earth’s crust and cause earthquakes or sinkholes, or release toxic chemicals into water supplies.
A public meeting organised by ‘Ban Fracking Fermanagh’ took place on Saturday, December 7th. Chair of the group, Charlie McClintock, warned that moves have already been made to purchase a quarry locally.
He promised that his organisation “are going to make it very expensive”, warning local PSNI chiefs “every time they are going to drill, you will have to police it”.