"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
It has long been acknowleged that the exploration deal former minister Ray Burke struck with the oil companies in 1992 was exraordinarily - even obscenely - generous.
There was always, however, what appeared to be a fairly compelling argumentin favour of such generosity: the slim chance of anyone ever making a commercial discovery off the Irish coast. Only by offering such generous terms, we have repeatedly been told by every energy minister since Mr Burke, including most recently Pat Rabbitte, could we ever intice the roustabouts into Irish waters.
It is a theory that, for obvious reasons, the oil companies themselves have actively encouraged - despite significant gas finds off both Kinsale and Belmullet and the recent Barryroe oil find.
Now, on top of that major discovery, comes compelling evidence that we could be sitting on another €1.5 trillion worth of oil and gas reserves - the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil.
But amazingly, not only will the taxpayer recieve as little as 7 per cent of the final profits, the international oil companies are not even obliged to bring this black gold ashore in this country.
It is disgraceful enough that our own potential tax take from such a resource should be among the lowest in the world. But that we are not even guaranteed continuity of supply is outrageous.
The solution, however, is a simple one.
Mr Rabbitte should tell the oil companies he is tearing up all existing agreements and seek new licensing terms similar to those that other oil-rich countries, like Norway, demand and get.
Others have dones so; there is no reason why we cannont. Worldwide, oil and gas reserves are steadily diminishing - and therefore ever more valauble - resources.
If there are significant reserves off the Irish coast - and everybody now seems agreed that there are - then ultimately the oil companies will pay whatever they are asked in order to exploit them. As things stand, the only thing that is being expoited is the Irish people.