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What’s mined is theirs

Peter Geoghegan - London Review of Books

 Earlier this month, Providence Resources announced that an oil field at Barryroe, off the coast of Cork, is expected to yield 280 million barrels. The company’s CEO, Tony O’Reilly Jr, the son of the media mogul, told the Today programme that this was ‘very good news for Providence shareholders and the Irish economy’. The first part of his statement is undoubtedly true: Providence’s share price rose sharply on the back of the Barryroe news. That Ireland’s economy will benefit is much less likely.

According to the World Bank, Ireland offers ‘very favourable’ fiscal terms for oil and gas companies. At 25 per cent, Ireland’s government take is among the lowest in the world. Norway’s, by comparison, is 78 per cent; Yemen’s is 95 per cent. Ireland also boasts some of the most generous tax-write offs in the industry: companies can offset all costs before they declare profits, including any ‘incurred in the 25-year-period prior to commencement of field production’, from such activities as drilling unsuccessful wells in Irish waters.

Posted Date: 
26 October 2012

Irish Grandmother Takes On Oil Giant, Shell

Eimear Clabby - Safe World for Women

Interview with Maura Harrington, of Shell to Sea Campaign

Interview by Eimear Clabby, Safeworld Student Writer

In the quiet and tranquil countryside of Mayo, in the far west of Ireland lies one of the most controversial gas projects. Protestors reside in the solidarity camp at Aughoose, one of the two locations which is part of the Corrib Gas Project.  The project is based along the Sruwadaccon Estuary which is designated a Special Area of Conservation.  The Corrib Gas Field is located about 50 miles off Erris Head in County Mayo, known as the Slyne Trough.  An exploration license was granted to Enterprise Oil in 1993, before Royal Dutch Shell took it over in 2002.

Many locals were concerned over the environmental impacts of the project along with the health and safety aspects. What is surprising is that, despite the amount of information that is available on the Shell to Sea Campaign website, there is little information in the media.  Originally in 2004, when the protests first began, the issue received a huge amount of public interest and ample media attention. Now in later years with the situation yet unchanged, it appears that mainstream media is losing interest - it is no longer 'news'.

Posted Date: 
18 October 2012

An oil bonanza, but not for the Irish people

Michael Burke - The Guardian

[Shell to Sea]  It's a damning indictment of Irish media that most of the media referring to the Irish oil and gas giveaway recently is from across the water.

Britain's North Sea oil boom was hardly a model of sustainable growth, yet Ireland looks set to make the same mistakes

Corrib Gas Project

Broadhaven Bay where the offshore Corrib gas field is located, Co Mayo, Ireland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Discovery of oil off the southwest cost of Ireland has prompted talk of it being great news for the Irish economy. It could certainly do with some. But the announcement that known oil reserves are commercially recoverable is unlikely to offer any great boon to the economy as a whole. There may be a bonanza, but it will be only for a small coterie of Irish banking, property and oil tycoons who continue to benefit from the state's largesse while most of the population struggles in the fifth consecutive year of economic slump.

There is a long history of pillage of Ireland's natural resources, beginning with England's deforestation of the country for its navy. More recently, domestic politicians have continued that trend. The disgraced former energy minister Ray Burke was in office when Fianna Fáil granted extraordinarily favourable oil exploration licences to oil companies. The former head of Enterprise Energy Ireland, Brian O'Cathain, is reported to have said that some oil developers, such as Shell, will pay no royalties at all for the lucrative Corrib field, worth up to €10bn, and elected representatives have called on the current Fine Gael/Labour party coalition government to reverse the deal, so far without success.

The troika of EU, IMF and European Central Bank have insisted that Irish taxpayers bail out bondholders in failed Irish banks even while the domestic economy continues to contract. The domestic troika, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, continue to insist there is no alternative.

Providence Resources, which made the recent announcement about the oil reserves, also benefits from exceptionally low tax rates and the facility to write any exploration costs against tax. It is like being reimbursed for buying lottery tickets until one or more is a winner. Except that finding oil in Ireland's offshore has long been a certainty, and the elevated price of oil now makes exploration highly profitable.

The chief executive of Providence, Tony O'Reilly Jr, explicitly hopes to emulate the British experience. This seems unlikely for two reasons. The tax rates for North Sea oil at the time of commercial exploitation ranged from 50% to 75%, and the major oil companies in Britain, such as BP, also owned "downstream" businesses of refining and selling oil commercially, which protected them against fluctuations in the oil price. In contrast, without the necessary investment in refineries, the virtually untaxed developers in Irish waters may not even bring the oil onshore to Ireland.

But the North Sea oil boom under Thatcher is hardly a model of sustainable growth. Then, government oil revenues allowed an earlier version of austerity (then labelled "monetarism") to be followed by tax cuts and the profligacy of the "Lawson boom". Now that Britain is once more an oil importer, latter-day Thatcherites who imagine the Tory triumphs of the 1980s can be repeated are living in a fantasy. There is no positive legacy for Britain of the North Sea oil boom.

This week's events show another model is possible. Hugo Chávez's victory marks him as one of the few leaders anywhere to be re-elected since the global economic crisis began. Venezuela has had very large oil revenues for decades, but only since his government took control of the industry, away from foreign multinationals and local oligarchs, has the wealth it creates been distributed among the population. Unlike Ireland, and all the countries implementing "austerity", poverty in Venezuela is declining, healthcare and education improving and the economy is growing. If Ireland is to benefit from an oil boom it needs to look to Chávez, not to Thatcher.



Posted Date: 
15 October 2012

Tony O’Reilly Jnr quizzed on BBC’s ‘Today’ programme about Ireland’s bad deal from oil

William Hederman -

 Providence boss repeats usual myths about Irish oil/gas fields 

Tony O'Reilly JnrThe BBC appears to be more clued in to the realities of Ireland’s mismanagement of our oil and gas resources than are many people here in Ireland.

This morning (Wednesday, 10th October 2012) the CEO of Providence Resources, Tony O’Reilly Jnr, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s flagship current affairs programme, ‘Today’, following the company’s announcement that its Barryroe field off Cork will yield 280 million barrels of oil. The presenter quizzed O’Reilly about the bad deal Ireland will get from production of Irish oil. [See link at end of this article to an audio file of the BBC interview] 

He asked O’Reilly how much of the revenue from Barryroe the Irish State was likely to receive, considering the very low tax rate here for oil and gas production. The presenter also asked the Providence boss about the extraordinary fact that, for the purposes of this tax, Providence would be able to deduct 100% of its exploration costs anywhere in Irish waters going back 25 years.

O’Reilly’s response was to trot out the same myths and obfuscation that have been the staple of the Irish oil lobby’s and the Irish government’s defence of Ireland’s dysfunctional licensing regime.

On the tax write-off of exploration costs going back a quarter of a century (remember, that’s exploration anywhere in Irish territory, even if it isn’t related to the field in question), O’Reilly blustered that this was “pretty normal everywhere in the world”. It isn’t normal worldwide.

Posted Date: 
11 October 2012

Idiots at work - Shell TBM truck stuck again!!

Another Shell truck has got stuck.  It is again believed that the truck, which has Dutch registration plates, was delivering parts of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) for Shell. The truck is currently stuck at Briska, between Bangor and Bellacorick.  Yesterday, 2 of the trucks that previously attempted to deliver parts of the cutting head of the TBM to Shell's tunnelling compound, returned to Bellanaboy.  It is expected Shell will again attempt to move the TBM cutting head sections to Aughoose in the coming days.   The truck that is currently stuck is about 50 ft long and has "Convoi exceptionnel" on the front.  It's thought that no-one was injured in the incident.

Posted Date: 
9 October 2012
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