Sunday 24 September 2017

Lockerbie bomber could have put us in a dark place

THE death of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is a timely reminder that the Libyan terrorist came very close to switching off the lights in this country for weeks when he helped orchestrate the 1988 bombing above Scotland which killed 270 people.

Lockerbie is just a few miles from the Scottish town of Moffat which is home to the gas interconnector that pumps gas into Ireland through two huge pipes.

Had Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Moffat instead of Lockerbie and damaged the interconnectors, Ireland would have run out of gas within days.

It would have taken at least six weeks to restore some sort of gas connection which would have forced the government to quickly ration electricity as about half of our electricity comes from gas-powered turbines.

The country would have been brought to its knees and economic production would have been crippled.

Al-Megrahi is dead but we remain just as vulnerable to a deliberate attack or a freak event more than 20 years after the Lockerbie attack first highlighted the dangers.

A confidential report by Dundrum-based SLR Consulting for the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources recently highlighted the risk posed by our dependence on Moffat.

That report, commissioned by the department's deputy secretary-general Sara White, has never been published but it deserves a much wider audience to kick start a genuine debate about energy security in Ireland.

Fretting about energy security at a time when we are borrowing billions to keep our hospitals and schools open may sound like a luxury but the two issues are linked. We have blithely ignored warnings about our dependence on foreign energy for decades just as we happily ignored warnings about our financial system. Our luck has already run out in the financial sphere. One day, our luck will run out in the energy sphere as well unless our leaders make an effort now to protect us from the likes of al-Megrahi or a simple act of God.

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