Monday 16 January 2017

Eddie Hobbs: Wake up, Ireland: multinationals are set to give us very little for our own oil

A new book highlights the State's reckless policy on Ireland's natural resources, writes Eddie Hobbs

Eddie Hobbs

Published 02/03/2014 | 02:30

Bertie AhernTaxing: Bertie Ahern halved headline rate of corporation tax to 25pc in 1992
Bertie AhernTaxing: Bertie Ahern halved headline rate of corporation tax to 25pc in 1992

'GODDAMMIT we're being misinformed, misled and exploited – all over again.' Words to that effect summed up my own moment of epiphany in the autumn of 2012. The thought that Ireland, whose undersea territory extends nearly half way across the North Atlantic, nearly eight times our land territory, was set up to be exploited for its economic rent – the excess value over and above normal profits – seemed impossible to swallow. We are, after all, a first world country, part of the EU and not some third world dictatorship.

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I'd assumed that the occasional grumbling about our offshore oil and gas potential was generated by a dolly mixture of extremists, lefties and planet-before-people types who grasped little about economics, business and risk-taking. It was uninformed. It was wrong. It was arrogant. It was also part of the learned helplessness in the ether here when it comes to matters of the people versus the State. Challenged to read deeply into the subject, I now see industry and government PR for what it is; a legacy of betrayal, callowness and servitude where the owners of the endowment are indoctrinated, by their trustee, with the idea that they're getting a great favour afforded to them – that anyone arriving into Dublin on a corporate jet prepared to sink money into holes offshore should be rewarded with the most generous giveaway pricing model in the world.

There is nothing out there, we are told, just like the Norwegians – whose half a trillion sovereign wealth fund is approaching three times Ireland's national debt – were first told about the shoulder of rock than runs from Northern Europe across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Meanwhile, stock market analysts, shareholders and the oil majors are being told the complete opposite. The truth is that Ireland doesn't have a strategy, no set of guiding principles from which everything else is grounded, merely a pricing policy that allows Irish assets to be exploited for a handful of coloured beans.

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