ENVIRONMENTALISTS have accused the Government of operating lax oil exploration regimes after clearing the way for an energy company to drill just 6km offshore.
An Taisce joined local campaigners in attacking a decision to license Providence Resources to test for reserves on the edge of Dublin Bay - visible from Dalkey and some of the country's most exclusive addresses.
The national trust group said it believes the potential threats to the coast, wildlife and habitats have not been adequately assessed.
"This is the first time that a licence with potential major threats of pollution so close to the shore line has been granted," the group said.
The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government agreed to the licence. The exploration will cover an area in the Kish Bank Basin, on the edge of Dublin bay, 6km from Dalkey point.
Included is permission for a well site survey as well as the drilling of an exploration well on the Dalkey Island prospect in 85ft of water.
Serena Connor, of the Protect Our Coast campaign, said the lack of a public inquiry on the application was lamentable.
"We feel that the main issues of environmental damage, public consultation, fiscal terms and future alternative energy sources have been given no proper consideration in this decision," she said.
Richard Boyd Barrett, local TD with People Before Profit, said that granting a licence was an absolute disgrace.
"There has never been a case in Ireland that a company has found oil with an exploratory licence and then not been granted an extraction licence," he said.
Mr Boyd Barrett said an environmental impact assessment should have been carried out first and the practice of holding inquiries, as is done in Norway, should also have been done in advance.
According to an Oil Spill Contingency Plan for the Department of the Environment, a serious oil spill from the Dalkey basin could travel 6km in the first hour.
William Hederman, editor of IrishOilandGas.com, said: "In environmental terms, this project is extremely close to the shore, but in economic terms, it might as well be off the coast of Malaysia.
"There will be no local benefits."
Under Ireland's oil and gas exploration laws, corporation tax on oil and gas finds is paid at 25pc. Under other incentives, if Providence finds oil in Dalkey it can write off the costs of exploring over the last 25 years against corporation tax on profits from the find.