A company owned by the State has completed the sale of land for the proposed Shannon LNG gas terminal, the development of which would be against Government policy.
Shannon Commercial Properties recently got the final payment for sale of the 630-acre site to New Fortress Energy.
New Fortress has applied for planning permission to build a terminal there to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from overseas.
Government policy opposes LNG infrastructure because the gas is often extracted by fracking, a method banned in Ireland on environmental grounds.
There are also concerns that allowing new fossil fuel infrastructure will prolong the country’s reliance on destructive energy sources, undermining climate action efforts.
Eamon Ryan, the Climate and Energy Minister, wrote to An Bord Pleanála following the planning application by New Fortress Energy last August, to remind the body of Government policy and state his opposition to the project.
Shannon LNG’s backers have had a purchase option agreement on the site at Ballylongford in Co Kerry for 15 years but the deal was finalised only late last year.
Shannon Commercial Properties declined to comment on the deal, saying it was “commercially sensitive”.
But correspondence from its parent company, Shannon Group, to a local councillor confirms it was completed and expresses the company’s full support for the LNG project.
The email, from Shannon Group chief operating officer Ray O’Driscoll to Kerry councillor Michael Foley, said the property transfer would pave the way for potential investment of €650 million on the site.
“There is a need for the country to find alternative sources of fuel, critical to electricity generation and to fuel the economy,” Mr O’Driscoll wrote.
He said the company operated under Government mandate to “optimise the return on its land and property”.
“We believe that the LNG plant which is proposed to be developed on the site can offer potential for long-term secure employment and economic growth for the area.”
Cllr Foley, who supports the project, said he believed the land sold for around €25m.
His purpose in contacting Mr O’Driscoll was to try to secure some of the proceeds for his local area, which includes Ballylongford and Listowel, rather than have it ploughed back into Shannon Group projects.
“The land was public land so the taxpayer deserves to get something back on it. Even a small part of what was paid for it would make a big difference if it was put into road repairs around here,” Cllr Foley said.
The wider issue, however, is the apparent contradiction between the actions of semi-states and Government policy.
The Irish Independent reported last month that another semi-state, Gas Networks Ireland, and Cork County Council, a public body, were supporting a separate LNG project – a floating terminal proposed by Predator Oil & Gas off the Cork coast.
Gas Networks Ireland has agreed the project, if permitted, can connect to its onshore terminal at Inch while Kerry County Council amended its County Development Plan to welcome the proposal.
The Department of Climate Action and the Environment would not comment on whether the land transfer to New Fortress was appropriate.
“The sale of properties by Shannon Commercial Properties is a matter for Shannon Commercial Properties,” it said.