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Leo Varadkar defends meeting LNG developers as Eamon Ryan insists the gas terminal should not proceed


Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Storan

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Storan

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Storan

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has defended his decision to meet with the company behind the proposed Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal while the planning application for the controversial project is live.

Mr Varadkar said the meeting was “permissible” and would take place in the coming weeks. His move drives a further wedge between him and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.

Mr Ryan remains opposed to LNG infrastructure being developed and last year secured a policy statement that backed his position.

That stance is coming under pressure as the EU moves to dramatically increase shipments of LNG, from the US in particular, to reduce dependence on Russia’s gas pipeline.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, who is in Ireland for a series of talks on the energy crisis, said record volumes of LNG were being brought into Europe and member states would have the option of participating in a joint purchase arrangement to keep prices down.

Ms Simson stopped short of recommending Ireland develop an LNG import terminal, saying renewables should be this country’s priority, but she said she believed gas would still form part of the EU’s energy mix up to 2050.

The issue is divisive here as most LNG is extracted through fracking, an environmentally destructive method banned on Irish soil.

Opponents fear if the €650m terminal goes ahead, it will lock in fossil fuel dependence for decades.

Shannon LNG has made numerous attempts to build on lands it owns at Ballylongford near Tarbert, Co Kerry. Despite losing several High Court challenges, it currently has a fresh planning application before An Bord Pleanála.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar confirmed he intended meeting with the project’s US backers.

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“The Tánaiste will be meeting the company in the coming weeks to hear about their plans for Tarbert and how they might fit in with our energy security and climate objectives, if at all,” they said.

Mr Ryan said the energy crisis and moves at EU level had not caused him to rethink his position on LNG. He said the focus must be on rapidly developing offshore wind energy.

“My thinking [on LNG] hasn’t changed,” he said.

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