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Rose Maria's move a 'kick in the teeth to Kerry people'


Kerry poll-topper Michael Healy-Rae has questioned how the former Rose of Tralee and now Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh could have voted against a gas project promising hundreds of jobs for the county.

Deputy Healy-Rae told The Kerryman Maria Walsh should have had the best interests of the people of the county which crowned her the 2014 Rose of Tralee at heart.

MEP Walsh defied her own FG party colleagues at the Parliament in Brussels last week in being their only member to back a motion calling on the EU to no longer lend its support to fossil-fuel projects on a list of Projects of Common Interest.

The motion was defeated by a majority of MEPs in the end, however. The PCI list represents a vital potential source of funding for projects that are on it - which includes the long-embattled Ballylongford Landbank plan, first announced by potential Taoiseach Mícheál Martin back in 2006 when he was Minister for Enterprise. While there's still no ground broken 14 years on, it is still very much a live project. Furthermore, it is expected that Shannon LNG is to submit a fresh planning application shortly - for an albeit pared-down version of the original plan that would see a large liquid natural gas tanker permanently moored to a jetty at the site. It's on the PCI list as it represents security of gas supply for the State amid other considerations.

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But environmentalists set their sights on the Kerry plan in no uncertain way last year as a phalanx of movie stars, pop stars, film directors, environmentalists and even medical groups called on the State to drop its continued support for the LNG's presence on the PCI list. They argued the LNG plant would use gas obtained in the US through fracking, a method that is hugely controversial over serious health fears. It was for this reason Walsh moved against her colleagues on the PCI vote. She supported a motion tabled by 100 MEPs to veto the list because it contains 55 fossil fuel projects.

"I am opposed to fracking and like many other people was pleased when the process was outlawed by the Fine Gael Government in 2017," Walsh stated this week. "As yet, the long term consequences of fracking are unknown but most likely it is significantly damaging to our planet and to people's health. There are many reasons why fracking is bad for the environment and public health, ranging from the contamination of drinking water to the use of highly toxic and carcinogenic products in the process," she said. But newly crowned poll topper Michael Healy-Rae isn't having any of it.

"To say I was disappointed by it [Walsh's stance] is an understatement to say the least," Michael Healy-Rae told The Kerryman.

"I believe it is nothing less than a kick in the teeth to the people of Kerry for any representative of theirs not to be supportive of the LNG because it is nothing less than a lifeline, and for the entire region in fact," the Kilgarvan deputy said. "When you are desperately crying out for jobs and employment in a county like ours, we need projects like this. It's up to every politician to make up their own minds of course." He claimed to have secured support for LNG in the last programme for Government and said he would fight to 'keep it to the forefront of the political agenda'. "I would consider it an awful thing to think that a person elected to represent the best interests of the people could turn around and vote that way," he added.