Fresh promises for the development of the Shannon Estuary in Kerry are being met with derision among locals days after what they characterise as their 'betrayal' by politicians.
News that a stimulus package for the region is to be delivered within three months - as relayed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael top brass to local councillors this week - was met with a vow to enact electoral payback at the next election on TDs supporting the Programme for Government (PfG).
Tarbert Development Association spokesperson John Fox said locals increasingly feel they are regarded as 'fools' by politicians as they promise fresh investment for the region, having just thrown out the only investment plan the Landbank had ever seen go so far. "As far as we're concerned, it's a dastardly act, a dastardly betrayal. We are very annoyed and have pointed out how two politicians in the last Government lost their seats because they didn't deliver Shannon LNG...This betrayal will not be forgotten, and somebody will have to pay a price for this however long it takes an election to come about," Mr Fox told The Kerryman this week.
The contradictory statements from party leaders in the wake of the PfG agreement - not least Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's assertion that Shannon LNG could potentially obtain planning yet and 'still build it' in a briefing with party members - is serving to increase local anger, not mollify it. "They must think we're fools," was Mr Fox's assertion.
Most now accept the project is dead in the water. As The Kerryman reported earlier this year, Shannon LNG is preparing a fresh plan for a scaled-back version of the initial vision that's likely going to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála by September.
But few can see how the plan would surmount the fact it would no longer have any basis in the State's energy policy - as statutory bodies such as relevant Departments would make clear in consultation with the Bord, as would be required.
Green Party negotiator and TD for Limerick Brian Leddin told The Kerryman this week that the PfG will represent a significant opportunity for the development of renewables infrastructure and concomitant jobs on the Estuary, however.
"What I would say in the medium to longer term, there is quite a brighter future for Kerry and the Shannon Esutary because a lot of the ambition in the PfG is about opening up the renewable resources of the west coast."
He said the carbon targets of the PfG will be such as to demand the development of offshore wind energy along the west coast, with Ireland to become a 'world leader' in the area.
"It looks like the economics of off-shore wind and hyrdrogen generation in Kerry, West Limerick, Clare and other ports up and down the seaboard will see Ireland become a world leader in this area in a far more beneficial prospect.
"What we do have are the resources there in terms of the wind energy. You've got excellent infrastructure in terms of deep water ports in Foynes and Moneypoint and the power infrastructure in Tarbert."
The controversy has prompted a geographic split in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the county in support for the programme. All seven Fine Gael councillors are voting 'no' to the agreement, but the ten delegates from the party are evenly split North and South. Five from North Kerry are voting 'no' with five from South Kerry voting for the PfG. Meanwhile, it's understood that the Fianna Fáil membership in Kerry is split for and against in the same fashion, north and south.
FF Cllr Jimmy Moloney is voting against the deal, saying the alternative proposals for local development amount to little more than aspirations: "We had a concrete proposal here with a foreign investor coming in...the potential for other industries moving into the area on the back of having the LNG there cannot be understated.
"It would have got the ball rolling. There's disappointment among the FF members of the area, they're not very happy."
Listowel Fine Gael Councillor Mike Kennelly personally pleaded with the Taoiseach on Saturday to revisit the programme, to no avail. "I have voted against it. I spoke with the Taoiseach last Saturday and laid out my fears. He said it isn't dead, but I pleaded with him to change the text on the serious issues that we have. He said he agrees with the programme for Government, saying that a stimulus package will be in place for Tarbert and Ballylongford within three months of the new Government."
Ballylongford FG Cllr Mike Foley said he is voting 'no' amid deep local anger: "It is disappointing for North Kerry, we're left with nothing for the last 50 years, we've been promised every kind of thing under the sun and everyone is sick of it. No one would believe anything that would come along now. We need something sustainable, employment to create proper, good jobs."
Lixnaw native Fine Gael Councillor Aoife Thornton is also voting 'no'. Cllr Thornton told The Kerryman she was deeply unhappy with the way LNG was suddenly ripped from the economic horizon. "We haven't had much opportunity in North Kerry for industry and this project was critical. As it was I didn't see this coming, that it would just be ripped off by the PfG in this fashion. There certainly wasn't engagement around it."