February 20th, 2019
The continued obstruction of legislation to ban fossil fuel exploration in a Dáil committee is an act of “environmental vandalism”, according to the Bill’s architect Deputy Bríd Smith.
The Bill introduced by the People Before Profit deputy in November 2017 aims to amend the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act to restrict the issuing of new licenses for the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.
Despite Government opposition, the Bill passed Second Stage in the Dail in February, with 78 TDs voting in favour. The Bill was halted in Committee Stage in December 2018, where a vote to send a committee report on the Bill back to the Dail was tied at six: six and stayed with the Committee.
A vote yesterday was again tied with all Fine Gael politicians on the Committee voting against adoption of the report, including the Minister of State for Natural Resources, Sean Canney and the committee’s chair Hildegarde Naughton.
Ms Smith said that that the continued refusal to place a report before the Dáil by Minister Sean Caney and a “cabal of unelected Senators” was an “insult to any semblance of [a] democratic process”.
“It flies in the face of any logic that the committee could accept this amendment and then refuse to place a report before the Dáil. It is an example of pure procedural trickery,” she said.
She added: “It comes from a Government that speaks out of both sides of its face on climate change, pretending it takes it seriously and wants a carbon tax for ordinary people while at the same time acting as a plaything for fossil fuel industry lobbyists.”
The TD said she would bring the issue to the Dáil business committee and seek a way of ensuring the bill progresses to the select committee.
Earlier in the day, dozens of campaigners gathered before the gates of the Dail in support of the Bill, which would restrict fossil fuel exploration and extraction in Ireland.
The climate vigil was organized by a number of different climate groups to rally support for the Bill before it was brought before the committee.
Speaking at the rally, Ms Smith said that the Bill would give Ireland a “unique and potentially historic opportunity” to be a global leader on climate change.
“People who are elected by voters into the Dail are very aware that there is growing concern and anger about climate change in this country and beyond,” Ms Smith added.
“We have to go for the jugular of the industry that is polluting and destroying our environment and our planet, and that is the fossil fuel industry.”
Also speaking at the vigil, Green Party representative Una Power said that we should be “exploring solutions, not exploring our seas,” for oil and gas.
“And I’ve got such heart, despite the laggardness of Fine Gael, despite the fact that they keep on throwing it back on the individual every time. I’ve got heart because of all the people here,” she added.
Amongst those in the crowd was Jane Mellett, a climate activist who often takes part in the weekly student-led Fridays for Future demonstrations before Leinster House.
“[Minister for Climate Action] Richard Bruton is saying all the right things. But then, on the other hand, Bills like this are being stopped, which just shows they really don’t care and it’s up to the people in this country to show that we’re not going to stand for it anymore,” she said.
By Kalye Crosson