Let’s avoid bitterness over gas pipelines

The prospect of Brexit has made planning for a very different world unavoidable.

A lot of the focus has been on how Irish exports to the UK might be hit in any new trading arrangements.

Another issue, every bit as important, may not have got the headline attention it demands.

We import 60% of our gas needs from Britain and in a post-Brexit world, that may become prohibitively expensive.

That prospect is compounded by the fact that we, as an EU member, cannot negotiate a bilateral trade agreement to make up any shortfall.

We still import something approaching 90% of our energy needs and have made little enough real progress in switching to renewables despite significant government subsidies, especially to the wind sector.

This reality was recognised by the EU which has supported two projects — gas lines from France — designed to reduce our dependence on British gas. That project continues apace and EirGrid has identified possible landfall sites in East Cork for a proposed €1bn subsea power cable.

It would not be surprising if these proposals provoke protests like those around the Corrib gasfield in Mayo. Those protests delayed the project for nearly a decade, added millions to the cost, and most importantly, divided families and communities in a very deep way. Is it naive to hope that this project can be assessed and maybe progress in a way that avoids that kind of bitterness?

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