Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 11 Jul 1975

Vol. 283 No. 8

International Energy Programme Agreement: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the agreement establishing an International Energy Programme.
—(Minister for Transport and Power.)

I presume the Government have not changed their minds on this matter although in the month that has passed since I moved the adjournment of this debate they had an opportunity to do so. The Government made a mistake entering into this agreement and they only reacted to a situation when it had occurred. They made no attempt to influence that situation with regard to our oil resources. I am confident that our best ploy would be to cooperate with the oil-producing countries as well as to ally ourselves to the oil-consuming nations.

In the course of this debate it was pointed out that Arab oil was reasonably cheap but after we buy it we tax it. Last year we added a severe tax of 15p per gallon. That was a mistake and what has occurred since has proved that it was. It is only fair that oil-producing nations should ask themselves why they should sell their oil at a cheap rate so that other countries can obtain money for their Exchequers through tax, more than they can obtain for the product. If we were selling our beef to any nation and that nation, in turn, obtained a substantial profit from the beef before it got to the consumer we would think twice about selling the beef to that country again. We would look for a realistic price we could sell the product at, as the oil-producing countries have done in relation to oil.

Other speakers have expressed the view that it was a mistake to ally ourselves with the United States whose attitude at one stage towards the oil-producing countries was not likely to gain friends for their allies. When we ally ourselves on the side of the United States we appear to be on the same side as the multi-national oil companies. Why is it that the United States who have the potential to produce their own oil requirements find it handier not to produce the oil they need but to buy oil from other countries? I am not anti-American in my outlook and I appreciate what they have done. If I were asked to categorise the different peoples, the United States would be very much on the right side but in this economic situation we must be realistic. The Minister should have another look at this agreement. It is refreshing to think that the Government can change their minds in the course of 12 hours and I hope this Minister will change his mind about this agreement.

We accepted the minimum voting strength; it is practically nothing and only comparable to Luxembourg. We have tied ourselves for at least four years, probably ten years, to this agreement. The intention is that those who sign it will enter into the agreement for ten years. A nation must be in for three years before it can give one year's notice of its intention to leave. In view of the potential of our natural resources—it is being continually referred to as the only solution to our economic problems and the saviour that the Government offer to our economic ills—is it wise that we should tie ourselves to a group such as this? The Government are confident, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce has expressed the opinion, that we will be rolling in money in time when our natural gas and oil is tapped. It appears that we will have enough energy to satisfy our own demands and, possibly, some to spare. The Minister is conscious of his role as a European but it is not his duty to be a good European before he has proved himself to be a good Irishman. The Minister's motto should be: "Let us christen our own child first and get the best possible bargain for Ireland." It is possible to do that and still be a member of any European association.

We should have a look at the question of turf. Some time ago when oil was available at a relatively cheap rate many people felt it would be uneconomic to exploit our turf resources. However, the recent significant increase in oil prices has changed our views in regard to that. It is now felt that many of the bogs which were considered uneconomic up to now are worth developing. I appeal to the Minister to make an earnest effort to develop these resources. In my constituency there are unproductive virgin bogs but they are unproductive for the want of capital outlay. If money was expended on these bogs a long term return would accrue to the country. It appears that for want of money, or want of interest, the Government have made no allocation towards the development of bog roads this year. Because of an answer given to a question put by Deputy McEllistrim some time ago I believe this Minister did not apply to FEOGA for a grant for the improvement of bog roads. This is a dereliction of duty.

In my county we have areas such as Allenwood where the best of turf would be available but for want of proper roads and drainage. The drainage problem could be got over by simple schemes. In the past before Christmas all counties adopted schemes for the cleaning of drains but these were dropped. If these schemes were reintroduced and an effort made to clear these drains, much of this bogland would be available for turf production and for local people to win their own fuel. If this work is carried out, private firms might go into turf production. I know of a German firm near Edenderry who have done great work in this direction and they provide plots of turf cut for people at a reasonable rate. Many people in my own area and in the area of Kildare adjoining Offaly avail of this facility. The roadways and the drainage there leave a lot to be desired. Government action in this direction is necessary, particularly now when we are talking about conserving energy and resources and making the best possible use of them.

I have a theory that most of the boglands are in areas that are depressed from an employment and investment point of view. Job opportunities are not good in these areas. We should spend money and provide employment in these areas on works such as drainage and roadmaking which have a very high labour content and are very suitable to the unemployment situation we have today. We would be saving money in the long run, as we would be developing a resource that has been neglected, and if we look even further ahead, we would be providing large tracts of cutaway bog which could be useful later on for vegetable growing and other agricultural work. This would, in turn, ensure that in areas where Bord na Móna give a great deal of employment at the moment and other depressed areas like that there will be alternative employment in canning and other ancillary industries which will take the place of Bord na Móna and the other industries that are there, that provide continuity of employment and a renewal of life in those areas.

If we were asked to point out what was lacking most in the country at the moment I think we would say confidence, that is, lack of confidence in the Irish economy and in the country in general. As a result of that money is very scarce. Our oil bill for the year is in the region of £200 million, and this agreement binds us to increase our storage facilities from 60 days to 90 days. If we store 60 days' supply of oil, as it is necessary to do now, we tie up £33 million. If we store another 30 days' supply of oil to bring us up to 90 days, we tie up £50 million, an extra £17 million or so.

In the present economic climate it is realistic to ask: are we in a position to do this? Have we the money to spare? There are matters to which I would give equal priority with our petrol pool, matters such as the need for remedial teachers, improvement of the pupil-teacher ratio, the question of the stopping of amenity grants and insufficient money being injected into the building industry. These are all suffering from lack of capital investment. Indeed, in regard to remedial teachers and the pupil-teacher ratio, it would appear that a decision was taken at Cabinet level to cut back. We had at our disposal trained and untrained teachers, and it was decided to dispense with the untrained teachers on the last day of June, and three years' teaching has been lost to teachers who will no longer get an extension when they reach 65. We could have utilised this expertise which we are now discarding, possibly for financial reasons. It would appear to me that a country that cannot ensure the education of its young people, that cannot give to slow learners the chance which they can only get now and which cannot be given to them again——

Is it in order, a Cheann Comhairle, for the Deputy to refer to the pupil-teacher ratio during a debate on an energy motion?

It is, of course.

It is a waste of the time of the House.

The Chair is anxious that the Deputy would keep to the terms of the motion.

My purpose in mentioning these matters, a Cheann Comhairle, is to illustrate how bereft of money our country must be when we victimise the future of our children for want of money, and at the same time propose that we spend an extra £17 million in storing petrol and oil for three months rather than two months. That appears to me to be an item which could be brought into this debate. If the Minister cannot see the sense of it, all I can say is that there are none so blind as those who will not see.

As regards the 1st May deadline which has been mentioned in this debate, was that not supposed to be the last day for signing the agreement? I should like to know what has happened in this regard or what has changed that. I should also like an explanation as to the difficulties in the provision of this extra storage and if it has been decided who is to pay for these facilities. That has not been cleared up. None of the Government speakers I have heard or whose contributions to the debate I have read has alluded to this important matter. We have not the financial resources available to us at the moment to provide these storage facilities and, perhaps, the best arrangement would be that those who are selling the oil should provide their own means of storing it.

Would the Minister also tell us what has happened to the conservation programme? We were continually seeing pound notes being burned on television in an advertisement and being advised to burn energy wisely. What has been the result of that exercise? We have heard talk galore but we have not seen any real action. I hope the Minister will tell us—in the length of time at his disposal—because it has now been decided that this discussion must be limited and that the time that it merits cannot be given to it—one good thing that this conservation programme has done.

I mentioned turf as an alternative source of energy. There is also water power. It would appear—and I have respect for the ESB in these matters —that when they decided to use the Turlough Hill project and the upper and lower lake idea, the water power that was available to us in the country would no longer merit being harnessed in the same fashion as in the Shannon and other schemes. However, the increase in the price of oil may have changed that. I wonder if we have examined all the possibilities available to us in regard to the different sources of energy, and what information has the Minister on the utilisation of solar energy in the heating of houses. I am happy to say that a firm in my town has made an effort to utilise solar energy in this regard. I hope every help will be given by the Government Departments concerned in the matter of utilising a source of energy that is available to us for many months of the year and which we have not to import.

Perhaps the Minister would be in a position to tell us how we have improved our chances of getting oil. Does this agreement help us to get oil at a price we can afford? The agreement shows that we are still tied to the multi-national oil companies, perhaps more tied now than we were before. Many people looking at the agreement will come to the conclusion that we are spancelled on this occasion. We have agreed that we must buy oil at a minimum price.

Since the agreement was first mooted, there has been a complete reversal of policy in the United States with regard to the purchase of oil. They no longer appear to want to buy oil at the cheapest price. The policy would now seem to be to pay a minimum price for it and not to go below the floor price. They have their own good reasons for that.

One would not need to be an economic expert to realise that having to pay £200 million a year for oil, this country should try to buy that oil at the cheapest possible rate, particularly when we need the money so badly. Perhaps I should not refer to that. It appears to be a very touchy subject.

When talking about saving money I must again refer the Minister to the suggestion made by Deputy Barrett since he became spokesman on this matter that we should set up another oil refinery, that we should buy crude oil where we can buy it cheaply and where we have not tankers to bring it in, charter them. This makes good sense. It would be a pity if just because Deputy Barrett is on this side of the House the Minister would not listen to the suggestion and would allow time to elapse without putting that suggestion into operation. We can see the effect of the ignoring of suggestions from this side of the House as to what should have been done in the first budget of this year.

That is not relevant to this debate.

If the suggestions put forward by Deputy Colley at that time had been adopted, there might have been no need to have had a second budget. I would hope that the Minister would take a leaf out of the book of the Minister for Finance and examine suggestions put forward by Deputy Barrett and act on them. Since Deputy Barrett made these suggestions, 18 months have been lost. Even if the Minister were to decide now to erect an oil refinery, it would be three years before the refinery would be in operation. The Minister should charter tankers, refine the oil in Europe if necessary, and use it here. There are no statistics produced to show that Deputy Barrett is wrong in saying that £20 million could be saved in this way. We could do with that £20 million.

It would appear from this agreement that not alone are we tied to the USA and to their Government's attitudes and are likely to be swayed by their Government's change of policies but are also tied to people who have proved very ruthless in the past, companies that have made huge profits that have been stolen from the public at will, at regular intervals. It would appear that we have been powerless to stop the big powerful concerns that have gone their own merry way and did what they liked. They are not people the Minister should go camping with.

The Minister may ignore what we are telling him. He may be wishing that I would stop speaking and let him in to conclude the debate. The suggestions I am making are genuine suggestions, possibly not very palatable to the Minister but they are worthy of attention. Perhaps the Minister will decide to act on them or at least examine them or show this side of the House why he is not acting on them, extend to us that courtesy at least. We are entitled to know why the Minister is not prepared to act on the suggestions we make. He should tell us who will pay the storage cost for the 90 days. Is it the people or the oil companies? If we start to build an oil refinery now, it will be 1979 before it is in operation. It is estimated that we will have our own oil in the 1980s. It surely is necessary to go ahead with the building of an oil refinery now.

On 17th April—Volume 279, column 1928 of the Official Report, Deputy Barrett said:

... Our economy is virtually controlled by these multi-nationals who are pretty ruthless. We should take steps to get from under the umbrella of these multi-national concerns. There is no evidence of effective action having been taken in this regard and we are as subject to the whims of the boards of these companies as we were in October, 1973...

The Minister has not indicated what plans he has for refining oil. It would appear that at some time in the 1980s we will have our own oil supplies. This should be of benefit to the economy. We are hoping to become self-sufficient and should plan ahead now for the day when we will need a second refinery. There would be ancillary industries as a spin-off from the refinery. Our policy should be to buy oil as cheaply as possible. The very terms of the agreement and the floor price that has been laid down will prevent us from doing that. We should go to the oil-producing countries and see what terms we can get rather than hope to get preferential treatment when we are in the same pool as Japan.

It is my belief, sincerely held, that we should cut adrift from this agreement. There is an indication that there is not much interest in this matter on the Government side of the House, any more than there was on the last occasion that I contributed to a debate on this subject. Perhaps it is an indication of how boring my contribution is. There is no-one on the Government side prepared to speak. It would appear that Government Deputies are not very interested They will be led by the nose and will do whatever they have been advised to do, whether ill-advised or not. If Government Deputies have not time to come into the House, they should read the debates and compare the Minister's speech with Deputy Barrett's speech and ask themselves who is sincere and who is thinking about the problem and who shows any independent line of action. The Minister's policy shows lack of initiative and slavish following of the herd.

I can only say that if the mentality now shown by the National Coalition Government, as exemplified in this motion, had its way in the first quarter of this century we would not even have enjoyed the limited amount of political freedom we enjoy at the moment. If this attitude the Government have adopted is allowed to continue I fear we will lose the limited amount of economic freedom we have in the last quarter of this century.

We should look to the day when we have our own oil and gas and plan ahead. Even if the Government realise they will not be the Government of the day when that happens it would be wrong of them to tie our hands to the extent they are now doing with this motion. The agreement is a very lengthy one and a little bit hazy. It needs a lot of explanation. Unfortunately there will be no Committee Stage in this debate to explain it line by line. The Minister promised that he will explain all the outstanding matters and matters which were not clear to our limited intelligence when he is winding up. I think "winding up" is a very good expression in this case. It is an expression which a person uses when he says he is winding up an alarm clock to get him to rise in time. It is possibly a good expression with regard to the guillotine motion when we are winding up the business of this House.

It is a pity that all the loose ends and the matters which are not completely clear to us have to be tied up without a very minute explanation. We would like to have that. This side of the House does not approve of Ireland's participation in this international energy programme agreement. I am more confident in asking the Minister to change his attitude in relation to this seeing that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach was able to change his attitude within the course of 12 hours. I hope, seeing that the Government's minds are never really made up about any particular matter that their minds are not made up about this matter and that the Minister might change. I would like him to have another look at this, not for our sake, not for the sake of the Coalition but for the sake of the country.

My intervention will be surprisingly short. I intervene merely to say that I offered the Opposition extra time on this motion if they wished it, either today or by agreement on some other occasion. That offer was refused with contempt. If complaints are hereafter made that there is not a chance given to the Opposition to discuss this matter fully it ought to be borne in mind that if there is not they have only themselves to thank for it.

It is true that the order made by the House on Wednesday allots two hours for this motion and for the one that follows. I offered to the Opposition that the Government would agree to vary that order by extending the time for any of the items offered for today, either so that it would occupy the remaining time left over today or perhaps even extend it to next week. If anyone on the Opposition side feels he is being left short of time or if by any chance the intention is not to allow the Minister to reply it should be borne in mind that the Government closure, so far as this motion is concerned, was the subject yesterday of an offer by me to agree to vary the order by extending the time somewhat, provided it was by agreement.

I am just speculating on what the Parliamentary Secretary is saying because I am not in a position to know exactly what he said to Deputy Lalor. I had the honour of being Chief Whip of the Government for three years and when the pressure was on naturally enough one was anxious to ensure that one arrived at a non-voting situation. The simple truth of the matter is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach obviously funked the possibility of a vote today.

I am not prepared to play ring-a-roses with Deputy Lalor.

The Parliamentary Secretary funked the possibility of a vote today. He could not keep his Deputies here. They are absolutely outraged at his treatment of them. They are frustrated by his constant harassment of them and that is the reason he had this business put on for today.

I am afraid it is all very irrelevant to the motion under discussion.

I am replying to what the Parliamentary Secretary said. I am entitled to speculate as to his reasons for——

We must get back to the energy motion debate.

——having a non-voting situation.

Comment is all right.

We consider the Wealth Tax Bill is important.

Why did we not have the Wealth Tax Bill on today?

Order. I am anxious to get down to an orderly debate on the energy motion.

The Parliamentary Secretary could quite easily have placed the Wealth Tax Bill on the Order of Business at our request but he refused to do so. He funked it.


My lot are all right and they are prepared to come in today.

The Parliamentary Secretary's lads have deserted him today and that is why there is a non-voting situation today. He should admit it.

The schedule of work recently means that some Deputies do not see their families or constituents all week and I will not hold them here on Friday to suit Deputy Lalor.

Order. Let us get back to the debate. We must have order from both sides of the House. Let there be no further reference to the Order of Business. The energy motion is the subject matter before the House. I must insist that it be debated and nothing else.

I am glad we got the truth at last from the Parliamentary Secretary.

Order. Deputy Andrews must make no further comments about the order.

I would like to make a fairly brief and, I hope, concise contribution to the motion. There is one feature of it which appears to have escaped a deep analysis, that is the speech of the Minister for Transport and Power on 16th June, 1975 to a Fine Gael meeting in Cork. The report of that meeting said: "Speaking at a Fine Gael meeting in Cork on Monday, 16th June, 1975 Mr. Peter Barry, TD, Minister for Transport and Power, strongly defended the Government's proposal to participate in the newly formed International Energy Agency". I can appreciate the Minister making that speech at a Fine Gael meeting because in relation to a policy on international energy he would need to have a passive, captive audience. It is understandable and reasonable that the Minister should address this appalling analysis of the international energy agreement to a quiet, reserved, decent group of Fine Gael people who would not dream of interrupting him during the course of that speech which he made at some length.

I made the same speech in some other places and was not interrupted.

I am quite satisfied the people had not got the remotest idea of what he was speaking about. I went to considerable trouble in analysing, parsing and trying to get some coherence out of what the Minister said in his Cork speech.

Did the Deputy read the agreement?

Not only have I read the agreement but I have it with me.

If the Deputy read the agreement he would be the first Fianna Fáil speaker in this House who has done so.



That is not true.

I will prove it when I get up to speak.

Deputy O'Malley indicated he had read the agreement.

Order. We cannot have orderly debates if there are persistent interruptions and interrogation. The Deputy in possession now, without interruption.

The Minister created this opportunity outside the Dáil to present what is supposed to be the Government's answer to the objections we made to the agreement. I presume the decision was made before 16th June to apply the guillotine proving once more the Government's mismanagement in the handling of our energy affairs. This agreement has been relentlessly and vigorously opposed by every Fianna Fáil speaker inside and outside the House.

We have put an unanswerable case for the non-involvement of this country in this sorry mess of an agency, and sorry mess of an agency it is. We have proved that here in our contribution, in the contributions of Deputy Sylvester Barrett, Deputy O'Malley, Deputy Wilson, Deputy Power and others but, more particularly, in the contribution of Deputy Sylvester Barrett. His objection can be simply stated. We should have no truck with power politics which involve Governments whose actions in the fulfilment of their own policies affect others to a greater extent than the consequences of their action can affect themselves. Producer country embargoes can be safely ignored by this country for as long as we have to wait for the availability of our own oil supplies provided we avoid the possibility of being dragged into the arena of controversy and politics, which Deputy Barrett, our spokesman for Transport and Power, has so ably articulated.

Participation in this agency brings us into the arena of controversy and the record proves how the Government displayed deplorable ignorance in the entire management of our energy affairs since October, 1973, and we say the Government are forcing this measure through Dáil Éireann at their own peril. It would be satisfactory enough if it were only at the peril of the Government. We do not want the Government. We want the Government out and when we say "at their own peril" we hope the Government are in peril. What we are concerned about is the peril to the country. It is the community that suffers as a result of Government policy in this respect. It is the country that suffers. This measure is being forced through Dáil Éireann at the peril of the country. We do not give a damn about the Government. If at any time between now and the moment of our self-sufficiency in domestic oil production the people are called upon to pay the cost of the Government's folly we should ensure that this, together with all the other monuments to their mismanagement, will never be forgotten by a suffering electorate. It is not a question merely of this energy motion. We have other monuments to the tragic consequences of Government policy, this awful Government. Some people are speculating about a general election in September though Fine Gael Deputies who have speculated to me about an election in September have not said whether it will be September, 1975, 1976 or 1977.

That is not relevant.

In the context of what I am saying I suggest 1977 would be far from the minds of many of them.

What does that mean? Good heavens, are we still at that nonsense?

If the Parliamentary Secretary cannot stand the heat he can get out, relax and take his ease. We do not want to upset the Parliamentary Secretary. He is not a bad fellow at all and we do not like upsetting him.

That is an unworthy comment and a childish comment.

The Parliamentary Secretary has an alternative. He can leave.

Will the Deputy come back to the motion now?

To come back to the Minister's speech in Cork to his passive pals, it appears to fall to the Minister for Transport and Power to carry the responsibility for processing this sorry affair through the Dáil although it was the Minister for Foreign Affairs who signed the agreement without, of course, Dáil ratification. That is another feature the Parliamentary Secretary, who is absolutely responsible for the guillotine motion, might consider. International agreements are not now subject to the ratification of the Dáil Éireann. If I am incorrect in that the Parliamentary Secretary has an obligation to say I am incorrect. I take it from his silence that what I am saying is correct.

It is wrong, but not surprisingly.

Has the agreement been ratified?

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether I am right or wrong?

Has it been ratified?

I will comment when I speak.

We do not want any of his interruptions. They are generally stupid.

Notes on the agreement circulated to Dáil Éireann were prepared and issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs but here we have the Minister for Transport and Power piloting the matter through Dáil Éireann. Some time ago the Minister for foreign Affairs said it was unlikely the agreement would ever be brought into operation. He did not have very much else to say about it. Here we have the Minister for Transport and Power standing over the agreement to the bitter end. He has at least a little bit of courage. He is not funking it. In the light of what I have said the question arises as to who is in charge of energy policy.

To return to the Minister's infamous speech in Cork, I assume the Minister prepared the speech himself and realised the consequences would be very far-reaching. I presume he also realised much of what he said could only be described as false. He said that our objections and the objections of well-informed Dáil commentators are based on misinformation. We know he is referring to Deputies who criticised his policy. "Well-informed Dáil commentators"—is that type of remark to be left hanging? Let me make it quite clear to the Parliamentary Secretary and the absent members of his Government that our objections are based on our own assessment of the details of the agreement circulated to us. There have been comprehensive meetings of the back-up group on Transport and Power in relation to this agreement. On numerous occasions at party meetings what had been offered by the Minister for Transport and Power and the Minister for Foreign Affairs was discussed at length.

There were many contributions presided over by the spokesman on Transport and Power, Deputy Barrett. The information available to us and our diagnosis and prognosis of the agreement and its future effects on the country would appear to be better than the actual information and advice and guidance the Government have available to them. The people who advise us know what they are talking about. The people who are advising the Government are good people no doubt and their information and judgment are bona fide. We say that one for one our advice is better than theirs. I expect that is what arguments are all about.

In the speech the Minister made in Cork on 16th June he said:

The events of 1973 must surely convince any intelligent observer of the need for constructive international arrangements to provide protection against further embargoes.

We say the first thing an intelligent observer observes is that the embargoes of 1973 were directed primarily against one country, namely, the United States of America. The Minister knows that. This was one of a series of moves on a complicated chessboard on which Ireland was standing as an innocent pawn. One of the consequences was that we were a beneficiary of imported international inflation, and we now have a legacy of 103,000 unemployed. That is one of the sorry consequences of the Minister's handling of the situation on behalf of the Government.

We were a favoured nation because we were in the multi-international pattern of distribution. Our oil bill rose from £40 million to £230 million per annum. Our inflation rate rose to 24 per cent. Our budgetary deficit will probably rise to £300 million in 1975. These things happened to us although there was no embargo against us. Our judgment as to what was happening to us when it was happening motivated our calls to the Government quickly to initiate a policy of independence in crude oil procurement and self-sufficiency in refining capacity. The record of what the Opposition have been saying since October, 1973, proves how correct our assessment was.

If we are seen to be independent we have nothing to fear from the oilproducing countries in the Middle East. That is our judgment and we hope, to use the Minister's own words, that any intelligent observer will see the logic and realism of our judgment. The Minister said we were illogical and unrealistic. When the Minister uses words like misinformation, illogical and unrealistic, he leaves them hanging. He does not develop why he suggests we are acting on misinformation, or why we were speaking from a position of illogicality or unrealism. He just throws away the words without developing the reason for his statement. We should examine where the failings in logic and realism occur. We are fortunate to have a concise résumé of illogical reasoning in the hand-out by the Minister for Transport and Power which is now, I hope, under critical examination by myself and others who may follow on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party.

The Minister told us the agency has been established to implement a programme for the development of energy oil reserves and the sharing of oil in a supply crisis. In addition it establishes a system for the investigation of international oil markets and a formula for long-term co-operation in conserving energy and developing alternative energy supplies. We say the agency has been established to confront Arab oil producers with a consumer cartel which, once set up, cannot change its objectives or direction without the clear agreement of the United States of America. Any intelligent observer reading this agreement must come to no other conclusion. One can come to no other conclusion. It is an irrefutable statement and all the talking in the world and all the verbal juxtaposition by the Minister cannot change that situation. That is the real crunch point of our argument as to why we should reject this international energy agreement.

In his speech in Cork the Minister went to great lengths to prove how we misread the agreement by quoting the percentage votes to change any article. With respect to the Minister, it is he who misread our argument. He said:

Another aspect of the opposition to the international energy agency membership has been the belief that the agreement establishing the agency was entirely a United States conception and that US delegations with the support of one or two members could effectively determine the policy to be pursued. In fact, the voting system has been intentionally devised in such a way that no single bloc of interests can determine policy. For any obligations or commitments not already envisaged in the agreement, there must be unanimity of voting which effectively provides even the smallest member with a veto. Decisions on the management of the programme are taken by majority voting. The voting weights are so balanced that even the most trivial decision requires the support of at least half the voting members irrespective of their size.

This is a lengthy and interesting quotation with one defect. It is wrong in its concept. The Minister went on:

In other cases the requirement is for the support of three-quarters or more of the members and there is no way in which a small group of countries can secure decisions against the interests of others. Indeed, the entire voting system is such that proposals require a very wide measure of consensus in order to secure approval. The position in this regard is very clearly set out in the agreement which has been available to all those interested for many months. I find great difficulty in understanding how such misinformation has been put about.

Article 2 subsection (ii) of the agreement on an international energy programme provides that the governing body shall, acting by special majority —and no doubt the Minister will understand what that means—not later than July 1st, 1975, decide the date from which the emergency reserve commitment of each participating country shall, for the purpose of calculating its supply right referred to in article 7 be deemed to be raised to a level of 90 days. That proportion seems to be reasonable, this matter of a special majority which the Minister questioned us about on the voting weights. The US require seven more votes to block even the most sensible request for change. That is an irrefutable fact, and that is the basis of our argument.

We do not like the agreement. The USA have the voting weight to ensure that even 90 per cent of the participants cannot succeed, and as we understand it it would not be possible to marshal the required 60 per cent of the votes. If the Minister turns to page 80 of the International Energy Agreement which I have been citing, he will find that according to the terms set out our point of view is the correct one. The Minister need not think these quotations are from the top of my head. We have given the Minister the various references.

The Deputy said he would quote from page 80.

I will. I did not want to bore the Minister and I felt that referring him to the page would prove our point of view. I did not think the Minister wanted me to quote it.

I would be interested in it.

I will quote from page 80, Article 62, continued. To me, as a layman, it quite clearly explodes the Minister's allegation in his Cork speech that we had based our argument on some illogicality or unrealism. He said in Cork that the intention is to ensure greater transparency in the oil market. The Minister said:

The position in this regard is very clearly set out in the agreement which has been available to all those interested for many months, and I find great difficulty in understanding how such misinformation has been put out.

Is it Article 80 or page 80 the Deputy has been quoting?

It is page 80, Article 62, continued.

There is no page 80 in my Agreement.

This is an agreement on an international energy programme. It is Parts 3 and 4 and it states that 60 per cent of the total voting weight is required and the agreement proceeds to support what we have been saying. Perhaps the Minister has a clearer copy than mine or perhaps it has been put into a glossy bound volume for him.

Or perhaps there are more pages in the one the Deputy has.

It is produced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and perhaps that is why the Minister for Transport and Power knows nothing about it. It was produced in October, 1974, but perhaps the Minister for Foreign Affairs has not yet brought it to his colleague's attention.

It is out of date because other members have joined since.

I appreciate that, but does the Minister accept that the validity of what I have been saying still stands?

What the Minister is saying is that the voting weights and the majority requirement are incorrect.

There were 27 and there are now 36.

I appreciate that, but is the Minister suggesting that the required percentage of 60 no longer exists?

That stands.

The 60 per cent is constant, so that the validity of what I have been saying also stands.

I do not see what the Deputy is relating it to.

To the Minister's Cork speech. The Minister might refer to Deputy Barrett who during the past two years has been dealing very clearly with this. In this connection I should like to pay a welldeserved tribute to Deputy Barrett. Perhaps the Minister would look at article 62 and the US predominance in this. There is one other matter to which I might refer.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

In support of my arguments from the draft agreement on the International Energy Agency Agreement, it is as well to come back to the Minister's speech in Cork. Page 4 of the Minister's handout says: "Our commitments to IEAA membership does not extend beyond three years, at which stage members are free to withdraw at 12 months' notice." In simple language, that means that we are in for four years. It only took a four months' notice embargo to cause the present economic chaos in the country, and we are not supposed to be involved in the embargo. The very day the Minister for Transport and Power was telling us not to count ourselves as producers, his colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce was laying odds that we would have proven oil deposits within three years. The ceremony of contract signing between Marathon and the Gas Board recently put us into the clubs as producers of oil products and of petroleum products generally. It is conclusively proved by the various arguments that this agreement is not the best for us, and the Government should have the honesty to admit it by withdrawing from the Agency or at least answering our objections. It is no substitute for the energy policies which this country demands.

On the matter of an oil refinery, a lot has been made about oil refineries and the lack of preparation by the Government, if we do have proven oil deposits and, hopefully, if they prove to be as rich as we anticipate they might be. I know that every time I stand up I irritate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, and he always prefaces his remarks by saying that if during the course of his contribution, he hurt anybody, he wanted to apologise, but I do not think it is my function to offer apologies in the context of my short contribution to the Parliamentary Secretary; but there is the matter of the Dublin Bay oil refinery.

It is unusual for an opposing politician to pay tribute to another politician, but there is one man who does deserve the tributes of the Dáil in an all-party sense for a commitment to an ideal which at the time nobody thought was achievable but which was and did become achievable. That person is Seán Loftus. He is a corporator of Dublin Corporation who took upon himself, much to the chagrin or the sneers of some of his opponents, the title "Dublin Bay", interposing the "Dublin Bay" between "Seán" and "Loftus". I think he changed his name legally by deed poll, but if there is one monument to him and others who have supported him such as the maritime Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party in the context of this situation along the east coast of Dublin——

May I put on the maritime cap?

Just to pay tribute to Councillor Loftus in this respect, as long as the campaign continues, the campaign in which he led, I think he will be doing a good job for this country and make no mistake about it —let us not fall into this argument about the numbers of people who would be in employment in whatever refinery might or might not be built in the Dublin Bay area industrial complex. We all know that in the course of the building of any factory or complex quite a number of people are employed but it is a temporary form of employment. Technology now puts us in the position that we are living in a push-button industrial era, and, particularly when dealing with oil giants they have the best technology available to them, but we do not want an oil refinery in the Dublin Bay area and for my part I will continue to speak as often as possible against it. The rumour has it indeed——

We are getting away from the motion.

I am talking about an oil refinery and its proper placement and situation.

It does not arise on this motion.

It does, Sir, in the context of our preparations for this oil flow which we envisage from our sea resources, our outer sea resources.

The placement of a refinery does not arise on this at all.

I would appreciate if the Minister for Transport and Power would bring the undoubted influence which he may have in the Cabinet to bear on the Minister for Local Government. There is in fact a very strong rumour that that Minister has made up his mind about the Dublin Bay oil refinery.

The Deputy now appreciates that we will have other Deputies refuting his arguments. He should keep to the motion.

We on this side of the House will oppose the Government and the Minister on this one to the bitter end. I am very pleased to have paid tribute to Seán Dublin Bay Loftus.

I want to compliment the Minister and his officials on the obvious amount of work they have done and on the contribution they have made over the past year to this oil agreement. The significant thing about the motion is that it is the outcome of an oil crisis that started about the end of 1973 resulting in a scarcity of supply plus an increase in price to the consuming countries, which upset greatly the industrial balance throughout the free world. It is significant that so many countries were able to come together and tackle the problems thus created, problems that were created almost overnight for so many of the industrialised countries. I do not agree with the views expressed by the last speaker. The Washington Energy Conference which was held early in 1974 agreed on a formula for international co-operation in the energy sphere and established an energy coordinating group. This group produced the agreement which so many countries signed in Paris last year. These included the EEC countries, with one exception, Australia, Canada, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and, of course, the US. Norway signed later. It is wrong for anybody to suggest that we, as a sovereign state, should not have participated in that agreement.

I compliment the Ministers concerned and their officials for the contribution they made to the successful signing of that agreement. As a small independent nation with no obvious vested interest, with no pretentions as a world power, we were able to play a role in relation to that agreement that was out of proportion to what the size of our economy would warrant. This is a great tribute to the Ministers and to the civil servants who did such a splendid job throughout the negotiations.

The agreement must be considered as a very satisfactory outcome in the field of international co-operation, international co-operation that was achieved under pressure. The one regret is that the EEC were not represented with one voice at these negotiations.

Perhaps the Minister would let us know how we as a nation are responding to the Government's request that we cut back on our oil imports. The campaign in this regard was designed in a way that should have caught the imagination of most of our people. I should like to hear from the Minister, too, what progress we have achieved in relation to discovering alternative sources of energy, especially in relation to offshore finds.

I regret that Deputy Andrews saw fit to expound the old policies of the thirties. An interesting feature of the Opposition's performance this week is that they have decided that this country should not be represented at international forums, at least not for the foreseeable future.

The decision was the Government's.

This is a backward and regrettable step. It means that Members of this House who have been nominated to represent this country abroad cannot now perform this duty.

Is the Deputy regretting that he is losing his expenses for this week?

The Government are even breaking the EEC regulations regarding the free movement of workers.

While the Deputy may describe himself as a worker, there are many who would not so describe him.

The motion, please.

The signing of this agreement means that we are partners to an agreement which has brought together not only the producing countries of Algeria, Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Venezuela but also the EEC, Japan, the US and some developing countries. Included also are most of the OECD countries.

In conclusion I might express the hope that our own national energy policy be reviewed. Perhaps the Minister for Local Government, in regard to applications for the building of high-rise dwellings, would take into account the energy question because such dwellings require more energy than others for heating, cooling, the use of elevators, and so on. As we have plenty of land for building we should not concentrate on these high-rise dwellings.

I join with the other speakers from this side of the House who have condemned the effort being made to have this agreement signed formally on behalf of the Government. I have been endeavouring to ascertain whether, in the contribution of the Ministers for Transport and Power and Foreign Affairs, there has been any reference to the situation that affects us at present. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has admitted that he cannot establish the claims he makes in relation to the amount of oil reserves off our shores, although he has stated confidently that the reserves are such as to put us in the position in the near future of being a major international oil supplier. It is in that context that I wish to develop my remarks on this agreement.

As has been stressed by Deputy Barrett and others, it is significant that France deliberately opted out of this international agreement. It appears that this opting out was not done without a great deal of thought.

A number of my colleagues have referred to our relationship with the US. We have never had anything but good relations with the US and I hope that nothing said during the course of this debate would interfere with that. However, the fact remains that the instincts of the Minister for Industry and Commerce are that we are going to be a major oil supplier. I am not always in agreement with the instincts of that Minister but I hope this instinct proves correct. None of his instincts so far have been correct. However, I admire the gambler in him to the extent that once in 20 times he may be a winner. Nationally, I am hoping that on this occasion he is a winner.

It is remarkable that despite the amount of time spent on this motion, a motion which the Government through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, have thrown in as fodder into the Friday business, the Minister for Industry and Commerce who ought to have a major interest in this matter has never contributed. He has never put into the record of this House the views he is so liberal with when he meets the media, goes on radio, television and attends at Press conferences. We never got any justification for believing any portion of statements made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He has told us that there is an insufficiency of expertise in the survey section of his Department and because of that he has not been able to get it worked out in a euclid-like fashion. He is satisfied that the off-shore area of this country is waiting to be properly tapped.

The Minister has told us that he is going through the mechanism of allocating the licences to the responsible people who are going to produce our oil requirements and the requirements of many other industrial countries. He hopes this will be done in the near future. This arises from his study of the stars or his study of the crystal ball. He is not without support in that regard because there is a growing volume of opinion arising from the North Sea oil discovery, that the Celtic Sea is a tremendous source of oil. Exploration has been carried on for a period by the Marathon Oil Company in conjunction with Esso. They made certain tappings off the south coast. All those people led us to believe that if the Minister for Industry and Commerce is correct this Parliament would be voting no confidence in him if we were to endorse this agreement.

I understand the agreement has been initialled but not signed and that it cannot be signed until it has been approved by this Parliament. I submit to the Ministers for Transport and Power and Foreign Affairs that it is wrong to ask Parliament to endorse this vote of no confidence in the Minister for Industry and Commerce in relation to our future oil supply. In the course of his contribution to this debate on 17th April last, as reported at column 1997 of the Official Report, the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:

Given that the agreement does, for the first time, make provision to ensure the sharing of information, without which it is impossible to begin to consider what action might need to be taken in respect of these companies;

How can the Minister for Foreign Affairs, or the Minister for Transport and Power be so determined to embarrass the Irish nation by signing an agreement promising to ensure the sharing of information when the Minister for Industry and Commerce tells us that there are oceans of oil off our shores but he cannot establish it as yet due to the fact that his predecessor did not leave a sufficiency of expertise in the Department? Obviously, it is also due to the fact that he cannot get the money, because it is not there, to engage that expertise.

Since this Government took office we had examples of a number of our Ministers apologising at meetings in Europe for the fact that we were a bit backward. They did so to such an extent that when we had the privilege and honour of presiding over the affairs of the EEC in the last six months we bent over backwards in ecstasy because there were not major hitches. This is a wrong approach. We were led into Europe by a Fianna Fáil Government because Fianna Fáil were conscious that we could take our place with our neighbours in Europe, that we could stand shoulder to shoulder with them. We are now privy to an agreement that is designed to suit nations other than ours and must, if the beliefs of the Minister for Industry and Commerce are justified, put us at a major disadvantage over the next ten years. Further down in that speech the Minister for Foreign Affairs, at column 997, in criticising the Opposition's contribution to the debate, said:

What has not emerged at all from the Opposition speeches is that the agreement is designed to cope with the situation that can arise if there is either a general boycott and reduction in supplies or a discriminatory boycott against particular countries because producer countries dislike their politics.

In that event there is a necessity for those countries to get together and defend themselves. I accept that if there was not a scintilla of hope of our being able to develop our own oil resources there would be justification for signing that agreement, and I would personally castigate the Government for not jumping on that bandwagon. However, that cannot be the situation, unless his colleagues have no confidence at all in the hunches, in the beliefs, in the calculated study made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in upswings and in downturns, unless they want to castigate them as the majority of the people are castigating him at present. Surely his colleagues should have a little more respect for a man who has not yet been asked to resign by the Taoiseach for his incompetence. Further on in that same speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy FitzGerald, made this fascinating point:

The merit of this agreement may very well prove to be not that it is brought successfully into play from time to time but that it is never brought into play.

I presume the Minister for Foreign Affairs is hoping that in the event of the dice being thrown by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and turning up constant sevens, there will not be any need for it to be brought into play, but it is taking a very calculated risk in view of the extremely carefully worked-out calculations of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He has obviously put two-and-a-half years of research into this aspect because there is no evidence of his having done anything else. Therefore we assume that is on reliable information —there is no doubt that the Geological Survey Office must have information in connection with certain borings and strikes, confidential information which is available to the Minister— that he makes the confident pronouncement he recently has made. Basing my argument upon the confidence——

A Cheann Comhairle, may I interrupt to say that it is almost time up for this debate, and do I gather that is is a tactic of the Opposition to deliberately talk it out so that I cannot get in to reply to a lot of the misinformation they are giving the House?

I object to the Minister for Transport and Power claiming I have come in here to make a tactical move. I fully believe everything I am saying and there is no question of tactics in that. We have been limited to two hours' debate on this, and I do not want my time taken up by interruptions.

The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out this morning that the Opposition were offered more time for this debate and refused it. Now they are talking out this debate and it appears they are deliberately trying to prevent me from replying to the debate.

The Government had a spokesman in a few moments ago who took five or ten minutes.

Less than five minutes.

Fair enough. If the Government felt that we were involved in tactical business, there was no reason why the Minister could not have used the President of some organisation in Europe to get across his message for him. I have a contribution to make to this energy motion. We are restricted in the time we are enabled to give to this.

You limited yourself.

We shall agree one more hour with the Opposition here and now if they want it.

May I reply to the Parliamentary Secretary?

The Deputy should speak on the motion before the House.

That is exactly what I am trying to do, but the Parliamentary Secretary is coming in here to pull wool over people's eyes, and I should be given the opportunity of replying to him. I told him last night that I knew the game he was playing. He is going to offer an extra hour on everything but we cannot have the Wealth Tax Bill. We want the Wealth Tax.

You will have what you are given by the Government.

If I must have what is given by the Government I will take whatever time is available. How long have I to deal with this without interruption?

This motion finishes at 12.40 p.m.

I am speaking until 12.40.

You want it both ways.


If I am embarrassing the Government through their incompetent Minister for Industry and Commerce, I am happy to do that for the next quarter of an hour, and I have the right to do it. Rights are being withdrawn from this House.


Deputy Lalor on the motion.

I am not looking for an extra hour. I should be able to say what I want to say between now and twenty-minutes-to-one.

Deputy Lalor on the motion.

I agree, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and I hope you will help me to take my time on the motion. I am being offered time here while I am standing on my feet talking on this motion.

We offered it to the Opposition yesterday.

Yes, and I told the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday that he would endeavour to get it across to the general public through the media that we had one additional hour which I asked for wealth tax today and he would claim he offered me extra time on the energy motion, that he was offering extra time on the fisheries motion and that that was three hours.

They can have two more hours on this motion, one today and one on Tuesday.

What will we be given? We will give up time on the Wealth Tax?

This thing will be worked flexibly. If you are going to sulk it will not work at all.

There is no flexibility. The vote on the Committee Stage of the Wealth Tax Bill has to be taken at 2.30 next Thursday.

This Dáil is not a game.

This argument must cease. We are debating an energy motion and the Chair will hear nothing else.

Am I entitled to defend myself in the House?

The Deputy has adequately done that. Let there be no further reference to this.

I share your view, Sir. Have I still to finish at 12.40?

Yes, the question will be put at 12.40.

The Government have taken up five minutes of my time with interruptions.

I am sure the Deputy's contribution in the last five minutes will get more space than what was said in the previous 20 minutes.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for helping to get me publicity. There is a point I want to put on record while the Minister for Transport and Power is here. I have some little knowledge of the use of energy in this country. Deputy Power and other Deputies have spoken about the use of peat in the generation of energy. I was for a short while allocated functions in the Department of Transport and Power under the then Minister for Transport and Power, the late President Childers. At that time my functions included responsibility for the ESB and Bord na Móna. I have a pronounced interest in Bord na Móna because there is a great deal of Bord na Móna activity in my constituency.

During the crisis which brought about, as the Government see it, the necessity for this International Energy Agreement we were not left stranded. We had the peat powered station from which we were able to generate electricity. I was intrigued when the board of the ESB clapped itself on the back and were clapped on the back for their foresight for having and maintaining this peat powered station. I say quite categorically from my experience in the Department of Transport and Power that were it not for the persistence of the board of Bord na Móna, with the assistance of the political powers in the Department of Transport and Power, we would not have had a peat powered station. Year in, year out the ESB were saying how costly it was becoming to have a peat powered station. I, as Parliamentary Secretary, had a great deal of trouble and eventually had to go to my Minister and to the Government in order to force the situation so that sanction would be given to the second station in Shannonbridge.

It is only right that credit should go to where credit properly belongs, that is, to the board and officers of Bord na Móna who had to fight, with their heels in the ground, a dogged battle in order that the country should have light in early 1974. Otherwise the country would not have had light because if the ESB had had their way there would not have been an ESB peat powered station anywhere in the country. I have no hesitation in putting that on record. I do not see why the ESB should take credit for something that they were trying to kill over a period.

Now the situation is quite different. Eventually we will have to decide how much our own oil will cost delivered on our shores.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs endeavours to sell to this House the idea that the Oireachtas should approve of this energy motion. Why? Because he has been associated with the drafting of it. He does not want to be let down. He endeavours to inveigle us into agreeing to the motion and agreeing to sign the agreement on the grounds that it may very well prove, not that it is brought successfully into play from time to time, but that it may never be brought into play. That statement is from the Minister for Foreign Affairs who has made many hasty statements in his time but who is always given credit for having put a great deal of thought into his statements. This was a statement made in this House after due consideration. The best he could say on this motion is: "For goodness sake, lads, there is no fear." It would be wrong to put words into his mouth that he did not say but he thought the best selling point for this agreement at that stage was that it may very well prove to be, not that it is brought successfully into play from time to time but that it is never brought into play: it may very well be that the great success of the agreement and one that will make it prove to be found worth while is the fact that it becomes in a sense a dead letter, that it may never be needed.

There is an international agreement being solemnly proposed to be signed by our Minister for Foreign Affairs with the Agreement of the Minister for Transport and Power who is responsible for energy and it is being justified on the grounds that it may never have to be brought into play. That is the way in which this agreement is being sold to us by people who regularly over a period of 16 years described the Fianna Fáil Government as a gambler's Government.

We are in the unfortunate situation that the Minister for Finance is going with his battered bag around the Middle East and the only security that he can offer to hock is publicity circulated by the Government Information Service on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the effect that having studied the upswings and downswings, the upturns and downturns, there is a good chance that we will strike oil.


The throughputs will keep me going for the next few minutes. The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kelly, says that if I ask him properly he will give me more time, if I am a good little boy. At 10.20 p.m. yesterday he told me that we would have the Wealth Tax Bill. I presume we could get more time if I said that I would let the Minister in to make his contribution. I am saving the Government the embarrassment of the Minister for Transport and Power coming in to remake the mess he made in his June speech. There is enough on the record. I am sparing the Minister the further embarrassment of publicising that he has not read page 80 or page 67 of the agreement that has been initialled on his behalf but that we are trying to prevent him from signing so that this country will not be sold out. I, for one, am willing to put my money on the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Maybe, for once, he may be right.

The time allocated to the motion, in accordance with the order of the Dáil, having expired, I am now putting the question that the agreement establishing an international energy programme be agreed.

Question put, and a division being demanded, it was postponed in accordance with the Order of the Dáil of 9th July, 1975 until 10.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 15th July, 1975.