Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív has described the licensing process for the proposed Galway Bay salmon farm as “totally flawed” and called on both Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and Minister Simon Coveney to have the application withdrawn.
Deputy O Cuiv said the process by which the decision is being made is totally flawed in so far as the Minister, who is a proponent of the scheme, and an agency that operates to his policy are the judges of the case.
He said he plans to raise the issue again during parliamentary questions in the Dáil next week and will meet with Mr Jason Whooley, the Chief Executive of the applicant body, BIM, today, Wednesday.
Apart from his reservations at the application process, which he described as “totally inappropriate”, Deputy Ó Cuív said the figure of 500 jobs being quoted by Government in relation to the salmon farm was not realistic.
“First of all they indicated that there would be a large number of jobs in the Aran Islands. When I actually asked them for the breakdown, that all disappeared very fast and I have no evidence that the kind of jobs that they’re talking about would come,” he said.
The former Fianna Fáil deputy leader said that many more jobs could be created in Galway in the area of rural and marine recreation and that these jobs would depend upon a pristine environment rather than endangering it.
Responding to criticism from some quarters, including Mayor of County Galway, Cllr Tom Welby, that he had been “sitting on the fence” on this issue, Deputy Ó Cuív said he has made his views on the subject well known over the past year.
“I’ve been working on this issue and expressed my reservations about it and about the process last April, when this was first mooted. I expressed in the Oireachtas committee, serious reservations, both about the process and the project,” said the Fianna Fáil deputy.
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who was also criticised at a protest on 2 March for not speaking out on the issue, said he and his party would not be rushed into jumping on any bandwagon.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said that Sinn Féin intended to organise a public meeting on the issue in the coming month and would invite all the relevant stakeholders on the issue to partake in a rational debate.
“We feel that it’s a very complex issue. There’s a lot of science on both sides and some of that science appears to contradict each other and there are pros and cons. Before we jump on any bandwagon and take a stance, we have to make sure that there’s a very informed debate,” he said.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh said it was the view of Sinn Féin that the State should benefit from any exploitation of its natural resources. If granted, the licence will be tendered out to a third party, most likely an overseas operator such as the Norwegian firm, Marine Harvest.
However, the Connemara Senator said that a development such as the salmon farm “shouldn’t go ahead without the support of the local community”.