Oil and gas drill ban bill 'running out of time'

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett has admitted the delays his party is facing in progressing a bill targeting the banning of oil and gas drilling in Irish waters, through the Oireachtas, may be sufficient to scupper it entirely.

Despite being passed - as a private members' motion - to committee stage last year, the bill has ended up in procedural limbo with the environment committee repeatedly failing to vote on progressing it to the Dáil.

People Before Profit wants the bill to be debated by the Dáil select committee, where it feels it has a chance of progress. It also said the original passing of the bill should allow for entry to the select committee, under Oireachtas rules.

The party must now re-table the motion in the Dáil, after further stalemate in the business committee. However, the party is not eligible for private members' time in the chamber until late April. The party has asked Government to allow it time to call a vote - without debate, if necessary - deciding on whether or not the bill goes before the select committee.

Mr Boyd-Barrett accused Fine Gael of using procedure to block the bill, for political reasons, "because it doesn't like its content". He said a ten-week wait to table the motion, followed by time spent on committee debates and drafting reports could overrun the lifespan of the current government and, essentially, "scupper the bill".

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the proposed bill was wrong in terms of its arguments regarding climate action, energy security and economic benefits.

Meanwhile, shares in Irish-based exploration company United Oil and Gas fell nearly 8% despite an independent report suggesting the prospect it co-owns with Tullow Oil, offshore Jamaica, could hold 229 million barrels of oil; 10 million more than thought.

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