Thursday, 10 March 1983
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Reynolds: asked the Minister for Industry and Energy if he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations with the Algerian Government on the possible take-over of the Whiddy oil terminal and on the future of the terminal.
Mr. Boland: As the Deputy is aware, officials of my Department visited Algeria in November 1982 for explanatory discussions in relation to possible involvement by the Algerians in operations at the Whiddy Island oil terminal. The matter was to be considered further by the Algerian authorities who undertook to revert to my Department in due course at which stage they would indicate whether they wished to pursue prospects in this area. To date there has been no such contact although my Department in recent weeks have asked the Algerians for an indication of their position in the matter.
The Deputy will know that other possible arrangements for reactivation of the terminal, including potential involvement of private interests, were mooted. I cannot say that any of these proposals have developed to a stage where a positive conclusion on the future of the terminal can be advanced at this time. The confusing and unpredictable situation at present prevailing in international oil markets is, of course, a major constraint. The Deputy may be assured that I share his desire to secure arrangements which would enable the terminal to be retained in use.
Mr. Reynolds: Will the Minister confirm  that when I left the Department the situation was that that Department was to refer to the Algerian authority within a short time with the specific information sought and that based on that information it was likely that there would be an early decision?
Mr. Reynolds: The Chair is starting to frustrate the House as occurred yesterday. I am being constructive in the questions I am putting to the Minister and surely I am entitled to a response. I should like to know if the negotiations by an Irish consortium to take over the Whiddy Oil Terminal ceased?
Mr. Boland: A delegation of senior officials from the Department of Industry and Energy and a representative of the INPC travelled to Algiers in November 1982 and discussed various aspects of the matter with Algerian officials. The Algerian officials indicated that involvement at Whiddy was one of a number of possible options which they were exploring. Before the matter could be considered further it would have to be considered at their governmental level. The Algerian officials undertook to revert to the Irish side in due course at which stage they would indicate whether or not they wished to proceed. They have not responded since then and the Department of Industry and Energy recently sent them a reminder but so far it has not evoked a response.
Mr. Reynolds: The Minister has not answered my question. The negotiators who went to Algeria returned with a specific request from the Algerian Minister for figures in relation to the costings of Whiddy and I should like to know if that information was sent. Arising from what the Minister has said it appears that it has not been sent and that the matter was not followed up until my question was tabled.
Mr. Boland: The relevant information  was supplied to the Algerian authorities and the matter now rests with them. The second part of the Deputy's question is not part of the subject matter of the question on the Order Paper.
Mr. Reynolds: I submit that it is part of my question. I should like to know the plans for the future of the Whiddy terminal. Has the Irish consortium who were negotiating when I left office ceased those negotiations? The Minister should answer those questions.
Mr. Sheehan: I should like to ask the Minister if there was ever any genuine inquiries from the Algerian Government concerning the takeover of Whiddy terminal. Have the Government requested Gulf Oil to restore the terminal to its original condition prior to the disaster that occurred?
Mr. Boland: In regard to the first part of the Deputy's question I should like to state that it would be entirely inappropriate for me to make any comment as to the bona fides of any inquiry that might be made in relation to Whiddy or any other prospect. We can only assume that the interests concerned were displaying a genuine interest and were anxious to explore the situation to establish the facts. It would be wrong to infer otherwise. The nature of the awaited response by the Algerian authorities will have considerable bearing on the prospects for the future of Whiddy and on the question of the oil contained at the terminal. The intention of the Department of Industry and Energy, subsequent to the Algerian response, is to make certain specific recommendations regarding the future of the terminal and, in particular, the continued involvement of Gulf Oil at Whiddy.
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