Government official involved in Shell negotiations reassigned
The senior official responsible for implementing the state's oil and gas policy has been moved from his position in the Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD) of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
Michael Daly was transferred, against his wishes, from his position as prinicipal officer with the PAD in June 2006.
Memos obtained under Freedom of Information show that Michael Daly appealed to the secretary general of the department, Brendan Tuohy, to be allowed to stay with PAD for the rest of his career but his request was refused.
The memos show that Daly discussed his position with Brendan Tuohy and assistant secretary, Eamonn Molloy, in early June when they asked him to accept a transfer.
On 13 June 2006, Michael Daly replied to Brendan Tuohy with his request to remain in his position with PAD.
“Following discussions last week I have reflected further on the situation and I have concluded I would like to complete my civil service career in PAD. I believe this is the most productive role for me and I would hope the department would facilitate me in this request,” the memo from Michael Daly stated.
On the same day Brendan Tuohy prepared a memo which read, “Discussed at MC (management committee). Agreed that proposed change should proceed bearing in mind Michael Daly's position on transfer.”
On 14 June 2006, Brendan Tuohy wrote to Michael Daly telling him that he had been “reassigned to Corporate Finance and Planning Division with effect from 26 June.”
Michael Daly has been at the centre of the Corrib gas pipleline controversy since lands at Bellanaboy, north Mayo were purchased from Coillte, the forestry division of the department for the gas-processing terminal. The lands were bought by Enterprise Energy Ireland in the late-1990s. Enterprise Energy Ireland was subsequently acquired by Shell E&P which took over the Corrib gas field, the planned pipleline and terminal in 2002.
Michael Daly was central to controversial communications between the department and Mayo County Council when a planning application for the terminal was submitted in 2000. He was also involved in the discussions when former minister Frank Fahey granted controversial compulsory acquisition orders to Shell on lands belonging to local people across which the pipeline is routed.
His transfer follows the establishment of a Technical Advisory Group set up by the current minister Noel Dempsey to oversee the gas project in 2005.
Over the years the Shell to Sea campaign and the Siptu Oil and Gas branch have claimed that the PAD has favoured the interests of the oil and gas majors over the Rossport residents and workers in the industry. In 2005, Noel Dempsey acknowledged that there was a perception that the department could not fulfill its dual role of promoting the oil and gas industry while properly addressing the health and safety concerns of residents.
Confirming the transfer, a spokesman for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources said: “A number of principal officers were rotated earlier this summer. It would not be unusual for staff to express a preference to stay in the areas that they are working in but the department operates a staff mobility policy which where possible seeks to move principal officers approximately every four or five years.”