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Council urges Minister Foster to move against fracking
By Nuala McAloon
DESPITE a heated debate at its monthly meeting on Monday night, Fermanagh District Council has passed a motion to oppose fracking in the county.
Erne West councillor Brendan Gallagher said fracking had the potential to scar the landscape of Fermanagh and said the environmental health factors outweighed the economic benefits.
He proposed the motion, “that this council opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing for gas exploration in the Lough Allen Basin, and in the light of the backing by the Northern Ireland Assembly for the motion put forward by Steven Agnew MLA on hydraulic fracturing, that we call for the Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Investment, Arlene Foster to place a moratorium on the licence granted to Tamboran Resources.”
Councillor Gallagher said that while it had been mooted that 700 jobs could be created from fracking that equated to 10 jobs a year for Fermanagh and even at that, there were no guarantees that they would be sourced locally.
He highlighted Fermanagh’s dependence on its local agricultural industry and tourism.
He also claimed there were concerns that water contamination that could impact on health, from dizziness to brain damage or cancer. He said there was also the potential impact of noise and air pollution and the increase of traffic on the road.
Sinn Fein’s Barry Doherty proposed an amendment which was subsequently added to Councillor Gallagher’s motion: “In view of the possible impacts of fracking on parts of the Erne catchment under the control of Dail Eireann, a similar request should be sent to Mr Pat Rabitte, TD, Minister of the Environment.”
However, not everyone was happy with carrying the motion forward with five councillors – the DUP party and the UUP’s Basil Johnston against, and another five, all UUP, abstaining from the final vote.
The UUP’s Alex Baird said his party recognised the possible risks associated with the fracking process and shared the concern.
But, he said to date no health impact assessment, environmental impact assessment (EIA) or public consultation about the process had taken place.
“Having concern about the possible negatives is laudable but surely to be even-handed we must also look at the possible positives namely the financial possibilities both local and national.
“All mining, drilling or any extraction process involved in the capturing of fossil based fuels carries risk. The question must be is the risk manageable?
“This motion calls for a moratorium on the licence which I take to mean that any work associated with the recovery of gas would be temporarily prohibited or suspended that is initial exploration would have to stop. We can’t agree to that.
His amendment calling on the DETI Minister to ensure a detail EIA that confirms no resulting environmental damage to the area was in place before any hydraulic fracking was allowed, was overturned on the basis it was a different motion.
Independent councillor Bernice Swift said she supported the motion and reminded the council that there had been no community consent for fracking so far and that the community must be listened to.