THE new chairman of the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) Tom McCaffrey believes the campaign to stop the extraction of shale gas in the county is ‘winnable’, but expressed concerns the process may have already begun.
Mr McCaffrey, originally from Tamlaght, now living in Cashel is a dentist at Forthill Dental Practice, Enniskillen and replaces outgoing chairman Dr Carroll O’Dolan, who will remain involved with the group as the health spokesman.
Speaking to the Herald, the former FFAN secretary explained that after moving back to Fermanagh six years ago he and his family had planned to live in a rural idyll, but he said this was now under threat from fracking.
Despite the concerns though, he is optimistic at the challenge ahead.
“I think it’s a winnable campaign, that’s the main thing, I think there’s a long way to go before it will be lost, but my concern would be that things are happening outside public consultation.”
Mr McCaffrey claimed that drilling may have already began in the county, expressing his belief that fracking company Tamboran are ‘acting very much under the radar’.
“Tamboran is about to put a drill in the ground or may have already put a drill in the ground in the next week or two and they have had no public consultation of any kind.
“We had a Freedom of Information request into NIEA, they had a meeting with Tamboran on November 27 and they were due to put a permitted development application to them on December 6 with a view to starting in the last week of January.”
Since Christmas the group have heard nothing from Tamboran and the new chief of FFAN is keen to meet with them to hear their plans.
“They have never met with us, we have asked on numerous occasions and we would like even a public meeting, not just with us.
“They had a couple of initial meetings way back in November, but apart from that there has been nothing.”
In his spell as chairman Mr McCaffrey has cited raising awareness as his main goal.
“There’s still people in Fermanagh that don’t know about fracking and we just want to keep turning up to community events, showing them the film, answering questions and generally promoting as much awareness as possible, that’s the main goal.
“We are planning several more screenings of the film; ‘Fracking in Fermanagh- What does it mean?’ and we will be engaging with the election process, but not directly involved with it.
“We will be asking questions of the parties, but we have no plans to stand or we’re not going to endorse anyone, but we will be asking everybody searching questions to make sure their positions are clear.”
“The film has been very well received, everyone that has seen it has been amazed at it and it’s just a case of getting it more widely shown, our plan is to send a copy of it to every MLA in Northern Ireland and make sure that everybody sees it.
“This is a gorgeous area and to think what could conceivably happen to it is ridiculous.”