by Donal O’Cofaigh
The anti-fracking movement in Belcoo called the first of a series of public meetings in the area with the aim of raising awareness of the renewed threat posed by the latest license application by fracking company, Tamboran Resources (UK). The meeting was well-attended and brought together activists from across the region. Held in Belcoo Community Centre, it brought back memories of the mass meetings in that hall five years ago when locals mounted an extraordinary four-week siege of the drill site which forced the Northern Ireland Executive to buckle and refuse an application by Tamboran to extend their license.
The meeting heard from a local doctor who focussed on the growing wealth of clinical research showing an undeniable link between fracking and health concerns such as endocrine disruption, cancer and complications with pregnancies.
Another presentation highlighted the anomalies in the process by which a license was being offered to Tamboran, recently bought by Spinner energy, a company initially registered in the British Virgin Islands before moving to the Isle of Man. Both locations are well-known tax havens that offer secrecy on the identities of the ‘British and Irish’ investors who have injected tens of millions into this renewed attempt to frack.
The community demand the politicians act to ban this industry. The election of prominent campaigners against fracking and gold mining to Fermanagh & Omagh District Council in May has opened the door to the use of council powers to halt these industries and put the pressure on the mainstream politicians. They were challenged to support an explicit ban on fracking and other toxic extractive industries such as gold mining in the Local Development Plan, and also to back the adoption of a blanket ban on ‘permitted development rights’ (which currently allow exploration companies to conduct work on sites without seeking planning applications).
Such approaches could constitute part of a strategy to frustrate fracking through the local authority and offer a bridge between both the grassroots campaign being fought in the West Tyrone area against the gold mining industry and that in west Fermanagh against fracking.
Looking forward, the linkages between the anti-fracking campaign and the trade union movement in Fermanagh will need to be reinvigorated and extended to the gold mining campaign. The involvement of the trade unions is vital to challenge the narrative that these toxic industries offer much needed ‘jobs’ and instead point to the better employment opportunities that would be opened by a workers’ Green New Deal.
In the face of renewed threats, the slow work to build grassroots campaigns and the linkages between them is proceeding in both the Greencastle People’s Office, the centre of the resistance movement to gold mining in the Sperrins, and in the community halls of villages like Belcoo.