Only days after the local elections, the Department for Economy announced a consultation on the issuance of an exploratory license to Tamboran Resources UK for fracking in west Fermanagh.
The consultation initiated is not a statutory one and does not include an Environmental Impact Assessment nor indeed any review of possible cross-border impact. These were made mandatory for statutory consultations by the Aarhus convention but have been conveniently side-stepped by the Department.
Opposition to fracking in Fermanagh is even more pronounced now than previously and, with the increased awareness of climate change, there are obvious question marks about why unelected Department officials appear intent on facilitating a polluting industry instead of investing in sustainable jobs and renewables capacity.
In the small print of the consultation is the revelation that its findings will have to await a decision by a locally-elected Minister in a future Northern Ireland Executive. The intent appears to be to land a ‘fait-accompli’ in the inbox of a future DUP or Sinn Féin Minister. Communities are alive to this and already mobilisations have occurred to demonstrate the scale of likely opposition should this threat become manifest.
At the other end of the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area, threats by gold mining company Dalradian to bring forward a programme of mining have generated such grassroots opposition that a campaigner, Emmet McAleer, topped the poll in the local election in Mid-Tyrone.
At the council’s first meeting, Mr McAleer proposed a motion that sought to end council handouts to those endorsing the gold mining industry – linking the issue to fracking. I was happy to second that proposal and secure its passing by the council (despite opposition being expressed by all other parties). The issues of fracking and gold mining and the alternative of a sustainable, socialist economy appear set to be central to council business in coming months.
By Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh, Labour Alternative, Enniskillen