Updated: 09/09/11 : 04:48:21
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Sligo priest sceptical about 'fracking' claims

People in Sligo and surrounding counties have been urged by a parish priest to inform themselves about the controversial gas extraction method known as “fracking” and not to lose their beautiful landscape “without a fight”. That's according to a report by Marese McDonagh in the Irish Times.

Fr AB O’Shea, parish priest of the rural parishes of Riverstown, Sooey and Gleann in Co Sligo, said he was concerned about the silence of national politicians on the issue, given the threat to the environment, landscape and human and animal health. Stressing that people needed information on this issue, he asked “why haven’t we heard anything from the Environmental Protection Agency on this”.

Meetings have been held in the northwest amid fears about the impact of hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas.

Two companies, Tamboran Resources and Lough Allen Natural Gas Company (Langco), have been granted options licences which permit them to carry out preliminary testing in the region.

Jobs and money were “being dangled like a carrot” by the exploration companies, according to Fr O’Shea. “We had lots of jobs during the Celtic Tiger, building jobs which were not sustainable,” said the priest.

He said there was much potential in the northwest for tourism which had not been fully exploited. And he believed jobs in that industry were sustainable.

The priest said he was sceptical about claims by Tamboran Resources that it would not use chemicals in the Lough Allen basin, especially when chief executive Richard Moorman had conceded that this had not been done before. “I am very sceptical about this. If they have to use chemicals in North America, what is so different about this region? If chemicals are not needed here why would they be needed in North America.”

He said he’d seen “this kind of thing before when the ESB wanted to build a line of pylons across Sligo and Roscommon”.

Company people who were skilled communicators came down, he said, and “they had this attitude that they were dealing with country bumpkins, people who did not understand about the economy and the ESB and power”.

He believed ordinary people were “crying out for leadership” on this. He said ordinary people needed to get “stuck in” before a decision was made on whether to grant exploration licences.