Updated: 27/09/11 : 06:41:11
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Fianna Fáil In U-Turn on Lough Allen Fracking

In a significant u-turn, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Natural Resources Éamon Ó Cuív has said that he expresses grave concern about the possible issuing of licenses to extract Shale Gas by Hydraulic Fracturing or ‘Fracking’ in the Lough Allen Basin.

Deputy O'Cuiv's views would appear to be a odds with the policy of his party when it was in government as the licences were issued earlier this year by the then Minister for State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Conor Lenihan TD.

The Green Party's Eamon Ryan and John Gormley resigned from their Cabinet positions on January 23rd 2011. Eamon Ryan was replaced as Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources on the same day by Fianna Fáil's Pat Carey.

Several weeks later, on February 14th 2011, the new junior minister Conor Lenihan TD,(FF) issued license options to Tamboran Resources and The Lough Allen Natural Gas Company.

Deputy O'Cuiv in a statement to SligoToday.ie said, “Local public representatives have stressed to me the importance of preserving the pristine nature of the ecology in this region, on which much of the local employment depends. They are justifiably concerned that it could be put at risk by any unproven method of gas extraction that may leave a negative impact on the area long after the last of the gas would be extracted.

“The Lough Allen Basin is one of our most ecologically sensitive areas, with some of the most beautiful lakes and waterways in the country. I am not convinced that it is possible to extract the shale gas in this area without ecological and human risk.  I am aware of the considerable steps that would have to be taken before gas could be extracted. However I am not satisfied that the environmental procedures in place were designed to deal with this type of extraction method.

“Before any licenses are issued by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to drill for this gas on an exploratory basis, it is important that the Minister outlines exactly how he intends to ensure that gas extraction in this area would be done in a safe way. He must also clarify what methods of extraction would be deemed suitable.  It should not be left solely to the exploration companies to determine the method of extraction if gas is found. The Department has a role in ruling out unsuitable methods of extraction before exploration takes place.

“Along with my colleague Senator Paschal Mooney I will be raising this matter at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. We will be looking for clear assurances Minister Pat Rabbitte.  I will be asking him to ensure that any fracking north of the border in Fermanagh will not affect counties south of the border, as it could have serious ecological and human health implications over a wide area. We feel that the Minister should persuade his Northern counterparts not to allow drilling until an all-Ireland study is carried out into the possible negative effects of this method.”