Twelve candidates attended a hustings event in Manorhamilton on Saturday 13th organised by Love Leitrim.
All twelve from different parties and independents signed the pledge that they would support legislation to ban fracking in Ireland and confirmed that commitment at the meeting. This support included Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, Labour, Greens, People Before Profit and Independents.
However, the greatest threat to Ireland from fracking at present, the proposal to commence drilling in North Belfast this week, was not even mentioned or discussed. Before this subject could be introduced, the meeting was completely disrupted by a small group who refused to allow the discussion to continue. The Chairman, Johnny Gogan, had to close the meeting prematurely and it ended in disarray.
“I am very upset that a small number of protesters seem to consider public meetings to be an opportunity for anarchic disturbances for their own sake”, said Dr Aedín McLoughlin Director of GEAI.
“We were there as members of the campaign against fracking, and it was our intention to bring up the Belfast threat, which is really serious and is not getting the attention it deserves. People don’t realise the danger – Infrastrata, an oil/gas company, has issued leaflets to all houses nearby that they intend to come on site in Woodburn Forest this week and start drilling an exploratory well over a mile deep, exactly as Tamboran proposed in Belcoo.
Dr McLoughlin continued, "The site is 400 yards from a water reservoir serving 2,000 houses in Carrick-on-Fergus and North Belfast."
"Yet there is little publicity around this. One candidate I spoke to after the meeting was not even aware of this proposal. Sinn Féin, who are an all-island party, have not issued any public statement in Leitrim on the situation and in the North, have not issued any statement of concern at the Stormont Assembly. At our meeting, they kept referring to their Party policy as opposing fracking. Is this policy only South of the border?
"Infrastrata (the oil/gas company) say that this well will not be fracked. This is quite possible – it is an exploratory well. However, if they find oil or gas, there is absolutely no guarantee that fracking will not commence – and hundreds of wells could be fracked. In addition, this drilling is due to start without a Waste Treatment Plan in place. Why is the Northern Ireland government not stepping in, as it did with Tamboran? Why are the main political parties not preventing the drill? All these questions should have been asked at the Hustings but unfortunately, were prevented from so doing.”