Constituents put pressure on Fermanagh Council to act

The Impartial Reporter stated today, the 31st July:

ERNE West Councillors came under pressure to take action against fracking when around 200 residents from Belcoo, Letterbreen and Mullaghdun met in Letterbreen Church of Ireland Hall on Tuesday night.

Three demands were made by constituents, who have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of fracking since Australian exploration company Tamboran arrived at a Belcoo quarry last Monday.
The people demanded that Fermanagh District Council:

– call an emergency meeting, putting forward a motion calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement a moratorium on fracking;
– fund local researchers to examine the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking; and
– set up an immediate meeting with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Leitrim County Council will hold an emergency meeting on fracking today (Thursday) at 11am and Cavan County Council will hold an emergency meeting on fracking tomorrow (Friday).
In response to these demands, a spokeswoman for Fermanagh District Council tells The Impartial Reporter: “The Council has not had the opportunity yet to consider or discuss the issues raised at Tuesday night’s meeting.”

She said that “issues around fracking” will be considered at Fermanagh District Council’s full meeting on Monday night (August 4).

Clarifying Fermanagh District Council’s position on fracking, she stated: “The Council is opposed to fracking and has already called for a moratorium.”

Not for Photosales

Organised by Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership (Lamp), the packed meeting heard presentations from Dr. Aedín McLoughlin of Good Energies Alliance Ireland; Eddie Mitchell, Chairman of Love Leitrim; and Tom White, who has lived in Belcoo for 10 years.

Erne West Councillors Alex Baird (UUP); Brendan Gallagher (SDLP); Martin McGovern (Sinn Féin) and Bernice Swift (Independent) were in attendance. Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan and MP Michelle Gildernew attended, as well as UUP MLA Tom Elliott.

The meeting was told that the exploratory drill is the first step towards fracking. Politicians were asked how they had allowed the process of fracking come this far. Phil Flanagan replied: “If we (Sinn Féin) recalled any of this (to the Executive), the DUP would veto it because they are mad to get fracking in West Fermanagh.”

An angry crowd responded by shouting that they were sick of politicians “batting the issue off each other”.

Councillor Martin McGovern said that fracking would “hopefully” be on the agenda at Monday night’s Council meeting, leading to uproar from the audience. He hastily clarified that fracking “would” be on the agenda.

One lady pointed out: “Leitrim County Council is having an emergency meeting about the Belcoo drill on Thursday morning. People from Leitrim, Meath, Sligo and Cavan have been protesting in Belcoo; they are putting in the support and commitment into Fermanagh so to be ready for whatever comes next.”
The crowd wanted to know why Leitrim County Council can call an emergency meeting on fracking while Fermanagh District Council cannot.

Wild cheers erupted when Tom White suggested an emergency meeting of Fermanagh District Council. He asked: “Why are we being ignored by the Executive? This is bigger than fracking; this is dysfunctional government.”

UUP Councillor Alec Baird sounded nervous as he addressed the crowd, saying: “Fracking will be discussed at next Monday night’s Council meeting but I can’t discuss the details due to confidentiality issues surrounding committee meetings. As a party [the UUP] sat down and looked at the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of fracking.”

The UUP’s policy on fracking states that “the potential economic benefits of … fracking may be substantial … However, the Ulster Unionist Party will not support fracking until an environmental impact assessment is sufficiently undertaken which shows that the practice is safe.”

UUP MLA Tom Elliott was stronger in voicing opposition, saying: “Fracking is not going to be of any benefit for the local community here. If we are to stop fracking it has to be at Executive level. The UK Government appear determined to push it through. We need to lobby UK MPs in writing to stop this push, push, push for fracking.”

SDLP Councillor Brendan Gallagher pointed out that Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan will be in Enniskillen townhall today (Thursday) to meet local residents and discuss their concerns.
One local farmer yelled: “In a week’s time they could have the drilling done; we want it stopped and we want it stopped now; if the politicians don’t do it, maybe the people will.”
Local farmer John Sheridan urged locals not to lose their temper. He said: “Have patience and do this in an academic way and go through the process,” adding: “Anything that leads to bad temper means that you are going to lose. If you stick together you can beat it.”

He called for the Council to fund local qualified researchers from the area to examine the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking. Phil Flanagan revealed that Sinn Fein wants the Council to spend the money that would have went on a fracking referendum (speculated at between £30,000 and £100,000) on funding local research.

Eddie Mitchell, from community group Love Leitrim said: “Love Leitrim will peacefully stand between the rigs and the Belcoo drill site; this can’t go ahead. The question is, will the politicians stand with us?” He added: “Meetings like this are happening all over the UK.”

The crowd was urged to lobby MLAs and MPs but warned that “there is only so much that politicians can do”.
Another public meeting will be held in Belcoo Community Centre tomorrow (Friday) evening at 7pm.

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