Belfast Telegraph

Calls grow for Fermanagh referendum on fracking

By Linda Stewart

Politicians in Fermanagh have called for the fracking issue to be put to a referendum.

Councillors have asked officials to find out if a referendum could be held to gauge local feeling on the controversial gas extraction method.

It comes after councillors in Co Leitrim voted to ban fracking – and warned that they will be watching very closely what happens in neighbouring Co Fermanagh.

Led by Sinn Fein, councillors have asked council officials to examine the possibility of holding a county-wide ballot to measure opinion on fracking.

Tamboran Resources has proposed carrying out exploratory drilling in the Bundoran Shale, which takes in the south-west of the county. It has said that "in a perfect world" it could begin commercial production of shale gas as soon as 2016.

Fermanagh District Council vice chairman Barry Doherty, of Sinn Fein, said the idea was to hold a referendum on the same day as the European and local government elections in May.

"Locally, one of the things I am hearing is that people's voices are not being heard and decisions are being taken miles away from where the actual mechanics of fracking are going to happen," he said.

Veteran DUP councillor Bert Johnston said: "I think there should be a local survey... which would be a lot, lot cheaper and more likely to happen," he said.

Last night Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan said he believed the overwhelming view was that people across Fermanagh were opposed to fracking.

Council officials will issue a report on the feasibility of the proposal to full council next week. It has been estimated a county-wide referendum could cost around £100,000.

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