Belfast Telegraph

Outright ban on fracking in Ireland days away

An outright ban on fracking in Ireland is days away after the Republic's parliament passed new laws outlawing the controversial practice.

It will be illegal to drill onshore for shale gas from rocks, sands and coal seams after a rural politician backed grassroots campaigners and environmentalists to spearhead the legislation.

President Michael D Higgins is expected to sign it into law in the coming days with a date to be confirmed for the commencement of the ban.

Tony McLoughlin, TD for the Sligo-Leitrim, introduced the legislation over a year ago and secured cross-party support in parliament, where the Republic's government is in a minority.

"This law will mean communities in the west and north-west of Ireland will be safeguarded from the negative effects of hydraulic fracking," he said.

"Counties such as Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Clare will no longer face negative effects like those seen in cities and towns in the United States, where many areas have now decided to implement similar bans to the one before us.

"If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland it would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here."

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture, sometimes using sand and chemicals, is forced into rock.

Openings are created for gas to seep out into deep wells with energy companies have explored for large shale and other tight sandstone deposits in Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Clare.

Kate Ruddock, Friends of the Earth Ireland's deputy director and spokeswoman for the Environmental Pillar coalition, said: " Ireland has a reputation as a climate laggard and too often our lack of climate action is a cause of embarrassment internationally, but today we can be proud of our parliament for putting Ireland in the vanguard of the movement to ban fracking."

Ireland joins three other European Union countries - France, Germany and Bulgaria - to ban fracking on land.

Love Leitrim, which helped to spearhead the anti-fracking campaign, has said it has a responsibility to pursue a similar ban in Northern Ireland as many waterways across the region are connected.

Aedin McLoughlin, Environmental Pillar spokeswoman and director of the Good Energies Alliance Ireland, said: "The long road is travelled and we have come successfully to its end.

"For six years we have looked forward to this day, when the Irish government would ban fracking and protect our rural environment and communities from this industry that poisons drinking water and air."

Three exploratory licences were granted in Ireland in 2011 for fracking, but no extraction has taken place.

Love Leitrim's Eddie Mitchell said the issue was national and international, not local.

"We by nature are close to the land, and maybe we have become watchdogs like our parents before us," he said.

"We have a responsibility to the land and each other and the life that the land nurtures.

"We feel privileged we can make a difference in our own small way in dealing with bigger challenges.

"We all have to be able to come together for the biggest fight the planet now faces, climate change.

"We hope that our successful campaign here will be a catalyst for other communities and show what can be achieved."

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