Residents come out in force against mining company's gas field proposal
They gathered at the famous Ballroom of Romance in the border village of Glenfarne, Co Leitrim, but clearly it was a case of no love lost as local residents protested yesterday at mining company Tamboran Resources' latest announcement.
The company said that preliminary studies suggested the existence of "a substantial natural gas field" on the Leitrim/ Fermanagh border, which could create 3,000 jobs and enough gas to substantially cut our fuel imports for decades.
But the 50 or so people who protested at the remote village hall that inspired William Trevor's eponymous novel were not for turning.
"The Rainbow Ballroom of Romance is such an iconic spot and just look at the views all around us," said Ballinaglera resident Dr Aedin McLoughlin.
"When you look across at Lough MacNean and Thor Mountain, where they propose to start drilling, the actual proposals are inconceivable -- a well pad every two miles and each one measuring six acres, which is the size of a 30-house estate."
A few miles away in the foothills of Thor Mountain, a group of concerned residents posed for photographs outside a thatched cottage -- the birthplace of 1916 leader Sean MacDiarmada.
Local Sinn Fein TD Michael Colreavy, who yesterday accused Tamboran of "talking up" the jobs potential of their project, said it was ironic that the cottage was in the centre of the proposed drilling site.
"Wouldn't it be ironic if this industry were to pollute the area of outstanding natural beauty around Sean MacDiarmada's homestead?" he said. "Is this the way we want to commemorate the anniversary of our 1916 Rebellion?"
Tamboran director Tony Bazley yesterday stressed the importance of the 600 full-time jobs and 2,400 indirect jobs mooted by the company, "especially for young people", and for local shops and businesses.
He predicted that the jobs would start to come on stream around 2018 and he repeated the company's assurance that chemicals would not be used in the fracking process to extract the gas.
Many of those in Glenfarne yesterday agreed that jobs were desperately needed but questioned whether the project would endanger "sustainable" jobs in agriculture and tourism.
Paul Mitchell, from Kinlough, who farms about 30 acres in north Leitrim and who also works in the tourism industry, said he was sceptical about the no-chemicals claim. "I don't believe it can be done," he said.
Mr Mitchell said most people were desperate to secure more jobs "but I have not met one person who is in favour of fracking".
Drumshanbo-based Fine Gael councillor Enda McGloin said given the fears about water contamination, nothing should be done until the EPA completed a study. "The gas will not run away no matter how long we have to wait," he said.
Manorhamilton native Erris Gallagher said that despite his frustration at being unable to secure work, he did not support the Tamboran proposals.
"I want to get married and I obviously can't until I get work but I think fracking is just too high a price," he said.
"People come here from Germany and other European countries to walk in the countryside and admire the scenery. If we let this happen nobody will come."
As a farmer and a tiler, John Cranogue, from Carrick-on-Shannon, said his income had also been hit by the downturn.
"I understand why people would hope to get quarry work or jobs driving lorries but we have to ask whether the jobs will be sustainable," he said.