2011 – Founding of GEAI
Following the showing in various locations of Gasland, a documentary showing the impact of fracking on rural communities, many people resident in the areas proposed for fracking were very worried about its impacts. Gatherings were called and were attended by up to 80 people, most of whom had never been involved in an environmental campaign. There were varying views on how such a campaign should be organised. Direct action focused on public representatives were proposed; marches and demonstrations; and proposals for events to raise awareness. There was a distinct anti-establishment atmosphere.
Throughout 2011, many meetings were held focusing on different aspects of the campaign. Some of these meetings were big – two meetings stood out, both held in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon in September 2011. The first was a public meeting organised by Tamboran, where a presentation was made emphasising the potential benefits to the area of this fracking project. This was attended by over 300 people and Richard Moorman, CEO of Tamboran, gave a very slick presentation of the project and answered questions from the floor, some of which were prepared by campaigners.
The second was organised by the campaigners shortly after and had roughly the same attendance. Aedín McLoughlin gave a presentation on the process of fracking and its disastrous impacts on the environment (land, air, water) and on humans (public health). Impassioned speeches were made by campaigners and there was lively debate on economic benefits vs negative impacts on the local community.
A National Movement is needed
Throughout 2011 it became clear that a purely local campaign could be locally effective but would be unlikely to win out over the oil and gas industry, which was already lobbying national government. Some campaigners were members of political parties or politically savvy; they, and other groups, knew that if this project could be stopped, it would have to be done by a nationally based campaign operating at the highest levels of government. Direct action that crossed the line of legality was not the answer, it was felt. Instead, we would have to focus on building credibility, advocacy and political lobbying on a national scale, which was considered to be more effective.
The result of such discussions, together with buy-in from many community groups such as the Leitrim Artist’s Collective, was the decision to found an organisation that would focus on those objectives. In January 2012, the first meeting of a new committee was held when it was agreed to start up a Company Limited by Guarantee to ensure our status. Eight Directors signed up and Good Energies Alliance Ireland was born.
Through a PR consultant, friend of one of the Directors, we got advice to launch GEAI in Dublin and to include a celebrity to ensure publicity. We were fortunate to be able to persuade Jessica Ernst, a campaigner from Canada, to join us in a Press Conference in Dublin in February 2012 to publicise the dangers of fracking and to launch the company. This was followed by a visit to Leitrim, where she spoke at public meetings.