County Fermanagh is truly a lakeland county – one of the most beautiful places in the world with pristine rivers and lakes, lush greenery and people with extraordinary integrity. Together with the rest of Northern Ireland, the Fermanagh people come from the two traditions of Unionist and Nationalist. They have been through the trauma caused by the 30 years of conflict and are just starting to feel comfortable with the notion of peace and building relationships between the two traditions. The violence is gone but the scars remain of all the horrors that both communities suffered during that time. This post-conflict time, as it is known, is one of fragile peace, hightened sensitivies and slow re-building of trust.
And now – Fracking is proposed in this beautiful and fragile area!
At a recent meeting in the Church of Ireland Hall in Letterbreen organised by the cross-community group LAMP, up to 300 people from all denominations (and none) gathered together to hear about the proposal for Fracking in Fermanagh. It was an extraordinary occasion, where the whole community united against a project that would impact on their water, their land, their air and their quality of life and health. Person after person – young, older, Catholic, Protestant, rural, urban – all spoke out and condemned the proposal by Tamboran Resources to start drilling in their neighbourhood in order to find out whether it would be possible to extract shale gas using fracking. All politicians from all parties were challenged to stand up and fight the proposal. All parties present met the challenge (DUP were absent).
And this cross-community, cross-party action worked!
Within 24 hours, the Fermanagh and Omagh Councillors agreed that they were opposed to fracking and called for the Northern Ireland Executive to discuss the issue. Fermanagh District Council then called for an immediate recall of Stormont to ban Fracking, at its monthly meeting on Monday August 4. On August 11th, Minister Mark Durkan declared his decision that the proposal to drill a borehole in Belcoo was a “development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply”. Maybe even more importantly, he stated that his approach was to “proceed on the basis of the Precautionary Principle”. This means that the onus of proof that no harm will be done rests on the Industry rather than the Community. And this is almost impossible given the most recent reports from the US on contamination of water supplies and health impacts, especially on babies.
It is VITAL that the campaign against Fracking be supported by all communities and all sectors in each community.
It is so easy in Northern Ireland for the industry to “divide and conquer” by suggesting that the fracking issue is somehow connected with one tradition. Fracking knows no boundaries; it knows no borders; it pollutes the air that all of us breathe, it contaminates the water that all of us drink; it damages the health of all the community regardless of tradition. The campaign against Fracking includes people that we may not agree with or like; that does not matter in the context of this great danger that threatens us all.
People of Fermanagh – you have endured enough!
Together fight this industry. Join the campaign, work in your own communities in whatever way you can. Only a united campaign will win this war – a war between those who would put wealth above community, above quality of life, above the earth itself and those who want to leave the heritage of this clean and beautiful county to their children and grandchildren. That is the true division that is taking place and it is up to us all to fight to keep God’s land pure and free from the devastation of Fracking.