At the beginning

The process of fracking essentially is the extraction of natural gas (methane) from shale rock using high volume hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is an industrial operation pumping large volumes (over 4 million gallons) of water per well mixed with thousands of tons of sand and chemicals at explosive pressure through the shale, shattering the rock and releasing the gas. This process leads to contamination of groundwaters with heavy metals, chemicals and salts.

Good Energies Alliance Ireland has a long and proud tradition of opposition to fracking. GEAI has been instrumental in achieving the ban of fracking in Ireland and strongly supports any campaign for a similar ban in Northern Ireland. Together with other activists organisations we successfully lobbied for the complete ban of fracking operations in the Republic of Ireland, and the bill was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins in 2017.

The situation in Northern Ireland

However, fracking is still legal in Northern Ireland. Several international oil and gas companies tried to establish a presence in the border county of Fermanagh but faced fierce public pushback. Still, the legality of fracking in the region makes an ever-present threat of international companies exploiting the land.
Things might change in the near future.
Recently proposed by MLA Áine Murphy, Sinn Féin, the Onshore Fracking Bill could be the final step of banning the practice in all of Ireland. In her explanatory memorandum Áine Murphy admitted, that signing the bill would lead to a loss of potential revenue, but at the same time would also push Northern Ireland towards the use of alternative sources of energy. At the same time, she also notes that the “existing consensus against fracking across other jurisdictions reflect an acknowledgement that the risks from environmental and social costs associated with it outweigh any possible benefits”. In an unexpected, but welcome turn of events, during the debate, the Economy Minister G. Lyons, DUP, expressed support for the ban, stating that the “a moratorium and ban on all forms of onshore petroleum exploration and production would remove the possibility of potential adverse societal and environmental impacts on local communities and the rural environment, as no further exploration or development would be permitted”.

Ban Fracking in Northern Ireland

What’s next

We in GEAI hope that both unionist and nationalist parties can agree on future cooperation regarding this issue but disagreements over the Northern Irish Protocol, which led to the collapse of the whole Executive with the resignation of the First Minister, makes this prospect uncertain.
What should people do? If you live in Northern Ireland write to your local representative and ask their position on fracking and the Onshore Prohibition Bill. Make your voice heard!

Join activist groups, both local and cross-border. A vocal presence in the media and a strong stance of communities on these issues can be a powerful tool. For example, following public backlash, the last two shale wells in the UK were closed by the Oil and Gas Authority. A success like that shows how community action can end in an important victory for the environment.

Fracking is a dangerous practice, that pollutes soil and ground waters; GEAI supports the complete ban of this practice in Northern Ireland.

Written by: Ilya Linevich