A testament to the strength of the campaign against fracking

Young people, older people, women, men, locals and blow-ins, visitors and those who live in or beside the camp for days or weeks on end – Belcoo camp maintains a constant 24-hour presence at the entrance to the quarry targeted for exploratory drilling.  The photo above shows some young campaigners in front of the entrance to the quarry.  On top of this fence are layers of razor wire, so sharp that an accidental brush against it caused a cut to a local person’s ear.   Behind the fence are security guards.  Patrolling the area are members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Visiting the camp entails turning off the main Enniskillen Road and following the handmade signs to the quarry.  There are signs “no alcohol, no drugs” as well as the expected “No fracking” signs.  Prominant on the fence is the Code of Conduct agreed by the campaigners.  Peaceful protest;  respect each other, the police and people who do not agree with us, no personal attacks; those are some of the conditions.  Also on the fence is pinned the terms of the injunction imposed on “Unknown Persons”, Fermanagh Fracking Aware Network, and other organisations campaigning against fracking.

Belcoo camp 1On a casual visit to the camp last Friday (August 1st) there was a lot of discussion about the injunction and its legality.  It was considered likely that it was not legally sound and that it could be challenged.  There was also much discussion about how the camp could be maintained sustainably – what it needs physically (fridge, freezer, washing machine, bottles of gas, for example), how relationships are built with local people, what will happen in the future.  Present were some people who had experience of similar operations in other parts of the country but mainly people who never would have taken part in campaigns before.  The atmosphere was calm and welcoming, there was a cup of tea offered to all visitors.

One of the most striking elements of the camp was the contrast between the entrance to the target quarry with its undertone of violence and the view on the other side of the lane of the most wonderful Fermanagh countryside – Lough MacNean stretching into the distance, wooded mountains, valleys and that peace that comes with an untouched landscape that obviously has remained the same for thousands of years.  If anything could convince one that fracking must not come to Northern Ireland, this scenario has to. Industrialisation of this area by the fossil fuel industry would be nothing short of sacrilege – one of the most beautiful counties of Ireland, where beauty and landscape heritage abound; a land coming out of a period of conflict where peace is fragile and needs to be nurtured; a people who have farmed the land for generations and have a soul connection with it.  This is no place for an industry such as fracking that would take over vast tracts of land and change them forever.

The Belcoo Camp must be supported by all who support the campaign against fracking.  Everyone who can should visit the camp and stay for as long as they can showing solidarity.  If people want to help, all it takes are the questions, “How can I help?  Is there anything  needed?”   And please pray that this commitment by so many people will result in defeat for the companies that want to take over our land and use it in ways that destroy the fabric of our communities, our environment and our spirit.