11th August – Victory Night in Belcoo
What a night! Campaigners in Belcoo were still trying to take it in at 9 o’clock tonight. The campaign has won its first battle and a halt has been put to Tamboran’s attempt to drill an exploratory well without planning permission or environmental impact assessment (EIA). All weekend, campaigners were tense, wondering what this week would bring. There was a strong feeling that, if permission was given for drilling, the rig would arrive within hours and a confrontation seemed inevitable. There were few smiles and a lot of worry.
Then, all of a sudden, the weight was lifted off everyone’s shoulders – the verdict was given from Stormont and a big cheer went up from the camp. “We did it! We’ve won!” People were hugging each other, beaming, this was something that everyone could rejoice in – young, old, from both traditions, from all parties or none – it was an amazing scene. Heavy showers were not even felt. And to mark this new beginning, a rainbow framed the land beside the camp.
“Permitted development rights do not apply”
The Minister for Environment (N.I.), Mark H Durkan in a short speech had given his judgement. “I have given very careful consideration to Tamboran’s proposal to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry near Belcoo and whether this is permitted development under current legislation. I have concluded that this is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply. In making this assessment I have been mindful of my Department’s responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected at all times and that full consideration is give to any likely significant environmental impacts of such a proposal.”
He also said, “In arriving at this decision I believe I must proceed on the basis of a precautionary principle.” This is an important statement. It means that the industry must prove that the proposed project is safe; this includes evaluating all risks and proposing prevention and management strategies.
We have won
But tonight is not a night for too much analysis other than knowing that, while an important battle is won, the war continues. For tonight we can rejoice and be glad. The overwhelming feeling is love – love of the land, love of each other, even love of this campaign that has brought us together, regardless of creed, class or culture. And we have won!
We have shown it can be done!