GEAI’s Finest Hour
Last Thursday, history was made in Ireland! A Bill to prohibit exploration and extraction of Petroleum from shale, tight sands and coal seams was brought before the members of the Oireachtas who unanimously supported the Bill and agreed to bring it to the next stage (the committee stage) of the process towards becoming law. This Bill, when enacted, will act as a comprehensive ban on fracking, which is its primary objective. The campaign against fracking has won a significant victory and has proved that fracking is not wanted in Ireland and that opposition to fracking comes from every party in the Dáil and from every province in Ireland.
GEAI indeed has cause to celebrate. It is five years since Good Energies Alliance Ireland was formed to join the campaign against fracking in Ireland. Since then, we have constantly lobbied, politically and though the media, to raise awareness of the harms resulting from fracking and to influence decision-makers locally and nationally to impose a ban on this dirty industry. We have been involved at every level – local, regional and national – at community level as well as at political and academic.
“Stop the Study” – the Turning Point
A turning point in the campaign was last year’s “Stop the Study” campaign, where GEAI spear-headed the drive against allowing the implementation of on-the-ground studies of the suitability of land in Fermanagh and Leitrim for fracking. As a result of the joint action by campaigners, which included:
- research into the facts surrounding the implementation of the study
- an intense social media drive and lobbying of Oireachtas members,
- public meetings,
- a rally in front of Leinster House,
- a presentation to all members inside the House,
- briefing of all TDs,
- special briefing of members of the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee
enough pressure was brought to bear on Government to cause the ground studies to be cancelled and the study to be confined to desktop studies. (This study in now imminent.)
Cross-party support for Tony’s Bill
The issue of Fracking had now become national! This paved the way for the introduction of no less than three Private Members Bills proposing to ban fracking into which GEAI had input. These went into a “lottery” and Tony McLoughlin’s Bill was drawn this month. A frenzy of campaigning started by GEAI, Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and other organisations. Last Thursday saw the culmination of all of this effort – a Bill that sought to prohibit the process of fracking was supported by every party in the Dáil and by every TD who spoke during the debate on 27th October.
“After five years of continuous campaigning against fracking, all the organisations involved in our campaign can celebrate a huge milestone. To have such unanimous support for this Bill is an incredible achievement for local communities threatened with fracking. It shows the strength of the united people’s voice backed with the tools of advocacy and social media. We thank everyone involved and especially Tony McLoughlin TD who brought the bill forward and fought against an amendment that would have delayed the debate. We are delighted that one of our Directors, Eddie Mitchell, was responsible for the wording of the Bill, together with Kate Ruddock from Friends of the Earth.”
(Aedín McLoughlin, Director GEAI)
A word of warning – we are not there yet!
However, the destination has still not been reached. The EPA report is due to be published and we don’t know what this will say about fracking and what influence it will have on government policy; there are legal issues to be addressed and the Bill can be watered down as it goes through committee stage. We will be vigilant and watch carefully to make sure that what the Dáil clearly wants actually happens – a complete and permanent ban on fracking throughout Ireland.