6th June: From Game of Thrones to the Games of Politics

6th of June was a bank holiday in Ireland, a proper way to begin the summer!

Here at GEAI the volunteers celebrated by taking a road trip to Antrim  that ended up with a rally and debate at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Parliament.

On our way, we stopped at the Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue with beech trees, planted in the 18th century near Stranocum, County Antrim. Lately it become famous thanks to the Game of Thrones that filmed several scenes on this road.13407712_10156926586265231_1719594546_n

 

After that we headed to one of the places I most wanted to see: The Giant’s Causeway. This is a World Heritage site in one of the most amazing coasts in Europe.

The Causeway was born due to volcanic activity when highly fluid molten rock was forced up through fissures in the chalk bed to form an extensive lava plateau. The rapidly cooling lava contracted and variations in the cooling rate resulted in the world famous columnar structure. The columns are mainly hexagonal though there are some with up to eight sides.

All the geological explanations will not stop me from marvelling at them. It is absolutely amazing what nature can do!

After photos and a very nice walk we moved a bit more east on the coast to see how ‘dangerous’ is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

This bridge was built by a fisherman to help him get to this volcanic island that is a good place for salmon. Initially was just rope now it is made of from wood planks and ropes and it is a touristic attraction for adrenaline seekers. We were not so impressed with the ‘danger’, it is safe, just don’t look down! 🙂 The most amazing thing was the colour of the water, the landscape looked so exotic!

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After this stop we took the coastal road down to Belfast were we attended the demonstration of anti-fracking groups in front of the Parliament Buildings at Stormont making use of our “Stop the Drill” banner! Also we manage to see the debate.

To our surprise the debate was quiet and polite! But we were happy to see support in the public gallery from the campaigners against drilling in the north.

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What a day!!

 

 

 

Alice

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POWERFUL DEMONSTRATION OF ANTI-FRACKING CAMPAIGN AT STORMONT

Over 100 campaigners gathered yesterday outside Stormont to show solidarity with the Stop the Drill campaign and to protest against the introduction of the petroleum extractive industry in Northern Ireland.  From all over Ireland people came – Leitrim, Fermanagh, Sligo, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Roscommon and Clare, joined by members of political parties and Trade Unions.

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Rally at Stormont

“This was truly an all-Ireland gathering to show the growing strength of the anti-fracking campaign,” said Aedín McLoughlin, Spokesperson for GEAI.  “We stood together with our fellow campaigners from North and South and pledged our continuing support for all efforts to stop this destructive industry from gaining a foothold in Ireland.  We are well aware that this drill by Infrastrata in north Belfast is only an exploratory drill but what happens if they hit oil or gas?  Then the scenario changes to the extraction phase with plans for hundreds of well, using thousands of vehicles per well, high risks of environment and human health damage, water pollution, and communities as well as the earth shattered.”

“The only way to stop this industry in its tracks is to impose NOW a ban on all on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) from rock.  Nothing less will be enough.  We have already heard the weasel words from the industry, “We are not using fracking”.  Maybe not while drilling an exploratory well.  But for extraction of oil or gas on a commercial scale from rock, there is no other way than by shattering the rock using water and chemicals, with multiple wells over large areas of land.  Fracked land is fracked land and the impacts on communities is the same, regardless of the details of extraction.”

“We call for the governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland to pass legislation now, as a matter of urgency, to impose a ban on all on-shore exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) from rock,” Aedín concluded.

Rally outside Stormont on Monday

Woodburn 220516Debate on Permitted Development

On Monday 6th at Stormont there will be a Northern Assembly debate on the drilling in Woodburn Forest.

Rally in front of Parliament Buildings 5.45 pm for show of solidarity with the Stop the Drill campaign and photo opportunity. The debate itself is scheduled to start between 6 and 8pm.  The debate can be viewed from the public gallery.

This is an opportunity for the anti-fracking campaign to show the strength of its opposition to the drilling in Carrickfergus and any future plans for extraction of oil or gas throughout the licence area. Legislation must be put in place to stop this industry. We need as many people as possible to support this campaign. Come and join our peaceful rally!

Drilling in Antrim – a Disaster!

Fracking now a distinct possibility

The oil and gas industry now have a foothold in Northern Ireland – Infrastrata has come in under the shelter of “permitted development”, which they obtained by default, and is drilling an exploratory well that could be later used for fracking in Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus.  They are drilling down over 6,000 feet (2 km) to look for oil or gas reserves in sandstone or shale rock underground and have already gone through the local aquifer.  The well is directional (extending horizontally as well as vertically) and its dimensions are similar to natural gas production wells in US.  The drill has operated day and night since last week and is descending into the earth at a rate of 1,000 feet per day.

‘Permitted Development’ – permission to operate without EIA
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Woodburn Drill on Sunday 22nd May 2016

“Serious failures in governance could allow Infrastrata to acquire oil and gas extraction rights over 200 sq miles in Northern Ireland. We are only days away from the company potentially securing extraction rights for all petroleum in the Larne-Lough Neagh Basin,” said Eddie Mitchell from GEAI.

“We were shocked to see the drilling site on Sunday,” said Aedín McLoughlin.  “High fences, razor wire, security with dogs, enormous police presence – this is a military-style operation.  The drilling rig is enormous and it is clear that this is far from being a simple exploratory drill.”

“The campaign against fracking is now five years old and has very successfully prevented drilling in Leitrim and Fermanagh and also caused the stalling of the EPA study on fracking being led by industry players.   In our wildest dreams we could not imagine that the industry could come on site without planning permission or Environmental Impact Assessment.  But they have.”

This project is truly bizarre – the drilling site, which is owned by NI Water, was leased to this mining company although only 400 metres from a water reservoir feeding 130,000 people (why?).  Also, to facilitate the drilling operation, the local Woodburn River has been diverted by NI Water without reference to the Habitats Directive.  It would appear that there are systemic failures in the areas of planning and regulation in Northern Ireland.”

A Dangerous Project

“This drill must be stopped now! If the first introduction of drilling shows such disregard for planning and EU regulations, what would happen if this company hit oil or gas reserves and were then granted full petroleum rights in this area?  Thousands of wells, horrendous water and air pollution, disruption of local communities and huge damage to roads and other infrastructure.  This could be the situation even if fracking was not needed to extract the oil or gas. And if the company wanted to frack, threats of enormous compensation claims could force that permission” Aedín claimed.  “Only this week, a North Yorkshire Council gave permission to frack a well that is two miles deep and was drilled some time ago.  This drilling project in Antrim is too dangerous.  It could lead to massive exploitation of the area by the oil and gas industry and to fracking, with all its attendant well-documented impacts on the environment and on human health.“

FG TD introduces Ban on Fracking Bill

Tony McLoughlin TD has begun process of developing new legislation

11169407_399929890204803_4742650247145535238_oIn response to the “very worrying developments occurring in Northern Ireland with regard to fracking”, Tony McLoughlin is to submit a Private Members Bill to the Dáil which seeks to prohibit onshore fracking.

Press Release

Fine Gael T.D. for Sligo – Leitrim Tony McLoughlin has begun the process of developing new legislation which he hopes will result in the prohibiting of the exploration and extraction of petroleum from shale rock, tight sands and coal seams in the Irish onshore and Ireland’s internal waters.

“As a T.D. for counties which would be decimated if fracking was allowed to occur, I want to see action on this issue by the new Government” stated McLoughlin.

“The decision process with relation to formulating Government policy on fracking has gone on too long in my opinion and we now are in a position where we need to take action on the issue”.

“There is clear evidence already in the public domain about the damaging effects of this practice of extraction”. “We are also aware that the basin in Ireland is too shallow for it to be conducted safely and without damage to the environment”.

“Several Common Law Jurisdictions, similar to our own, have already taken legislative steps to ban the practice”. “I now want Ireland and this Government to follow this international trend and quickly”.

“There are some very worrying developments occurring in Northern Ireland with regard to fracking, which both Sinn Féin or the DUP have not been able to prevent”. “I do not want to see a similar situation occur in this State”.

“With regard to the Private Members Bill I am submitting, I have received technical advice as to the wording of this Bill from experts in the field, which will hopefully enable it to pass through the pre-legislative scrutiny element very quickly”.

“I have also wrote to the new Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Denis Naughton T.D. to suggest to him to consider implementing this legislation which would prohibiting fracking from occurring in the Republic of Ireland.”

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