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Controversial exploratory oil drill in Co Antrim raised by TD in Dáil

Richard Boyd Barrett, a People Before Profit TD, raised the issue of the exploratory oil drill at Woodburn Forest in the Dáil. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
John Monaghan

THE issue of an exploratory oil drill project in Co Antrim has been raised in the Dáil.

Richard Boyd Barrett, a People Before Profit TD, described InfraStrata's commencement of drilling at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus as a "very significant and alarming event."

Mr Boyd Barrett said: "Although NI Water claim there is no danger to the water, they have had to close three reservoirs down.

"They (InfraStrata) started this test drilling without planning permission, without an environmental assessment and without any consultation.

"This is very significant for down here because it opens the door and sets a precedent for test drilling," added the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown TD.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald of Fine Gael, dismissed Mr Barrett's concerns.

She told the Dáil: "It doesn't set a precedent for us here. Our position on fracking was made clear by the last government and remains the case. I understand there are no plans for legislation (to ban fracking) at the moment."

A judicial review into the Woodburn Forest project was adjourned at Belfast High Court yesterday and will be heard again on Wednesday.

InfraStrata has said the work will take around six weeks to complete.

Environmental protesters, who have expressed concerns about the potential effect on supplies of drinking water, have set up a camp on the edge of the site with one man arrested last week after he attempted to stop drilling by chaining himself to a crane.

The CEO of InfraStrata, Andrew Hindle, said that the plans would benefit the local economy by "an estimated £1 million" and added that the company were committed to "completing this project in an environmentally responsible and safe manner and will seek to minimise disruption for local residents at all times."

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