Outright ban on fracking in Ireland should be implemented in the north

An outright ban on fracking in Ireland is days away. Picture by Mal McCann

FRIENDS of the Earth said it hopes a ban on fracking will be implemented in Northern Ireland after the Republic's parliament passed new laws outlawing the controversial practice.

The environmental organisation said the imminent ban could set a precedent for a similar sanction.

A bill to completely ban fracking is believed to be just days away after new laws were passed in the Republic's parliament on Wednesday. President Michael D Higgins is expected to sign it into law in the coming days with a date to be confirmed for the commencement of the ban.

It will be illegal to drill onshore for shale gas from rocks, sands and coal seams after a rural politician backed grassroots campaigners and environmentalists to spearhead legislation.

Ireland joins three other European Union countries - France, Germany and Bulgaria - to ban fracking on land.

Friends of the Earth and Love Leitrim, which helped to spearhead the anti-fracking campaign in the Republic, have both said there is a responsibility to pursue a similar ban in Northern Ireland as many waterways across the region are connected.

James Orr from Friends of the Earth described the decision as a "momentous day for campaigners".

"This is really significant for us in Northern Ireland as some of the politicians in the north can now start to ask questions," he said.

"People all over the world are looking on this as a legendary moment. So many people are going to be encouraged by this.

"The reason this decision came about is due to groups such as Love Leitrim and Friends of the Earth Ireland and for the people who were at Woodburn, they have all help create the conditions that have led to this.

"This is great news and it is hoped it is picked up in the north and across the world."

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture, sometimes using sand and chemicals, is forced into rock.

Openings are created for gas to seep out into deep wells with energy companies have explored for large shale and other tight sandstone deposits in Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Clare.

Love Leitrim's Eddie Mitchell said the issue was national and international, not local.

"We hope that our successful campaign here will be a catalyst for other communities and show what can be achieved," he said.

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