Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin signals support for fracking ban as international campaign group targets party

Fracking is banned in the Republic, Scotland, England, and Wales. Picture by Mal McCann

SINN Féin last night signalled its support for a ban on fracking ahead of campaign targeting the party.

The move came as a US-based campaign group called on Michelle O'Neill and her party colleagues in the executive to veto any bid by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to grant petroleum exploration licences.

The International Solidarity Campaign to Ban Fracking in Northern Ireland – a coalition of more than three dozen groups backed by US actor Mark Ruffalo – has taken a double page ad in The Irish News today urging the Sinn Féin deputy first minister to block the licences.

They claim the granting of the licences would "open the door for fracking in Northern Ireland" – a practice that has been banned in the Republic, Scotland, England, and Wales.

Tamboran Resources and EHA Exploration have two licence applications pending and are seeking to establish the potential for extracting oil and gas from the ground beneath Co Fermanagh and an area around Lough Neagh, respectively.

The campaigners are due to host an online event tomorrow night and have urged people to register at the website sinnfeinstopfracking.org

The group claims public health concerns about the impact of fracking have not been addressed.

Research commissioned in 2020 by Mr Lyons' predecessor Diane Dodds looking into the impact of fracking alongside conventional oil and gas exploration remains under wraps, though tracts of the Hatch Regeneris report were leaked by a whistleblower last year.

Mr Lyons is expected to bring a paper looking at policy options for oil and gas drilling to the executive shortly.

Last night Sinn Féin moved to remove any doubt around its stance on fracking, while also pre-empting criticism that could follow tomorrow night's online event.

"Sinn Féin support a ban on petroleum licensing, which would ban fracking and any attempts to explore, drill for or extract petroleum in the north of Ireland," a spokesperson said

"Sinn Féin will oppose any policy proposals that come to the Executive that allow the exploration, drilling for or extraction of petroleum."

The ban on fracking is also backed by Alliance and the Greens.

Green MLA Rachel Woods said despite the assembly voting for moratorium on onshore petroleum licensing and drilling in 2020, the Stormont executive had "failed to bring forward a fracking ban".

“The economy minister has repeatedly delayed the publication of the Hatch Regeneris report into the potential impacts of permitting fracking in Northern Ireland, despite it being completed in July last year at a cost of almost £70,000," she said.

"We deserve transparency and clarity from the executive parties, not further delay and indecision on this important issue."

Alliance councillor Eoin Tennyson called for "an immediate statutory ban on all current and future fossil fuel exploration, including fracking".

 

"Naomi Long has previously stated she would vote to block any proposal from the DUP at executive attempting to approve petroleum licensing, and I would call on Sinn Féin to state the same, as well as the DUP to commit to not bringing any such proposal," he said.

The Department of the Economy did not respond.

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