5th June 2017

I was delighted a few days ago to hear the news that the bill to ban fracking in the Republic of Ireland has passed successfully through the Dail. The new law, which started out as a Private Member’s Bill, ended up as government legislation with cross-party support. It now only requires approval of the Seanad before it can be signed by President Michael D Higgins, and is expected to become law before the Oireachtas starts its summer recess.

This is a good moment to restate, once again, my personal commitment to working at every level to obtain a similar ban in Northern Ireland. Much has been achieved here, through the hard work of many campaigning groups and individuals, but a complete ban has always and will continue to be my unshakeable objective. I am proud that the Green Party in Northern Ireland has a longstanding manifesto commitment to ban fracking and that we have led the way consistently on this issue, ever since Steven Agnew brought it to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the first MLA to do so.

We cannot afford to be complacent. The environmental protections which limit the powers of fracking companies are almost all European directives which, post-Brexit, will be vulnerable to amendment and repeal. The prospect of direct rule from a fervently pro-fracking Tory government is a disturbing one. And the judicial reviews taken by Tamboran to try to recover their licence and overturn the planning presumption against fracking are still ongoing.

Across the Irish Sea, in Lancashire and elsewhere, fracking is being imposed on communities against the wishes of local people and the democratic decisions of their councils. I am proud to stand with fellow Green Party candidates such as Caroline Lucas and my friend Tina Rothery who have bravely risked their own liberty to protest at the injustice, destructiveness and sheer stupidity of the fracking experiment. Green Parties across the UK, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales, all share an absolute manifesto commitment to ban fracking once and for all, and as a Green Party MP, I would make supporting, and if necessary introducing, an anti-fracking Bill in Westminster one of my highest priorities.

One of the particular problems we have faced on a UK scale has been the reliance of the Westminster government on the deeply flawed Public Health England report on fracking. By contrast, we and our sister Green Parties are committed to genuinely evidence-based policy. Reliable studies from across the world have demonstrated the grave dangers of fracking to human and environmental health. Our own county of Fermanagh was included in the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s report, jointly commissioned by the Irish and Northern Ireland adminstrations, which identified serious potential impacts including pollution of groundwater aquifers, pollutant and gas migration, and gas emissions following well closure. These impacts were rightly recognised by the Irish government as being so dangerous as to require an immediate ban.

The urgency of obtaining a similar ban in Northern Ireland is clear, and Seán Kyne TD, Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources, has stated in the Dail that it is his intention, as and when the Northern Ireland Executive is restored, to raise the matter of a Northern Ireland ban with his counterparts in the North/South Ministerial Council.

In this, as in so much else, the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the people of Northern Ireland are being sacrificed to the political games that are keeping Stormont silent and stagnant. It is time to put people first, for the traditional parties to reach agreement, restore the Executive and Assembly, and carry forward a Northern Ireland fracking ban.  If they will not do so, we may all pay the price.

14th October 2016

Some variations on a theme….

1014xWednesday’s Fermanagh Herald

1014xbThursday’s Impartial Reporter

1014xaand today’s Irish News

10th August 2016

I’ve had quite a media-ish week, mostly, but not entirely, arising from Theresa May’s bright idea that George Osborne’s ‘shale wealth fund‘ might act as more of an incentive if it were paid to individual householders instead of to local councils.  Obviously, the existence of the proposed fund at all is far from certain, depending as it does on fracking making a profit in the UK, those profits actually being taxed, and there being enough tax revenue thereby for ten per cent of it to mean something.  10% of zero is, of course, zero.  But public support for fracking continues to plummet, and the dangling possibility of a few quid (especially if the equally affected neighbours down the road won’t get it) seems to be what Ms May thinks One Nationhood is all about.

And of course it gave an opportunity to DUP MP (and former NI Environment Minister) Sammy Wilson to wheel out his well-worn anti-Green artillery.  It’s been a couple of weeks since he was last in the headlines, accusing women MPs of ‘voyeurism’ for seeking to breastfeed their babies while at work in the Commons chamber.  That didn’t end too well, with even his party distancing itself, so he was probably relieved to return to the old Green-baiting.  There’s something comforting about a long-established hobby.

Anyway, I was given the job of responding to him, in the original Belfast Telegraph article (see link above), on the Green Party website and on Radio Ulster’s Talkback (begins 45mins in) and Q Radio.  There was also an article about the whole business in today’s Fermanagh Herald (more headline idiosyncrasies – I assume the inverted commas were supposed to be around both the first words, otherwise it appears that Tom and I are definitely warriors but dubiously eco) …

0810x

… and one about the success of the library campaign, too.

0810xa

13th July 2016

Today’s Fermanagh Herald was out in a bit of a post-Twelfth rush, but I’m sure you can tell what I was saying.

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10th March 2016

I’m pleased to see that Roisin Henderson of the Fermanagh Herald has followed up this news on Tamboran, which I sent to the paper last week.  This article appeared in yesterday’s edition.

0310

To give a bit of background about how we found out about this, here is my original press release:

It has been revealed that Tamboran Resources (UK) Ltd, the company which previously held a licence to frack in Fermanagh, has lodged yet another legal application to support its bid to return to the county.

In a reply to a request for information from the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, which includes Steven Agnew MLA, leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, a Departmental Response has been produced by DETI’s Minerals and Petroleum Branch.

This contained the shocking news that Tamboran had submitted an application to the High Court to challenge the adoption of the Strategic Planning Policy Statement. This statement, published in September 2015, included a presumption against fracking in Northern Ireland, and was widely welcomed. This is the third application for judicial review proceedings to be launched by Tamboran since its licence was terminated in September 2014, the other two being still ongoing.

Steven Agnew, responding to the revelation, said:

“The community has shown its opposition to fracking in Fermanagh and across Northern Ireland.

“The Northern Ireland Assembly has also voiced its opposition having previously passed my motion calling for licences to be withdrawn.

“Tamboran should stop wasting their time and the community’s patience, with this legal challenge.”

Green Party member and prominent frack-free activist Tom White from Belcoo added:

“This is the type of industry we’re dealing with; one which will throw legal challenges at every opportunity. We saw an inkling of this with the injunction that was issued when Tamboran were on site. The more we learn about this industry, the more it shows itself to have no place in our society.”

Tanya Jones, Green Party candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and a founder member of the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network said:

“I am appalled, but sadly not surprised by this development. The fracking threat has not gone away, and we cannot afford to be complacent about the future of our beautiful county and our children’s health. I, with my Green Party colleagues, will continue to campaign, inside Stormont and out, until this dangerous, speculative and experimental industry is banned from Northern Ireland forever.”

Tom’s excellent blog, The Gasman Cometh (yes, I’m a Flanders & Swann fan too), is, as ever, well worth reading. He has written recently about the implications of Tamboran’s latest financial deal, as well as about these court proceedings.

18th February 2016

Two of my letters in today’s Impartial Reporter

0218 0218a

17th February 2016

0217An excellent discussion this evening with some of Fermanagh’s frack-free activists about the current situation, what is likely to happen in the future and how Green Party MLAs can work in the Assembly and elsewhere to keep our county clean and safe.  We covered many issues; economic, environmental, international, legal and medical, and discussed the real and sustainable clean energy alternatives which our Executive ought to be supporting.

0217a

20th December 2015

1210bMy cold is beginning to surrender, so I managed to finish writing up my account of the fracking summit in Paris.  In other news, we had lunch at the wonderful Pinsapo Spanish restaurant in Tempo.  M was driving, so I was obliged to drink most of the wine.  The sacrifices I make …

19th December 2015

I’ve finally given into the cold which has been stalking me since Paris, and consequently haven’t done much today except to work on updating the entry for 10th December, the frack-free summit.  Even that isn’t finished yet, though.  Blearghh.

15th December 2015

1Yes, it’s that time again; yet another parliamentary fracking battle.  Tomorrow the The Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015 are to come before the House of Commons and we’re urging MPs to call for a full vote and to oppose them.

This is a continuation of the farce which began in January with the final vote on the Infrastructure Bill.  As you may remember, the government made a few weak concessions which forestalled its own backbench revolt and led the Labour Party and the Guardian to crow that there had been a ‘U-turn’.  Of course, there was no such thing, but it was enough to get the bill passed, and Caroline Lucas’s amendment, calling for a complete moratorium on fracking, to be defeated.  Only fifty-two MPs voted for the amendment, of whom only twenty-two were members of Labour or the SDLP.

Even those fragile promises made by the Coalition government have, of course, been broken, and the vote tomorrow is the cementing of that break.  The assurance that fracking would not be allowed in National Parks or designated groundwater source protection zones has been simply circumvented by redefining what fracking is in the first place.  For more details of this, please read the Friends of the Earth link here.

In January, of course, our MP was Michelle Gildernew who though opposed to fracking, did not take her seat at Westminster and was therefore unable to take part in the debate and vote.  We are now represented by Tom Elliott, who campaigned vigorously on the promise that he would take an active part in Parliamentary business.  While the regulations do not directly apply to Northern Ireland, they will of course be strongly persuasive in guiding the decisions to be taken at Stormont.  I am therefore assuming that Tom, whose party, the Ulster Unionists, eventually decided that it was not to be pro-fracking, will vote against the regulations tomorrow.

If you would like to urge your MP to do likewise, please follow the Friends of the Earth link above, or this one from Greenpeace.