Two Fermanagh politicians have failed to give a definitive answer on whether they or their party are opposed to fracking in Northern Ireland.
On the BBC’s Inside Politics podcast with Mark Devenport on June 29, DUP councillor, Deborah Erskine, and UUP MLA, Rosemary Barton were responding to a question from anti-fracking campaigners Tom White and Frankie McMurray which asked do the representatives and their parties accept that “we should divest from fossil fuels and follow the growing evidence from around the world that fracking in Northern Ireland is over and ban both fracking and the importation of fracked gas into Northern Ireland”?
In response, Councillor Erskine said she believes that “we should be allowing the experts to come forward with the environmental assessments they have made”.
“In 2015 the Executive had a strategic planning policy and that set out that there was a presumption against fracking unless you know there was robust evidence being brought forward in terms of the environmental impact.
“So I think that we should be again guided by the scientific experts on this and if there is robust environmental impacts on Fermanagh we need to look at that because Fermanagh as we have already said it’s so important for our tourism industry and you know we can’t have destruction and I know there is concern about the environment and drinking water and that so we need to look at the evidence that experts come forward with.”
Mrs. Barton said her party were currently collecting evidence, especially in Fermanagh, on the benefits and disadvantages of fracking.
“We are putting that evidence together to make a decision. It’s something we have been weighing up. We are very conscious the problems that there are with fracking we are also very conscious that there are some benefits to it. And we are still weighing that up.”
Sinn Féin’s Jemma Dolan, who was also on the programme, felt that the presumption against fracking should be hardened and that the party were looking at bringing a motion of all island ban on fracking to the assembly.
“We can’t afford the negative impact on our tourism or our environment. We made it clear and have made it clear we are fundamentally opposed to fracking.”
Responding to what he heard on the programme, Tom White said it was worrying that none of the replies mentioned public health while the country is in the midst of public health crisis.
“In 2014 a moratorium (later a ban) on Fracking was enacted in New York State due to the negative Public Health impacts of the industry. In 2017 the Irish Government concluded on the basis of the joint EPA study into fracking on the island of Ireland, a study carried out by the industry itself, that fracking should be banned south of the Border.
“Most experts agree the current Public Health crisis will be dwarfed by the impacts of climate change, particularly if we continue on our current trajectory. This current Public Health crisis has shown us that the precautionary principle should be central to our decision-making process.
“It’s time a ban on fracking was enacted here, similar to the one in the Republic.”