Well it was a great night in Ballycastle (Tues 7th Feb). About 90 people came out to see Gasland and hear the speakers talking about fracking and what it could mean for us along the North Coast. I’m not sure when the Ferry Terminal or any public meeting in Ballycastle last saw that many people. Thank You all very much for coming out!
The great turnout showed just how interested local people are in finding out more about what fracking is and why it is something we should be concerned about along the North Coast. The meeting attracted people from across the Rathlin Basin (the licenced area), not just residents of Ballycastle. Residents from Ballymoney asked for a similar meeting to be held there, and it looks like some local residents have already begun planning for that.
It was unfortunate that the Rathlin Energy Ltd. company directors were not able to attend. They may have been able to provide more information about their plans or allay residents concerns about the possibility of fracking happening here. The short statement from the company said:
“Rathlin Energy Limited is committed to openness and transparency in relation to every aspect of our activities and operations. We will be engaging widely with the local community in relation to our plans as they are developed.”
When asked to provide reassurance that they would not be undertaking fracking in the area, they said:
“We are not at the point of being able fully to assess the opportunities and challenges of our acreage. When we are ready we will share our plans with the local community and the authorities which guide and regulate us.”
The speakers give us a great insight into the current situation in Northern Ireland with regard to the current licences, the process the companies need to go through to undertake fracking, the political and legal situation, the regulatory system, how well the regulatory system in Northern Ireland works (or doesn’t!), and the reality of what happens in practice. They all urged the public to get involved by lobbying politicians – elected representatives at all levels, from local councillors to MLAs, and Arlene Foster. A member of the audience reminded us to also lobby our MPs, and our MEPs, who play a significant role at the European level.
We need to let them know how we feel about fracking, ask them questions, encourage them to become more educated about it themselves, and about what it actually means for Northern Ireland…not what the companies tell us it means. Remember, these are foreign companies with one aim only – making profit! They will own the gas if they are allowed to extract it, and they can and will sell it to the highest bidder internationally, and at what cost to us? They are not here to provide a public good to the people of Northern Ireland.
A big thank you to all the people who helped out to make the evening happen – especially the Ballycastle Film Club and Moyle District Council – you did a great job. And thanks again to all of the speakers, Cllr Donal Cunningham (SDLP), Steven Agnew MLA (Green Party), Niall Bakewell from Friends of the Earth, independent researcher Dr Aedin McLoughlin from Co. Leitrim, Jim Donaghy from No To Fracking, Vice Chair of Moyle District Council (MDC) Cllr Sandra Hunter (UUP), Chair of the MDC Cllr Padraig McShane (Ind), Cllr Cara McShane (SF) and Daithi McKay MLA (SF). Please note that all North Antrim MLAs were invited to participate, as were all parties represented on Moyle District Council.
A special thank you also to the provider of pure irish mountain spring water for the event, the Glens of Antrim Spring Water Company!
I forgot to mention – a key point from the evening was to support the work of the anti-fracking campaigners in Fermanagh and Leitrim. Preventing fracking in Fermanagh is important for all of us on the North Coast. As a couple of the speakers said – a win in Fermanagh is a win for us too.