Dec 2nd people gathered from various towns and villages across Leitrim to urge Leitrim County Councillors to insert a ban on ‘fracking’ into the County Development Plan. There were also representatives present from anti-fracking groups of neighbouring counties.
It was understood by many that Cllr. Gerry Dolan’s motion to insert a ban into the development plan, was to be tabled again and voted on at the public council meeting. However the matter was dealt with at a private committee, where both members of the public and the media are not permitted to attend.
After the committee meeting Cllr. Dolan and others came out to inform the public that the issue was discussed and that he and other members rejected the current reference to ‘unconventional hydrocarbons’ (ie.shale gas) in the draft development plan, which basically states that Leitrim County Council will wait for government policy on the issue.
What was then decided by the committee meeting is summarised below by Cllr. Gerry Reynolds FG, at the beginning of public council meeting that followed. Cllr. Reynolds was acting chairman today for Councillor Sean McDermott who was absent. Cllr Sean McDermott recently chaired the Good Energies Alliance conference in Carrick-on-Shannon, when guest speaker Deborah Rogers, who is a financial consultant and advisory committee member within the U.S. Department of Interior, explained the boom bust, damaging economics behind fracking.
Cllr Reynolds at beginning of Council meeting – “I know there’s a number of people here in the public gallery that have been outside for some time and I would just like to re-iterate to them that, on behalf of all the members of Leitrim County Council, we had a long discussion on a the issues of the draft of the development plan, and the decision that the council has taken presently is that a number of councillors will sit down in conjunction with the executive over the next week and discuss the wording of a the issue that was being discussed. We have another meeting on the 16th of December to discuss the draft county development plan and hopefully we’ll be in a position to agree on wording by all the members. Then it will be discussed at a public meeting in January, the draft development plan and it will go on display after that so that’s the up-to-date position on it and I would like to thank all the members of the council for their co-operation and that we will be able to work together over the next couple of weeks to try and get the matter resolved satisfactorily”.
Numbers fluctuated at the protest outside Leitrim County Council Offices today. Over the three and a half hours, between 120 and 150 people joined the protest. On leaving many people expressed disappointment and concern at how Cllr. Dolan’s motion was essentially moved from being dealt with openly in the council meeting, to being discussed and deferred from behind closed doors. There was certainly a strong feeling from many, that there was a lot of politics at play in Leitrim County Council this evening.
People left Carrick-on-Shannon this evening in the understanding that between now and Dec 16th, every councillor must be lobbied very strongly yet again. The message is very clear to each member of Leitrim Co.Co. and those representing their communities who bothered to come out to protect this areas future sent that message loud and
clear. We want a statement inserted into the development plan that states “unconventional oil and gas exploration and extraction (hydraulic fracturing) is prohibited (banned, not permitted) in County Leitrim”, no if’s or buts, untils or while we wait for …You are
either for this industry being introduced to this area or not.
There was a fantastic atmosphere at this evenings protest, with our very own “anti-fracking xmas carol singers” to keep us entertained. We urgently need to build on this protest and continue to ensure that each member of Leitrim County Council know exactly what they must do to protect the future of this area. People can make submissions to all councillors regarding the “wording” of the statement for the development plan, this MUST be done between now and before Monday 16th of December.
A show of solidarity with the people of Barton Moss in the U.K, Elsipogtog New Brunswick, Poland and Romania was also present at this evenings protest. These communities are presently, under frightening and extreme circumstances, putting up a strong fight to protect themselves against this industry who are being facilitated by their respective governments and state police.
Photo’s by Gearóid ó Loinsigh.