Hydraulic fracturing is set to be banned in Ireland after the Seanad passed legislation on Wednesday outlawing the practice.
The House supported a Private Members’ Bill originally introduced in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin.
The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 was passed in the Dáil two weeks ago, and now goes to the President for signature.
It is the first Private Members’ Bill to be passed by both Houses during the lifetime of the minority Government, and will mean Ireland joins France, Germany and Bulgaria in banning the practice onshore.
Members of campaigning organisations such as Love Leitrim and Friends of the Earth were in the visitors’ gallery for the Committee and Report Stages of the debate.
Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan introduced an amendment, later rejected, calling for the Government to refuse to extend or renew exploration licences for oil or gas. She said the State was signing up to international agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time signing oil, gas and coal exploration licences which would increase global temperatures above the 1.5 degree C and 2 degree C limit.
“Our current energy policy is nothing less than a complete contradiction, a policy that can only lead to one conclusion: we should keep the petroleum in the ground.”
She said many might think this impractical, and say it would endanger current energy security. “However, just this week the new French government led by Emmanuel Macron has announced that it will do exactly what is proposed in the amendment.”
Fianna Fáil spokesman on natural resources Terry Leyden said his party supported the Bill 100 per cent. “We would like to have introduced such a Bill ourselves.”
Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said she appreciated Ms O’Sullivan’s motivation because she was from the area of the controversial Corrib gas project. She said “our aim should be to phase out fossil fuels and create a greener and more self-sufficient island when it comes to energy”.
Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan said the Bill “will ensure fracking will not occur in lovely Leitrim, Cavan, Fermanagh and Sligo”.
Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins paid tribute to those involved in the campaign to end fracking, and said she also gave credit “to the wider movement that is asking the important questions around fossil fuels”.
She pointed to the movements for divestment from fossil fuels by agencies such as Trócaire, Trinity College Dublin and National University of Ireland, Galway.