Community mobilises as Fracking threat looms large in Carrickfergus
Protect our Coast and Glens campaign group launch ‘Lock the Gate against Gas’ at Carrickfergus Castle
More than sixty were present for the launch event on Saturday 6th Sept which saw a colourful display of cross-community opposition to the threat posed by unconventional oil and gas mining to the local area.
Campaigners warn that InfraStrata, the company holding the gas exploration license for the region, is likely to move imminently into Woodburn Forest to commence exploratory drilling and that this could open the door to fracking in Northern Ireland. They point to the decision by Minister Mark H. Durkan which halted similar work in Belcoo, Co Fermanagh following a huge local campaign there over concerns that fracking poses a risk to public health and the local economy.
Local campaigner, Dawn Patterson welcomed the strength of attendance at the campaign launch event:
“Saturday’s mobilisation demonstrated that more and more people in the local area are becoming aware of proposals for gas exploration in Carrickfergus. There’s a real risk that Carrickfergus could become the guinea-pig for Shale Gas Development in Northern Ireland after the decision to halt similar drilling in Fermanagh until a full Environmental Impact Assessment is conducted.
“Local campaigners are going door-to-door to explain to their neighbours the serious concerns that exist about this industry and the risks that large-scale industrialisation could contaminate the local environment and give rise to increased health risks.
“There are specific reasons to be concerned about the proposal for exploratory drilling at a site in Woodburn Forest which is only 400m from a key reservoir supplying drinking water to Carrickfergus, Greenisland, Islandmagee, Jordanstown, Newtownabbey and Belfast. The forest is important in environmental terms having two Areas of Special Scientific Interest. What’s more there are specific concerns about the stability of local salt caverns nearby in the context of shale gas drilling.
“Carrickfergus will gain very little from this development in terms of increased local employment or benefit but we will be left to deal with the long-term risks associated with this new and poisonous industry.
“The local communities in Carrickfergus and neighbouring areas have never been consulted about this development which has the potential to permanently change the local environment and threaten public health. We ask how it is that a company with the track-record of Infrastrata can bypass local consultation and simply be gifted this license without local people being asked about it. We are calling for the Environment Minister to intervene immediately to halt work pending a full Environmental and Health Impact Assessment of the proposal”, Ms Patterson concluded.
For further information or to arrange an interview with Dawn Patterson, please contact 07517 797817
Notes for Editors:
· Infrastrata plan to drill approx 2000ft down through an aquifer. Campaigners warn that this could be a first step allowing fracking into Northern Ireland, risking public health and indigenous industries e.g. farming and tourism. (Other sites include Belcoo in Co. Fermanagh and Ballinlea in Co Antrim.)
· Campaign group, Protest our Coast and Glens, is hosting a public information meeting on Monday 7pm, 15th of September in the Windrose, Carrickfergus open anyone who would like to learn more or get involved. The group also maintains a facebook page providing more up-to-date information.