Later this month, world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron will meet in the picturesque surroundings of the Lough Erne hotel in Fermanagh. Northern Irish politicians are hoping that the G8 summit will encourage tourism in the region, but many local campaigners believe that Fermanagh’s fabled natural beauty could be destroyed by plans for fracking in the county.
‘The whole purpose has been to draw attention to the idea that these leaders are going to Fermanagh because it is so beautiful but the minister (for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the DUP’s Arlene Foster) is determined to permit extensive use of a technology that would render it a toxic, industrialised swamp,’ Northern Ireland Activism Co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth, Niall Bakewell, told the Sunday Business Post.
Hydraulic fracturing – or ‘fracking’ – is a process of recovering gas and oil using a high-pressure water mixture pumped into holes drilled into shale rock. Fermanagh has emerged as the battleground between opponents and supporters of fracking in Ireland.
While attempts to frack elsewhere have largely come to standstill, Australian exploration company Tamboran Resources has a license to drill for gas in Fermanagh. Tamboran are expected to start fracking next year, with eighteen hundred well bores set to be drilled in west Fermanagh.
‘The result will be the industrialisation of this area,’ said Donal O’Cofaigh of the pressure group Ban Fracking, which has organised a protest in Enniskillen on Monday 17 June, the day the G8 begins.
Last year’s s G8 summit issued a communiqué strongly backing fracking, which has been carried out extensively in the United States.
Next weekend, in Belfast, the largest demonstration against the summit is expected to take place, with trade unions, human rights groups and development and environment NGOs all involved. However, turn out is expected to be much lower than the 150,000 estimated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The PSNI issued a series of warnings to would-be protesters ahead of next weekend’s demonstrations. More than 100 cells at Northern Ireland’s high-security prison, Maghaberry, have been set aside for the two-day event. Surveillance drones and 3,600 police officers from other parts of the UK are being drafted in to work alongside local police
‘The media and the police have said protesters are out for violence. We are saying “there will not be any violence” but people are being put off,’ said Donal O’Cofaigh of Ban Fracking in Fermanagh. ‘If we got everyone opposed to fracking out on the street we’d have a huge crowd.