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Corbyn's Labour are dead against it, but what's the up-to-date situation with fracking in Ireland?

The controversial gas-extraction technique tends to inspire strong emotions in people living in areas affected by it.

shutterstock_355852043 Source: Shutterstock/Calin Tatu

FRACKING IS A word that tends to inspire strong emotions in people.

A relatively new industry, hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of blasting deep through shale rock to access gas and fuel deposits contained therein.

Those who speak against the practice tend to make the argument that it’s environmentally unstable and can have tremendously negative effects on everything from water supply to air quality to the structural integrity of buildings.

The flipside of course is that the shale gas deposits seen in much of the northwest are estimated to be worth in excess of €120 billion. The existence of those deposits has never been a secret, but the emergence of fracking as a potentially viable extraction method is what brought them to the fore.

The process has had a relatively low profile here for much of the last two years since Leitrim county council voted to ban the practice in the shale-rich area to be found in and around the county’s northern border (other counties in the Republic affected include Cavan, Sligo, Donegal and Roscommon).

At present, the Environmental Protection Agency is compiling a detailed report, three years in the making, on the viability and effects of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction (UGEE) methods such as fracking.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as UK Labour leader on Sunday last. And one of the first commitments made under his newly-mandated leadership was a promise to ban fracking entirely in the UK should Labour be elected to government.

This isn’t that remarkable a position in Britain – both Scotland and Wales currently have moratoriums placed on the controversial drilling practice while further research takes place. Labour’s announcement does seem to up the ante however.

Bills bills bills

24/3/2016. Talks To Form A New Government Eamon Ryan Source: Leah Farrell

In the current Dáil there are no fewer than three political motions planned in opposition to fracking:

However, at present the entire issue is in abeyance here pending the arrival of the above-mentioned EPA report into fracking.

So the two bills mentioned, neither of which are as yet moving through the legislative process, seem to be a little redundant. What you can see them as is a sort of marker, to keep the subject in the public consciousness.

The fact there’s two of them can be seen perhaps as different parties seeking to claim credit for championing the issue.

“The subject has been put back on the long finger recently,” says Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party, who says his party’s joint motion on the subject will be actioned if and when the subject comes centre-stage once more.

I think personally it should be permanently put on the long finger.

Ryan is not overly concerned however, and says his “political sense” tells him that there isn’t much traction in government for proceeding with fracking.

“I don’t think it’ll get by first base in this country, at least I certainly hope it doesn’t,” he says.

Plus the Minister for the Environment (Denis Naughten) is from Roscommon, where the threat of water pollution is greatest. I don’t see it as having support.

Read: ‘The status quo is long past its sell-by date’: Campaigners hit out as Ireland ignores the UN

Read: This is Ireland’s tidiest town

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