Anti-fracking activists including Mark Ruffalo chide SF over issue

Campaign holding protests outside Sinn Féin offices in Dublin, Limerick, Clare and Belfast

 

Anti-fracking campaigners including Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo are stepping up a campaign targeted at Sinn Féin amid claims that the party is not doing enough to prevent this form of petroleum extraction in Northern Ireland.

The campaign involves 37 climate action groups, including Extinction Rebellions. This week it is holding protests outside Sinn Féin offices in Dublin, Limerick, Clare and Belfast.

The groups have also written to TDs and Senators highlighting their claim that Sinn Féin in government in the North has failed to prevent fracking from becoming a reality in the future.

The groups have raised concerns that a new petroleum licensing policy, proposed by the North’s Minister for the Economy Gordon Lyons of the DUP, could open the door for the approval for two major fracking applications in Fermanagh and around Lough Neagh.

They have also cited industry reports that fracked gas could be exported by pipeline from Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea to Britain. They also claim that Sinn Féin, which holds the office of Deputy First Minister, has not prevented the policy from progressing.

The groups have argued that notwithstanding tabling an anti-fracking Bill in the Assembly in November 2021, Sinn Féin’s position to fracking in the North was not as absolute as it was in the Republic where the party has expressed total opposition to any form of fracking.

Sinn Féin has rejected the claim. “Sinn Féin is very clear in our opposition to the approval of petroleum licences, including those involving fracking, and to any attempts to explore, drill for or extract petroleum in the North of Ireland,” said a spokesman on Tuesday.

“There is no place for petroleum development in the North. We have called on the Economy Minister to bring forward proposals to ban petroleum licensing.

“Sinn Féin will oppose any policy proposals that come to the Executive that allow the exploration, drilling for or extraction of petroleum. That is Sinn Féin’s unequivocal and clear position,” added a spokesman.

Michael McSharry from Extinction Rebellion with other members of Climate Action Groups outside the Dáil calling on Sinn Féin to stop fracking in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Michael McSharry from Extinction Rebellion with other members of Climate Action Groups outside the Dáil calling on Sinn Féin to stop fracking in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

He continued: “In the absence of action to prevent fracking by the DUP Economy Minister or, indeed, other parties in the Assembly, Sinn Féin has introduced legislation to ban fracking.”

Long-standing campaigner

Mr Ruffalo has been a long-standing campaigner on environmental issues and has been deeply involved in anti-fracking campaigns since the area in which he lives in New York State was targeted for fracking.

“It’s alarming that a prominent gas company is reporting to its shareholders that Northern Ireland will supply gas to England,” he said this week.

“This means that the gas industry is still targeting Northern Ireland and the DUP’s new energy plan sets the stage for fracking under the guise of ‘renewable gas’ and blue hydrogen.

“Sinn Féin should listen to the communities who live in the areas threatened by fracking, condemn DUP’s energy plan and immediately enact a policy to prohibit petroleum [oil and gas] licensing,” he added.

Other groups have said they are not convinced by Sinn Féin’s stance on the issue in the North. “How is it that Sinn Féin who is supposed to be an all-island party that stands up for the people is not taking a stand when our water, land, air and our very lives are being threatened by the DUP in concert with the oil and gas industry?” asked Eddie Mitchell, a spokesman for Love Leitrim, an anti-fracking group in Co Leitrim. “It’s time for Sinn Féin to stand up against this now.”