”I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.” – William Butler Yeats.
Growing up in Ireland, I had the opportunity of learning about Irish mythology and the stories that were tied to the land, such as Tir Na nOg, an early paradise that lay far off the west of Ireland, a place were sickness and death never existed. I was named after the Hill of Tara in Co. Meath, believed to be the seat of kings until the 6th century. This sacred hill lies in close proximity to Newgrange. Every year, on the 21st of December, the winter solstice, my birthday, light from the rising, winter sun floods the inner chamber of this prehistoric monument and is believed to be a symbol of the days getting longer as well as a signicantly religious event.
It is with this, that I feel a close connection to the land and a determination to protect it.
Whenever I read the first line of The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats, I am reminded of the shear beauty, elegance and purity of the west of Ireland. In March 2011, my vision of this peacefulness was broken when Labour MP, Patt Rabitte awarded exploratory licences to two energy companies in the Lough Allen Basin, North West Ireland.
Canadian-based Tamboran Resources and LANGO (Lough Allen Natural Gas Company) were granted licences to investigate the area over the Lough Allen Basin and explore the possibilities of extracting shale gas from the region.
Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) is a method used to extract natural gas from the ground. The process involves pumping millions of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals, thousands of feet deep into the ground. It has been used in the USA and Australia and has caused widespread environmental damage and water pollution, including death to lifestock and wildlife.
Richard Moorman, chief executive of Tamboran Resources claims to have found reserves of up to 4.4 trillion cubic feet worth £96.5 billion. He promises to open Ireland’s market, providing 3000 jobs over the next 40 years and a long term supply of fuel which would attract international businesses to Ireland.
My heart sunk when I found out that the lake isle, the naturally carved landscape of Co. Clare, Mayo and Leitrim would soon be pierced with 150 wells. Production is expected to peak at 2025 supplying 400 million cubic feet of gas daily. Dreams of Ireland becoming a leader on climate change are fading. Most of the pollution from fracking comes from the evaporation of ‘produced’ water, water that has been pumped into the well and released, containing all the fracking fluids. Farmers who believe they would make money from leasing their land are not thinking about the future pollution clean-up costs. The livelihoods and health of the population are at risk.
In 2014, the EPA will have completed their full independent report on the feasibility for extraction of natural gas in the Lough Allen Basin. Sian Cowman, climate activist with Young Friends of the Earth Ireland, wrote about her concerns that researchers taking part in this report, may have close ties with the fossil fuel industry’s funding body, “…this kind of industry co-opting of scientific studies is becoming more common than you’d think.”
I have lost trust in the government who are looking into the tax benefits of this venture. I have lost trust in experts that are claiming to be doing independent research while oil money is flowing into their bank accounts. The only hope we have is in building our own movement that rises up to the grip the fossil fuel industry has on our natural resources, our land and our water.
On Oct 21st, in Dublin, Young Friends of the Earth Ireland held a FRACtion, an anti-fracking day of action. Young activists took to the streets to raise awareness of the harmful effects fracking has on the environment. People all over Ireland are working in solidarity with groups from Europe, USA and Australia to highlight the dangers of fracking in our community. I believe that our generation can revoke our dependence on fossil fuels and push for a future of renewable, sustainable energy.