Sinn Fein have been very quiet on Infrastrata’s project in Woodburn Forest ? I think questions need to be asked about why ?
I was present at the Sinn Fein conference in the Lough Erne hotel when via videolink Dr Tony Ingraffea expressed disbelief that an oil and gas drilling project was to proceed within 400M of a reservoir that supplies 130K people with drinking water. An important point also made was that we are now into riskier drilling. All the easy to get oil and gas is gone, any project that is proposed now is by nature riskier – whether that be into shales, coal or tight sandstone. These wells and well sites have a poorer record.
Sinn Fein refused to support the petition of referral of the Minister’s decision to grant a new 5 year term to the drilling company Infrastrata. I wrote to some of the hierarchy of Sinn Fein a message regarding this and have not had a reply on the matter.
The lack of comment from Sinn Fein, is notable. One can speculate what the reasoning is, however we in Fermanagh need Sinn Fein to make a statement about where they stand. To be very clear there are precedents that have been set here which allow the foot in the door for the oil and gas industry into Northern Ireland and the Republic. Remember that this industry acts together to lobby Governments and force openings so the industry will prosper, which may mean a few companies not getting their way in order that the industry can gauge reaction to different methods of attack. Its also clear from Tamboran’s case, that the industry will attempt to use development in the North, to push forward their licence in the Republic.
Sinn Fein Ministers have questions to answer. Michelle O’Neill and the Forestry Service will claim they couldn’t do anything about the drill happening in Woodburn because they only rented the land from NI Water, however, its clear that an EIA is still required for change of land use and deforestation decisions. The Forestry Service seems to have shrugged their shoulders and handed that responsibility to NI Water, which seems a very odd manner in which to manage the forestry in Northern Ireland.
Then we have Meehan Drilling involved in the project. Meehans are originally from Fermanagh, moved to Louth and our research would show them as having connections to Sinn Fein. Louth is Gerry Adams constituency. Which brings us back to the Sinn Fein conference. Again we attempted to extract a statement from Sinn Fein on their Oil and Gas Policy in Northern Ireland, and it effectively boils down to ‘we will block fracking at the Executive level’. But the Executive meetings are not minuted, and even so by then exploration and other projects have completed to such an extent that companies can make a claim against the Government.
We don’t quite know what an oil and gas industry based on Infrastrata’s ‘Conventional drilling’ will look like. The Oil and Gas industry know that ‘fracking’ and other terms immediately result in Public Relations problems and stir up resistance to their plans. Remember the only thing conventional mentioned by Infrastrata is that this is a ‘conventional well’. Rathlin proposed the same ‘conventional wells’ on the North coast, but proposed 8 wells per square mile to tap the reserves. The only reason this drilling is happening in a forest is so that it is hidden and an attempt is being made to keep the true scale of plans hidden. If oil were to be found at Woodburn, this would be the first of many drill sites that would be required, and the legislation exists for sites to be acquired via compulsory purchase. Sinn Fein are playing their part, by their refusal to ask questions about Infrastrata, and to focus on what an oil and gas industry in Antrim would look like. They may see further electoral losses as the PBP and Green Party have at least shown action and questioned the true nature and scale of what is proposed for Woodburn and Northern Ireland and the Republic in general.