Photos by Dervilla Keegan and Joe Sheerin below.
The daggers were out at the Love Leitrim debate chaired by Johnny Gogan in the Bee Park Manorhamilton Saturday Feb 13th. 13 candidates turned up and the crowd saw allegations and counter allegations in what at times was like a competition on who was the best antifracking candidate in the room. Councillor Gerry Reynolds, who voted against a ban on fracking in Leitrim County Council notably did not put his hat in the ring, as he did not even attend the meeting.
John Perry TD reinforced his ‘total opposition’ to fracking on the night. Clarity sought is still outstanding into a statement received prior to the meeting in which he said, “Until more scientific information becomes available as to the merits and demerits of fracking technology, I do not wish to commit to a specific pro or anti decision at this time”
Declan Bree warned the audience of believing promises and reminded those in attendance of the broken promises that some candidates had made in relation to Cancer services. He traced his track record against fracking including a recent motion to have a ban included in the Sligo County Development Plan that was voted down by sitting FF and FG councillors. One of the FF councillors Bree referred to was in attendance.
Independent Maire Casserly took the opportunity through her opening statement to inform the crowd of the latest European Parliament vote to ask member states not to authorise any new Fracking in the EU.
But it was the status of the EPA study into fracking that took centre stage. Love Leitrim were on record in a recent radio interview by Johnny Gogan who stated that they felt “ the Study has not been stopped but kicked into the next government” but it was now time for the candidates. Tony McLoughlin when quizzed on the status of the study claimed that Minister Joe McHugh expressed that they would not be going ahead with Phase 2.
It was clear that nobody in the room was taking this at face value without a press release from the relevant departments.
Martin Kenny alleged that FG were electioneering and carrying out political stunts stating the coincidence that on the “day the election was called that the study was stopped” adding he would not trust that.
The stakes were raised when candidates were asked would they resign if fracking came in and Tony McLoughlin maybe feeling like he had to make up ground from Kenny said if fracking came in it would be “over his dead body”
Susan O Keeffe late to the antifracking cause said that she had spent a long time trying to form an opinion and now came out as opposed to fracking . She said that if it came in “it can proceed without me”. Finbarr Filan (Renua) and Leslie O Hora (Green Party) also outlined their opposition to fracking. Filan recounted how he had linked up with Love Leitrim members in his information gathering and was now strongly opposed.
Before the meeting was adjourned a discussion on TTIP was covered where Marc MacSharry FF reminding the audience how he wore his ‘farming not fracking’ jersey in the past also referring to TTIP said he had “large concerns concerning it and how it would threaten farming’. Nigel Gallagher From PBP who supported the ‘Stop the Study’ campaign in the Dail strongly voiced his opposition to TTIP. Eamon Murray who has attended meetings of Love Leitrim to contribute his time to the antifracking movement said he too opposed TTIP.