North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that there needs to be further informed debate and public discussion about fractured engineering or ‘fracking’ before planning proposals are moved forward in areas such as the Rathlin basin. He said such a move would be ‘ill-judged’.
Mr McKay was speaking after questioning those involved in the debate surrounding a proposed development in County Fermanagh.
He said: “The debate around ‘fracking’ has been ongoing in Fermanagh and the awareness of it in the Rathlin Basin covering part of North Antrim is growing. The fracking proposed in this instance is relatively new as horizontal fracking of this type and of this scale has only been in practice for a small number of years in places like the US.
“There are clearly risks involved, particularly in terms of tourism and the local water supply if done incorrectly as we have seen in the US. At the end of the Enterprise Committee hearings on this matter we discussed the possibility of a Committee Inquiry on the subject and we believe that this is necessary and would also give the Assembly an opportunity to look at all sides of the argument.
“There does not seem to be any opposition to a public inquiry on the matter either. And given that we are having a public inquiry into the dualling of the A26 I think there is clearly justification in having a public inquiry into a development that could have an adverse effect on tourism on the north coast and the environment if not handled correctly.
“Before any project related to fracking were to even go into the planning process we need to be able to make as accurate an assessment as possible on the environmental impact, the tourism impact and the public health impact. There is a concern that fracking beginning in 2014 is too soon and there is a danger that the debate, the evidence base and a full assessment of the impact will come after fracking begins, not before it as it should be. Rushing into this would clearly be ill-judged.”