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Gas ‘fracking’ could spell disaster for tourism

A Chara, There is much controversy and disquiet concerning the planned hydraulic fracturing gas extraction (fracking) in the north west of Ireland and parts of Kerry, Cork, Limerick and Clare.

Much is being made of the promise of some jobs and investment. I think we need to consider the bigger picture here.

The two largest industries in Ireland, which together employ over 300,000 people, are agriculture (output over €5 billion every year) and tourism (foreign exchange earnings over €4.5 billion every year).

These are existing jobs, not promised ones! These are both very sustainable industries, which can go on indefinitelyif we look after them. These industries are unlikely to be suddenly relocated elsewhere and it is significant that they are largely owned by individuals and families throughout the country. Add in the wider food industry and the jobs total exceeds 500,000.

Now think of Spanish cucumbers. It took just a rumour of contamination to devastate that industry’s exports. If anyone thinks the impending fracking in Fermanagh, to be followed in other counties, will go un-noticed by consumers in France –where they’ve banned fracking after a national debate – and other countries we export to, I think they are in need of a wake-up. Agricultural exports could collapse very shortly after word gets out about what’s being planned in our countryside! And the collapse could last a very long time.

And tourism: we have very beautiful country – we must have, if it draws people prepared to pay nearly a fiver a pint here! I was going to say uniquely beautiful, but that’s not so. There are plenty of other places that offer stiff competition. We have been told that our countryside will be industrialized and that we’d better get used to it! Who will want to pay to come and look at that, never mind tourists’ anxieties about health and food safety?

We need a national debate on this issue before we are led into something could have very serious consequences for this country. If we find we have thrown it all away without long and careful examination of the issues we will be very sorry, not to mention making a laughing stock of ourselves in the world!

To allow this debate, and time for visits to places where fracking has already taken place, we need at a minimum a five-year moratorium on all activity; then we can decide.

To finish, Republican Party State Senator (New York) Greg Ball, said in August: “I can tell you right now that the pain I’ve experienced first-hand speaking with families and farmers in Pennsylvania, it will be over my dead body before I allow what happened in Pennsylvania to happen here in New York.” Just think about that. Sincerely, Terry MacDermott, Aghacashel, Co. Leitrim.

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