Fracking in North Monaghan will be Prohibited if Bill before Dáil is Passed

A few years ago, amid much concern locally, North Monaghan was identified as part of a border area where fracking (hydraulic fracturing for shale gas) was planned.  Last month, Richard Boyd Barrett TD introduced a Bill to the Dáil which, if passed, would completely ban fracking in the Republic of Ireland. This week Transition Monaghan member Dearbhla Lenehan examines the fracking issue.


Dearbhla Lenehan

Richard Boyd Barrett’s ‘Prohibition of Hydraulic Fracturing Bill 2015’ to the Dáil was co-drafted by An Taisce’s Assumpta O’Broin and Friends of the Earth‘s Kate Ruddock. It prohibits any undertaking, permit or license to explore, prospect or extract shale gas using fracking or any other method in Ireland.  Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a method to extract gas from shale rock by drilling and injecting fluids composed of water, sand and chemicals at a high pressure to fracture the shale rock and release natural gas.

Unfortunately, in the U.S. where this technique is used regularly to extract gas, there have been cases where chemicals and contaminants have leaked into the ground water supply, affecting the local drinking water and the surrounding environment.  In some areas mild earthquakes have been attributed to fracking activity.   In addition to local effects, environmental groups point the use of fracked gas or oil contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

In 2011 there was controversy surrounding the granting of gas exploration licenses to Tamboran Resources and Enegi Oil Plc to search for commercial gas in the Northwest Carboniferous Basin (also known as the Lough Allen Basin) and the Clare Basin.  The Lough Allen basin covers and area of 800 square kilometers and includes parts of Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Tyrone and Roscommon.  The Clare Basin encompasses parts of Clare, Cork, Limerick and Kerry.  In Northern Ireland after some initial exploration work by fracking companies the Minister for the Environment, Mark H Durkan announced a plan to ban fracking last year.


Proposed Fracking Regions (source –

At present the Irish Government has agreed not to issue further licences until an EPA-led research study on the ‘Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction’ is completed and considered.  This study is due for publication in late 2016. Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) along with other anti-fracking campaigners initiated a ‘stop the study’ campaign in September 2015.  This ultimately led to the drafting of the bill Richard Boyd Barrett presented to the Dáil in December 2015.  GEAI say the current EPA study is discredited and should be stopped as the Oireachtas has been misled about who is undertaking the study.  They were led to believe that Queen’s University Belfast was conducting an independent study; however, they have played no part in the research since October 2014.  GEAI claims that the majority of the research is being carried out by a group led by CDM Smith, a US pro-fracking consultancy that provides services to the oil and gas industry and Amec Foster Wheeler – an oil/gas industry consultant whose clients include BP, Shell and ExxonMobil to name a few. As a result the anti-fracking group says that this study is not independent as intended and should be stopped immediately.  They state that the research “is not looking at whether fracking should be permitted; instead it is looking at how fracking can be rolled out” and “the Irish taxpayer is giving a subsidy of €1.5 million to the oil and gas industry for this study.”

TD Richard Boyd Barrett believes there is no need for an EPA report “to tell us that if we bring up shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, we will add to fossil fuel use and will increase carbon emissions.”  He called on the government to “take bold action to prevent further climate change and reduce fossil fuel by banning fracking”.  He also pointed to the Government’s recent commitment in a White Paper on energy to cut emissions by up to 95% by 2050 and to achieve this, two-thirds of the world’s known oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground. The Green Party has also indicated its opposition to fracking in Ireland.

The recent drop in oil and gas prices is likely to mean that the drive to develop fracking may be delayed by the oil and gas companies. In order to move to decarbonising our economies it does not make sense for us to drill for shale gas. The Minister for Energy, Mr Alex White TD recently wrote; “I find it hard to envisage a policy decision to introduce fracking, given that we are going for a low-carbon energy system in which oil and gas are gradually curtailed and, in the longer term, eliminated”. While this may well be the view of the Minister, the upcoming election may mean that there will be a new Minister for Energy and also that progress of the Bill to prevent fracking may not progress through the Dáil. Nevertheless, it reminds the Government that many environmental groups, communities and politicians do not want fracking.

For more information on the campaign against fracking in Ireland check the following websites:;;;

January and February events can be found here and here

Leaving the Rat Race to Enjoy the Simple Life in ‘Bealtaine Cottage’

Monaghan’s Dermot McNally was interested in discovering people who have found interesting ways of living more simply and sustainably. He writes about his visit last autumn to the inspirational Bealtaine Cottage in Co Roscommon where he met Colette O’Neill. Colette left the city behind to embrace the ‘good life’ in rural Ireland.


Colette O’Neill’s Bealtaine Cottage in Co Roscommon

Colette O’Neill, a sixty something Omagh native, is the friendly and informative owner of Bealtaine Cottage, located just outside Keadue in North Roscommon. In 2004 Colette was tired of the pace of London life and took the brave decision to move back to Ireland to pursue the ‘Good Life’ – to live as she puts it, as “lightly and sustainably” as possible. In doing so Colette set herself an immense challenge; to take a derelict cottage on a north facing slope of three acres of wet, rushy land and create (without the help of friends or any family nearby) a self-sustaining smallholding designed and constructed on permaculture principles. Having had my curiosity aroused after I stumbled across her informative website, I visited Colette in early October to see firsthand what she had created.

Colette is a gracious host, offering tea and homemade flap jacks on arrival to her cosy cottage. She explained her philosophy for living in simple terms and she was soon pointing out many of the simple but clever ways she lives lightly; for instance she uses a ‘compost toilet’ within her home; all toilet waste simply falls down into a bed of shredded Red Cedar leaves and the toilet user sprinkles an additional handful down after each visit. Normal toilet paper is used and the toilet bucket, which is housed within a very dainty looking wooden frame, topped with normal toilet seat, is emptied regularly. The sweet scent of red cedar smothers all smells or odours. This waste is disposed of outside into large domestic bins lined with a thick bed of red cedar mulch and over the course of 12 months composts nicely into a mulch for weed suppression and young saplings.

Bealtaine Cottage is a treasure trove of re-loved items of furniture and homeware. For instance, floors are covered in a vibrant mosaic; the tiles are the offcuts destined for the bin that her friendly local tile fitter gives her. A further note to all home enthusiasts out there – Colette fits the tile herself and is a great advocate of learning by doing! Her home is heated through a wooden stove with back boiler and Colette gets all her fuel from her trees so no purchase of oil or coal. She also embraces all and any practical technology; she’s a dab hand at e-commerce and sells seeds and other farm produce online.

Now, to say the land was initially wet and rushy may sound like an exaggeration but the before and after pictures on her website prove otherwise. Equally, when I visited and stood within her site looking out into the adjoining fields, the difference couldn’t have been more apparent. The adjoining fields were wet, barren and rushy – growth in hedgerows was stunted and there was a muted silence hanging over the land with little sign of life. In comparison, her 3 acres were an oasis of lush green growth and thriving with the sounds of birds, bees and all the insects you’d associate with a rich flowering garden. Bealtaine is the quintessential ‘forest garden’ with a host of edible and useful plants and trees.

If tidy, pristine gardens are your ‘thing’, then a ‘forest garden’ may not be for you – Colette uses the chop and drop method to keep her garden in shape. Pathways through the forested area, which were maintained in the early years using a traditional lawnmower, are now bedded in a thick mound of moss and humus from the fallen leaves above. Within the confines of the 3 acres she excavated two ponds, the first to act as a repository for silt and light earth which moves down from the hills behind her home, and the second to receive the run-off water from the first; drains which follow the contours of the land are used to channel the flow of the water. The first pond is boggy and reedy, the second is clear and wide and each facilitates different but complimentary biodiversity.

Her immense labour of love has included planting over 1,000 deciduous trees including two large orchards, as well as many perennials and bushes. As part of the improvements she added a 20ft polytunnel which allows her to extend the growing season. She also tries to minimise labour input where possible and she follows the ‘no-dig’ method of growing vegetables and planting where possible. In a nutshell this involves covering an area for six to twelve months to kill down all weeds and then plants directly on top with no digging – the planted area is then covered with some of the compost from her cold compost piles.

Colette clearly enjoys the work involved and maintains that it’s a path that anyone can follow, if they truly want a simple, wholesome life spent in large parts outdoors. To conclude then, a visit to her wonderful website is mandatory and a visit to the meet Colette in person is highly recommended. See:

Click here and here for a list of events on in January and February

Extreme Weather Heralds New Year as Global Goals Go ‘Live’

The past month has seen extreme weather events here and in many parts of the world. Liam Murtagh explores the issues of flooding, extreme weather events and climate change. He also looks at the significance of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) which came into effect on New Year’s Day.


Oram to Castleblayney road – one of the many roads closed during recent flooding

The wettest December on record and a series of five storms so far this winter has left many people in Ireland reeling from the impact. Flooded houses, businesses and farmland have caused many people stress, inconvenience and financial loss. Many others have been marooned in their homes, with travelling out by car not an option.

Bad planning decisions and inappropriate land use have in many cases made the problems worse. Extreme weather events are linked to climate change and it is obvious now that there needs to be a rethink in terms of where houses and business premises are built in future and the capacity of existing infrastructure to cope with floods on the scale we are likely to experience.

Just a few weeks ago the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their latest report on the impact of climate change on Ireland. It outlined how ‘heavy rainfall events are projected to increase during winter and autumn’ and how the frequency of storms will decrease but their intensity will increase. Shortly afterwards the Environmental Pillar (NGO) called on the government to bring in substantive land use changes to protect communities from increasingly frequent high rainfall events. They highlighted the need to restore wetlands, bogs, native woodlands and hedgerows as they can play a hugely important role in both preventing flooding and dealing with climate change. Dredging a long stretch of a river may alleviate flooding on that stretch but can often lead to flooding further downstream.

The Government’s CFRAM (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management) process which has been underway for the past few years is running a year behind schedule and is coming too late for those affected by floods this winter. While CFRAM flood risk assessments have now been undertaken and flood maps drawn up for high risk areas, the actual draft Flood Risk Management Plans won’t go out to consultation until later this year. Implementation will follow. In Co Monaghan a set of flood maps for four ‘Areas for Further Assessment (AFAs)’ have been drawn up. The four areas are Monaghan Town, Carrickmacross, Ballybay and Inniskeen. See for details.

Extreme Weather Globally in 2015

The ‘El Niño’ warm ocean effect from the Pacific combined with climate change has led to extreme weather events globally in 2015. Severe floods hit many parts of South America while typhoons in the US and the Philippines resulted in much destruction, with dozens killed and many being made homeless. There has been an unprecedented ‘heat wave’ in the Arctic at the end of December causing temperatures in the North Pole to spike above freezing point. Climate change is already driving profound shifts in the Arctic ecosystem. Extreme heat waves in Pakistan and the Middle East killed thousands. A drought currently being experienced in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa means that millions are in need of emergency food aid. One of the effects of climate change is that it is partly the cause in the increase in refugee numbers arriving in Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

For the first time in recorded history, global levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere averaged more than 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month in 2015. Scientists have warned that, in order to achieve safe levels, CO2 must be brought down to a maximum of 350ppm. Whether the Paris Climate Deal agrees in Decemember will keep warming to below 1.5C or even below 2C remains to be seen. It all depends of the implementation of the substantial reductions in emissions that are necessary. Everyone has a role to play – from large companies to us as individuals. This means reducing the production / use of fossil fuels and also reducing emissions of methane from livestock. Although Ireland is a small country, our emissions per person are among the highest in the world and we are likely to miss by 6% the EU 2020 targets of a 20% reduction in emissions as compared to 2005. We have a big challenge ahead.

Significance of Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) agreed at the United Nations in September last, cover a wide range of areas and address the many causes of poverty, injustice and damage to our planet. The significance of the agreement on Goals is immense even though it was underreported in the media. Never before have the world’s countries come together to agree such a comprehensive agenda. Irish officials at the UN helped to ensure their passing and now they have just come into ‘effect’ – on New Year’s Day. The Global Goals apply to both developed and developing countries, and are as relevant to Ireland as to any other country. The Goals are backed up by 169 targets – the graphic below shows the main areas that the Goals address.

sus dev

One key Goal is that of ending global poverty by 2030. Many people might think this is over ambitious or even unrealistic. Unfortunately Ireland’s aid to the Developing World in 2015 has fallen to 0.4% of GDP. The target set back 14 years ago was 0.7% of GDP but it was never reached. This situation does not help in ensuring that resources are in place to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

One of Ireland’s strengths is its number of Development Aid workers and volunteers spread throughout the world. Many of them work in difficult conditions and their great contribution in empowering communities is to be commended. Development education has a key role to play and in this regard the ‘Insight Programme’ of Drogheda based NGO Deveopment Perspectives will be arranging for 42 people to go to Tanzania for 3 weeks later this year. Places are currently available. See

Transition Monaghan plan to run a number of events in 2016 relating to sustainability. If you would like to join in the planning of these events and initiatives please email us at

January events guide can be found here