CONCERNS have been raised by a local anti-fracking group over how Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC) contributed to a study commissioned by the Department for the Economy (DfE) into the current petroleum licensing policy.

The study was carried out by Hatch Regeneris, who held an informal meeting with Councillors on February 25 in which members “unequivocally stated their opposition to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction [fracking]” according to a FODC spokesperson.

In a written submission to Hatch, the Council forwarded on correspondence from Belcoo Frack Free, which was sent to the Council on November 27 last along with a letter stating the Council’s opposition to fracking.

Questions were raised as to whether this quantified a suitable submission from a Council district which could be hugely affected by fracking if a Tamboran petroleum licence is granted.

The Council sought to clarify this, but a statement from Belcoo Frack Free said they were “concerned to learn that our Council has not made a formal, well-researched submission to the review of petroleum licensing”.

The statement continued: “In [the Council’s] press release they state they have forwarded some letters from Belcoo Frack Free, letter dated November 27, 2020; however, Belcoo Frack Free only met with Hatch on March 17, so it is now much more possible to have a clearer idea about what is entailed with this review.

“The letter of November 27 warns the Council about the alarming issues with the Hatch research provision, but was not intended to be a submission.

“It was intended to be a request for Council action in another area – namely, the pursuit of a moratorium to be implemented immediately by the Executive.

“Unfortunately, the Stormont Executive refused to bring forward that moratorium, thus making engagement with the Hatch research in a well thought-out manner even more important.”


Belcoo Frack Free said they and other activists had also raised concerns around the manner in which “private meetings” and “informal meetings” are held in the Council around contentious issues, and they called on there to be more transparency, with meetings minuted and recorded.

“The issue with ‘informal meetings’ is easy to put in context. The first issue is no one knows who said what, or agreed what, except through second-hand information.

“When meetings are classed as ‘informal’, they don’t produce any formal actions that can be referred to by the public, the councillors and Council officials alike as to what was agreed, what the plan of action is, and where lines of responsibility and accountability lie.”

Belcoo Frack Free say they are willing to work with the Council on a more thorough submission, with the deadline having been extended by Hatch to April 9.

When FODC were contacted about the concerns raised by Belcoo Frack Free, and if it would be making a “proper, formal submission”, a spokesperson referred back to the statement released on March 26 that said the “Council has responded to the Department and to the consultants to advise that the Council’s policy position is that it is opposed to fracking”.

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh has been working to have an emergency meeting called to discuss a detailed submission from the Council.

He said: “I have requested the Council make a detailed submission to the Hatch review highlighting the range of concerns we have over fracking.

“Unfortunately, while the council has made a short response, indicating the council’s opposition and support for the position of Belcoo Frack Free, Council officials have indicated that they are unable to make a detailed submission to the consultants, as this was not agreed formally by councillors.

“In order to advance matters ... I have written to all councillors requesting that we hold a one-item special meeting. We could then agree to make a detailed submission against fracking.

“So far, I have the support of three other members – Independent councillors Dr. Josephine Deehan, Emmet McAleer and Eamon Keenan. We need a total of eight to make this happen in time, or the chairperson to call a meeting.”

At the time of going to print, efforts were still ongoing to have an emergency meeting called.