Following the decision by the new Prime Minister’s government to lift the ban on fracking in England, the move has been condemned by those opposed to the practice locally.

The moratorium on fracking in England came into effect in 2019 and the Tory government made a commitment to maintain the ban until there was scientific proof it was safe.

Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said fracking was in the country’s interest and would make it richer.

Tom White of Belcoo Frack Free said the lifting of the moratorium was “unwelcome news”.

“The UK Government’s decision was not well received by many of its own backbench MPs who campaigned against fracking in their constituencies,” he said.

“The UK Government states no fracking will be imposed on communities who do not want it. One suspects payments will be made to local communities to help them change their minds, but local communities are not that easily bought these days when one considers the growing amount of evidence that fracking seriously impacts on public health, and displaces other industries such as tourism and farming.”

Mr. White pointed out how Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said it was his intention to cease petroleum licensing onshore in Northern Ireland but while there is a policy change, there is no devolved government to implement it.

“Fracking will never bring down bills. Gas is sold on an international market. With renewables four times cheaper than gas and having the added advantage of being the strategic direction of travel with respect to climate change, it would be wholly irrational to start looking at fracking.

“The fact is that any gas would require at least five years of exploration to even determine how much there is, while at least 10 years to have any meaningful production, again dependent on knowing if the gas here is economically viable and physically possible to reach, and that’s before one considers all the known issues with this method of gas extraction.

“Here in Northern Ireland where over 60 per cent of people still use oil for heating, it seems illogical that fracking would make any difference whatsoever, given that no new oil or gas boilers allowed in new build homes post 2025, and no replacements allowed post 2035.”

Mr. White also said Mr. Rees-Mogg’s claim that fracking is now safe should be taken with “a pinch of salt”.

Sinn Féin MLA Aine Murphy, who had a bill working through Stormont before this year’s election condemned the British government’s decision to lift its ban on fracking.

“Sinn Féin is unambiguous in our opposition to fracking.

“We have consistently called for a ban on fracking and petroleum licensing here in the north.

“The decision by the British government to lift its ban on fracking in Britain emphasises the need for a legislative ban on fracking, and petroleum licensing more broadly here in the north.”

Speaking about her bill, Miss Murphy added: “”In the last mandate, I introduced a Private Member’s Bill which would end the practice of fracking in Ireland forever.

“However, the failure of the economy minister to progress such a ban in the previous mandate and the DUP’s boycott of the Executive means that ban cannot be brought forward.

“The DUP needs to get back to work so that a ban on petroleum licensing that would outlaw fracking in the north can be delivered.”

A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said: “The decision in England will have no bearing in Northern Ireland as it will be up to a Northern Ireland Executive Committee to determine policy for here. In the last mandate nobody in the Executive was advocating for fracking.”