Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
In page 3, line 8, after “petroleum” to insert “or offshore petroleum”.
(Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett)

On a point of order, I note that a further amendment to this Bill was submitted yesterday. I believe in debating everything to the fullest extent, whatever people want to say on Bills.

We are well aware of that.

However, I want to ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle about the precedent here because to my knowledge we are always given a deadline to submit amendments that is often difficult to meet. We now have an amendment submitted in the middle of Report Stage, long after that deadline. I would like that explained to me because if that is setting a precedent whereby we can submit amendments in the middle of Report Stage, I would be very happy, but I want to know if that is the precedent we are setting. Either we have rules on this which apply or we do not. It is unprecedented in my six years in the Dáil that new amendments can be submitted well after a deadline has passed.

It may be somewhat unusual but to give the Deputy the background, the amendment was submitted the day before yesterday.

Yesterday, 30 May, according to the piece of paper.

It was an amendment to an amendment, but the advice was that it was more appropriate that it should be an amendment as it dovetails with the amendments being debated. There have been precedents in the past, but it is not breaking any rules.

If I might address that because it is my own amendment.

Yes, it is Deputy Ryan's amendment.

To explain the background to our tabling the amendment, it followed on the earlier Report Stage debate, which we thought would conclude last Wednesday evening. In a sense, Deputy Boyd Barrett did the House some service at that time, if not the people in the Gallery, in terms of having a further extensive debate. We were unable to get to his vote on the issue of whether we should have offshore exploration. We made that point consistently in our contributions on Committee and Report Stages. In effect, it is amending the amendment Deputy Boyd Barrett is putting to widen what he is seeking to achieve, namely, an end to offshore exploration for shale, oil or gas to exclude it from other petroleum licences. That is something we debated at length on Committee and Report Stages and on that basis the amendment is not a surprise. It is different from the debate we have had. I did not expect us to be here this morning. We had hoped the debate would have concluded last Wednesday night but given that Deputy Boyd Barrett in my mind gladly extended this debate to this morning, I wanted to be able to press that point because it is an important issue for our party in terms of the type of offshore exploration he or others might want to see happening.

For clarification, I want to stress that I have no difficulty with that. My point is about procedure, not the content. As this is the precedent we are setting, I want to understand how, in the midst of Report Stage, we can submit amendments. That is the precedent that has been set. I will be very glad if we can do that because that makes it an even more dynamic process, but that has never been allowed in my six years in the Dáil. I want to know precisely what was the procedure that allowed the deadline to be waved, which applied to every one of us, because I would have tabled further amendments following the debate last week. Up to last night, issues were raised with me by fracking campaigners on which I would have submitted an amendment.

I get the Deputy's point.

I want to know the procedure through which this happened. Was it just submitted and accepted? Did the Deputy have to go to the Ceann Comhairle and make a special case? What were the rules that allowed the deadlines to be broken? Can this be explained to me?

As I said earlier, it was submitted and I realised that Deputy Boyd Barrett had no issue with the amendment itself, it is the principle of it. It was submitted as an amendment to an amendment and it was felt that it was more fitting as an amendment to stand on its own within the group.

It is not an amendment.

It was submitted as an amendment to an amendment.

The Deputy has to listen to me as well.

I listen attentively to the Deputy, and he has to listen to me. When it was submitted as an amendment to an amendment, it was felt that it was more suitable as an amendment to stand alone within the group. The Ceann Comhairle gave the approval and that is how it rests. We have to move on.

So we can all do that.

I am not saying that. In this particular case, the Ceann Comhairle gave approval. We will take it.

That is moving the goal posts.

We are moving on. The amendment is part of the group, Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive. It was proposed by Deputy Boyd Barrett. A number of members have contributed already, they were seven minute contributions. Do any other members wish to make a contribution? If they do not, Deputy Boyd Barrett has two minutes.

The purpose of the amendment which we discussed in some detail last time is to extend the ban on hydraulic fracking proposed by the Bill, which we support, to include offshore. There has been considerable debate and lobbying and so on, about this over the last week and concerns have been expressed that raising this issue would in some way frustrate the passing of the Bill. I wish to restate that we want this Bill to pass. We think it is a historic development that a ban would be imposed and we commend Deputy McLoughlin for getting it to this point. I do not believe there is or should be any doubt that this Bill will pass this morning. However, we see no reason why the arguments that apply to onshore fracking would not apply offshore. The toxic, polluting nature of the chemicals involved in fracking, which we have now accepted potentially pollute our water and impact on human health and would be damaging to the onshore environment, all apply to offshore. We have experience of this in California, in the Gulf, and elsewhere where marine life is being destroyed, where billions of litres of toxic chemicals that cause cancer are being poured into the waters off the United States causing unquantifiable damage to marine ecosystems and potentially to human health, and there are seismic dangers.

Another point made to me recently - it is too late for this debate but I will submit an amendment - is that we should be making a case for this to our counterparts in the North through the North-South ministerial bodies. This was included in my original Bill on this matter, that it would be policy to call for and campaign for a ban on fracking North of the Border, because if there is fracking in Fermanagh, it will impact on the South.

I will press the amendment. The ban should extend to the offshore. I fear the Government and Fianna Fáil probably want to leave the door open to offshore fracking and that is why it is important to press it, as the arguments apply both onshore and offshore.

I am in a generous mood and I will allow Deputy Boyd Barrett to respond later because Deputy Wallace-----

It is in the rules that I am allowed to respond.

This is Deputy Boyd Barrett's third intervention.

No, it is the second.

No, the memory is not gone yet.

This is my second.

It is Deputy Wallace's second.

The debate that happened here last week was a little disappointing. We saw our amendments criticised by the Government, the Greens, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, all under pressure to get the Bill through the House in one hour and 20 minutes. As I said last week, I do not believe that the Government has any genuine interest in tackling climate change and the record of terrible planning and the prevalence of one-off housing has more to do with this Bill being passed than any genuine concern about the advance of climate change. NIMBYism has not gone away.

Last week the Minister of State said that it was inappropriate to introduce statutory prohibitions that are not underpinned by scientific rationale and place Ireland at an unfair competitive disadvantage by creating the uncertainty of limiting the operators' capability to assess reservoirs in the Irish offshore. This was the Government's main argument put forward against our amendments, so let us examine this statement for a moment. The fracking Bill put forward by the Government introduces a statutory prohibition of onshore fracking. According to the Minister of State's logic, banning fracking must be underpinned by scientific rationale. In terms of the scientific rationale of banning fracking offshore, which our amendment aims to do, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, and others in the Chamber seem to be under the illusion that fracking is not carried out offshore. This was discussed on Committee Stage and when Deputy Eamon Ryan asked if fracking offshore existed, the Minister of State said that the only use of fracking in the petroleum sector was when they hit a stubborn section of the core and they frack it to shatter the rock in order to ease the continuation of the drilling.

However, there is more to it than that. Leaving aside the fact that in order to battle climate change disaster, banning any practice relating to the extraction of fossil fuels should be a priority, this statement by the Minister of State is not entirely true. In 2015, documents obtained by al-Jazeera America revealed that the world's largest oil firms are now fracking in some of the Gulf's deepest waters. The fracking that the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, is talking about is dubbed "frac packing" and has been used offshore for decades and employs high pressurised water, gravel, and chemicals to clear sand from the opening of the well and facilitate the flow of fossil fuels. Federal officials have now acknowledged, in written statements to al-Jazeera, that a more expansive type of fracking involving higher fluid volumes and extending longer distances from the well bore are being used in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental observers in California obtained a list of chemicals used at 12 offshore fracking sites off its coast. Almost all the substances cause damage to organs in the human body, and there are claims that fracking offshore can increase the risk of an oil spill as well as air and water pollution. It might not affect the people in County Leitrim but it will affect the people on the Galway coast if we damage the waters with something like that out in the Atlantic.

I rise to support Deputy Boyd Barrett's amendment. Deputy Wallace is right. There were complications in my mind last week as to how we would work that because there were complications with other exploration areas, in terms of oil and coal and other seams, which was difficult. I asked how it would work. That, to an extent, is one of the reasons why we put down this amendment, the purpose of which is to provide for all offshore exploration, which is a way of overcoming those technical difficulties between what might be fracking and what might be petroleum exploration. As Deputy Wallace says, the two are often combined. The way we have addressed that is by putting forward the amendment here.

We need to stop extracting fossil fuels from the ground. We need to do that for local environmental reasons, in regard to polluting the water course and a range of other effects, but we also need to protect our atmosphere. On that basis, we have to keep four-fifths of the known fossil fuels underground. We do not go offshore. We have plenty of our own resources onshore in renewable power that we can turn to. On that basis, we support the amendment.

We also support the call to intervene with the North-South Ministerial Council. For all our talk about offshore, the bigger immediate risk is that a Northern Ireland administration will continue fracking there. There are licences which exist in the North which we believe need to be closed and we should apply political pressure on an all-island basis to stop fracking in the North at the same time that we ban it here.

Before I call on the Minister of State and then ask Deputy Boyd Barrett to respond, do any other Members wish to come in? Deputy Wallace has been in twice. It is only the Deputy who proposes the amendment, even if it is part of a group, who has the opportunity to come back in.

I am the first name on amendment No. 3 but I will not get in again under that. Is that the case?

No, we are dealing with them all together. Deputy Stanley has not been in so far.

We submitted our amendment No. 4 over our concern about offshore fracking and its potential dangers, which has been echoed by other Deputies here. Fracking offshore could be more dangerous than fracking onshore.

I want to be clear that our party wants to stop fracking throughout the Thirty-two Counties and offshore. However, we want to approach this carefully. Obviously, the immediate danger and problem is onshore within this State, where there is a particular threat in the counties of Sligo and Leitrim. On that basis, and in order to not delay the legislation, I am prepared to withdraw amendment No. 4. There are legal issues, definitions and other matters that need to be teased out, all of which would take time. We should move on to that work once we get this legislation through and we can then make further amendments to the petroleum Acts in order to do that. We will certainly move on to that once this legislation passed. However, the immediate task is to try to secure a position whereby fracking within the Twenty-six Counties is banned completely. I want to be clear that we want to ensure fracking for shale gas is not allowed offshore and that we need to move on to that issue once we get this legislation through. Nonetheless, I believe it would be mistake to hold up this Bill for months or years to tease out the issues around offshore fracking and its potential dangers. On that basis, I will withdraw amendment No. 4. We will move back to the issue of offshore when this legislation is passed.

On a point of order-----

One moment, Deputy Wallace. I call Deputy Martin Kenny.

I have no problem with the first section of the additional amendment. However, the second section states: "The Minister shall not issue, renew, reinstate, or extend any licence or other exploitation rights for the exploration, extraction, production or prospecting of petroleum onshore or offshore." That is the direction we need to go in. We need to move away from fossil fuels everywhere - that is the world target and what we need to do. However, I also think we have to be sensible. That is not to say the Deputy proposing this amendment or the other Deputies proposing amendments in regard to offshore are not sensible but that we need to look at what we can achieve. What we can achieve is a Bill which will deal with the issue at hand, which is the danger of hydraulic fracturing happening onshore in the State. Hydraulic fracturing is not happening offshore yet, but there is the potential for that and we need to deal with it. We have been advised that if we try to deal with the offshore issue here, that could be used. We all know that in certain sections of the Civil Service in this State, there are people who have a particular agenda. They will use that notion of going offshore as a means of bringing it down a path where it will need further research, and this, that and other, and it will have to be referred for legal expertise and everything else - delay, delay, delay - and the whole lot will fall. That is the danger I see. I am talking about people in the petroleum section of the Department.

We need to recognise that we have to try to achieve something. The thing we can achieve is that we can get this Bill through. Once we get it through, we will then come back, sit down and all work together on the offshore aspect. If we can achieve that, it will be a very good day's work but it is vital that we get this Bill through as swiftly as possible. We can then work together on the offshore aspect, which also needs to be dealt with quickly.

I know it would not be intentional, Deputy Kenny, but you should not refer to officials in that manner. Perhaps you would like to clarify that it was not intentional.

It was not intentional at all.

There may be a point of order.

On the proposal by Deputy Stanley regarding separate legislation to deal with offshore fracking, the chances of getting it this far are slim because of the money order.

That is not a point of order.

It will not be allowed get this far again. We have an opportunity today to vote to stop offshore fracking. We can do it today.

You are quite clever in circumventing because you know you are not allowed in a third time.

You are quite clever yourself, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

There are a lot of rules being bent today. We may as well have a free-rolling session.

They are being fractured.

If I decide not to bend, Deputy Boyd Barrett might not get in again. I call Deputy Eugene Murphy.

I made a lengthy contribution in the last part of the debate so I will say little now, the Chair will be glad to know. In fairness to the people who have us here, the people from Leitrim and north Roscommon who started this campaign, it would be wrong to seek to make amendments to this now. Deputy McLoughlin, to be fair to him, brought the Bill forward it and has done a lot of work on it, supported by Deputy Scanlon, myself, Deputy Martin Kenny and others. However, the real reason we are here is that those people brought it to our attention and have fought very hard to get this done. There will be another day and another opportunity for Bills to be brought forward in regard to offshore fracking. I welcome what Deputies Stanley and Martin Kenny said, namely, we should move ahead. While it is their right to put them forward, I would urge Members to drop the amendments. We should deal with the issue of banning fracking in the Twenty-six Counties.

I again thank the Deputies for their contributions. The original Title of Deputy McLoughlin's Bill was the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016. That was the subject of comprehensive debate and analysis at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, which held hearings, debated the issues, brought in experts and produced a report, the recommendations of which were included in the amendments the Government brought to the Bill. The new Title of the Bill, which was agreed on Committee Stage, is the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016. Therefore, the entire debate has been on onshore.

I fully respect the views of Members who suggest we should look at banning offshore fracking or offshore oil exploration, and I am not suggesting there is not a time or a place for that debate. However, I think it should be done in the context of a separate Bill and a separate committee analysis, bringing in experts on all sides to give their views. That is the approach I would suggest and it is why I am advising that we will not support the amendments that have been put down. With respect to Deputy McLoughlin, the Bill related to onshore and we should maintain the integrity of the Bill as was put down by Deputy McLoughlin, and confine it to onshore. Let us have another debate on another day. I know Deputy Boyd Barrett has his own Bill in regard to offshore and others can bring in Bills in regard to offshore oil exploration. We can have a bigger debate without trying to ban offshore oil exploration following a few back-and-forth exchanges in the House and without proper debate and analysis on Committee Stage. On behalf of the Government, I am not agreeable to the amendment.

Quite honestly, I am a little confused because in the debate last Wednesday night Deputy Eamon Ryan suggested that Deputy Boyd Barrett withdraw his amendment so the Bill could pass on that night. That was my understanding. If these amendments are taken, it would mean the Bill would be before the House for the next six months and we do not want that. As the Minister of State said, the Bill seeks to ban fracking onshore and that is what we are here to do today. I call on all Members to at least get this part of the problem solved. Fianna Fáil is supporting the Bill and I ask those who have put forward amendments to withdraw them as it will only slow down the process for the next six months.

I hope those in the Visitors Gallery and anybody watching are looking closely at the political machinations that are going on here. They are fascinating and a real glimpse into how this place works. It is true, and Deputy Eamon Ryan should put up his hands and admit it, that last week he argued we should withdraw our amendments, whereas he is now putting forward an amendment that goes even further in the same direction than ours. This is what goes on; this is the carry-on.

I was trying to help the Deputy.

Sinn Féin is making a mistake. In 2016, I introduced a Bill to ban hydraulic fracturing. It was specific about the process. It stated, "...all other practices to extract hydrocarbon from coal seams, shale rock and tight sands in Ireland." Then a Bill came from Deputy McLoughlin, on which I commend him. He is representing his constituency. However, that Bill reflects pressure from Fine Gael for a diluted fracking ban that does not extend to the offshore. We have had nearly a year and a half to debate the offshore and plenty of opportunity to do this, but Fine Gael and, I suspect, Fianna Fáil made a political decision that they did not want a ban to extend to the offshore because their friends in the oil and gas industry would not like it. That is the reason. The Government has been forced into this ban by popular opposition in Leitrim and elsewhere, but it does not want the ban to go too far.

It is important to stress that Fracking Free Clare has been in touch with me to say that we should press our amendments. It is worried about the definition of "fracking" in this Bill because it believes the definition does not cover other fracking-type processes that would have been covered by my Bill.

That is the political game that is going on and we make no apologies for saying that the ban should apply offshore, where the onshore issues of climate change, polluting capacity, the toxic nature of these chemicals and the potential for seismic damage also apply. We must close the door urgently.

Give a bit of recognition to the people of the west and north west.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 75; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Mick Barry; Níl, Deputies Tony McLoughlin and Kevin Boxer Moran.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, to delete lines 30 and 31.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, to delete line 10 and substitute the following:

"(b) shall also apply in respect of petroleum that is offshore.".

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 77; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Mick Wallace and Richard Boyd Barrett; Níl, Deputies Tony McLoughlin and Kevin Boxer Moran.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4a:

In page 4, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“Ban on issuing of licences by Minister

5D. (1) National land and waters should be managed for the benefit of the people of Ireland to avoid the dangerous impacts of climate change and promote a rapid and just transition to clean energy.

(2) The Minister shall not issue, renew, reinstate, or extend any licence or other exploitation rights for the exploration, extraction, production or prospecting of petroleum onshore or offshore.”.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 77; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin; Níl, Deputies Tony McLoughlin and Joe Carey.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, line 17, to delete “Onshore”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 78; Staon, 0.

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Brady, John.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Curran, John.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Mick Wallace; Níl, Deputies Tony McLoughlin and Joe Carey.
Amendment declared lost.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I remind Deputies that, on Fifth Stage, they may only speak to the contents of the Bill and may not raise extraneous matters or measures they would like to have included in the Bill.

I am proud to be able to stand here with my Bill on Final Stage of the legislative process in the Dáil. As a humble backbench Deputy from the Silgo-Leitrim constituency, I believe the Bill's passage through the Dáil will be a major moment for politics. I say this because, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be acutely aware, Private Members' Bills rarely, if ever, make it past the Second Reading of the legislative process in Dáil or Seanad Éireann. To have reached Final Stage with a Private Members' Bill that will ensure the environment and communities in the west and north west will be protected from the harmful and damaging effects of hydraulic fracking is a special moment for me and the people I was elected to represent. The sheer speed with which the Bill progressed this year shows that, notwithstanding the negativity in the media that surrounds the concept, new politics can work well if all sides engage proactively and work together.

Since I introduced the Bill on First Stage on 8 June 2016, it has progressed at a rapid pace through to the Report and Final Stages in the Dáil. The goal now is to identify and debate whether the Bill constitutes good law. As its sponsor, I can safely say it could not be clearer that this is necessary legislation. The Bill has been heavily scrutinised and continually improved by the Oireachtas in the past 12 months. The vast amount of research against fracking and in support of the need for this prohibition is clear and unequivocal. It includes more than 500 academic studies on geographical areas in the United States and Europe; the Sustainable Water Network Ireland research report which found that fracking poses a substantial risk to Irish rivers and lakes; and the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency's report into hydraulic fracking in Ireland. The Concerned Health Professionals of Ireland group has also supported the Bill, noting that the "scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that permitting fracking in Ireland and Northern Ireland would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here."

I thank all members of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment who compiled the pre-legislative scrutiny report launched last April. The report, which firmly supported the need for, and scope of, my Bill, provided yet another indication that Dáil Éireann as a whole is committed to acting to prohibit the process of fracking ever being allowed to occur in this country.

Hydraulic fracturing is an extraction and exploration process that has been scientifically proven to be bad for the environment. It would damage our fresh groundwater, affect our agricultural output, damage our tourism industry and, most important, have a detrimental effect on public health. If it was ever permitted to take place in the Republic of Ireland, counties such as Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Clare could experience damaging effects similar to those experienced by cities and towns in the United States, many of which have decided to implement bans similar to that proposed in the Bill. On that basis, unconventional hydraulic fracking must be considered a serious public health and environmental concern for tens of thousands of people in the Republic of Ireland. This is the key reason the Bill is necessary and the importance of its passage has been recognised by the majority of parties in the House.

Before we decide if the Bill will pass, I note that it was drafted, amended and improved in the past 11 months thanks to the kind help and assistance of the Government and a number of local and national non-governmental organisations and groups. In particular, I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Seán Kyne, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, the former Minister of State in the Department, Deputy Joe McHugh, Ms Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth, Mr. Eddie Mitchell and the entire active committee of Love Leitrim who are present in the Gallery - well done to them - Ms Aideen McLoughlin, Mr. Liam Breslin and all the members of the Good Energies Alliance, my political staff, including my personal assistant, and all the other people who have supported me with the Bill thus far.

It has been my intention since introducing the Bill to have clear and appropriate legislation enacted to protect both the local quality of life in rural Ireland and our country's reputation abroad in industries such as agriculture. I am pleased to support the Bill, as amended by the select committee, because it is, in its current form, fully in line with the intent of my proposal.

A number of amendments were proposed on Committee Stage to extend the ban on fracking offshore. However, it is my understanding that this offshore activity does not raise the concerns that arise regarding onshore fracking. Legislation should be considered and proportionate. As Deputies have not had the benefit of pre-legislative scrutiny or debate about offshore activities, the proposed extension of the prohibition offshore is not appropriate in this Bill, particularly when it appears there are, as yet, no scientific findings to support such an approach.

When others ridiculed me and my party and questioned my efforts and intentions, I kept my head down. I have delivered this Bill, with the assistance of my colleagues, on behalf of the affected people and communities I was fortunate to be elected to represent. There can be no substitute for hard work and it is only through hard work that the Bill got this far. I now eagerly await its passage through the Seanad and the final signature of the President.

I commend Deputy McLoughlin for getting this Bill through the Dáil. I also commend the Minister, Deputy Naughten, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, and their officials for assisting in its passage.

One of the biggest environmental defects in the State is the problem we have had over recent decades of the loss of pristine water quality. We need to reconnect with our land and nature. We need to start by getting our water back to pristine condition. We have a huge opportunity and advantage in the availability of water, but we need to look after it. That is what we are doing with this Bill. It is hugely significant at a local level and for the whole country. It is also significant internationally. There is an international environmental campaign against fracking and the use of fossil fuels. Today is a victory for these campaigners. At a time when President Trump is considering turning his country into a rogue state - an illegal state in my opinion - with respect to the crimes against the future of humanity of this planet, it is important that we as a country stand up for action on climate change and that is what we are doing here today.

More than anything else, this is a victory for community groups in Leitrim. We have a responsibility to work with them to show there is another way of developing counties in Ireland. These may be the counties that are not the centre of economic development, such as is happening in Dublin. We need to develop an alternative economy and lift rural Ireland. We need to bring people back there rather than having them move to Dublin. That is what we start here today; the rejuvenation and reinvigoration of counties such as Leitrim and Roscommon, not using fossil fuels but using our wit and other bountiful resources we have. We start by looking after our water. We start by looking after our air. That is what we are voting for in passing the Bill.

I commend Deputy McLoughlin for getting the Bill to this point. I have no doubt it will pass, hopefully unopposed, through the Final Stage. It is very much to his credit that we have got to this point. The Deputy and others will accept that the biggest victory here is the victory of people power in Leitrim and across the State. Communities and environmental campaigners took up the fight and made it impossible for the political parties in the House to ignore the arguments made by campaigners and the justice of their cause in insisting that onshore fracking is banned. It would pollute the water, endanger human health and contribute to further climate change. It would impact on tourism and our pristine landscape. There is simply no justification for it and it was people power that forced the political system to acknowledge that fact.

It is worth commenting on how far we have come in that regard. I remember when we discussed this issue at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency was doing a report that, frankly, many of us felt was an absolute stitch-up. The two major consultants looking into the viability of fracking were both deeply linked with the oil and gas industry and the pro-fracking lobby. Incredibly, they did not even look into the health implications of fracking. That was where we were at. It is because of people power, pressure, persistence and determination by the environmental movement and by the communities who campaigned on this issue that we have got to this point. There is no doubt that it is a great victory. It is historic and it sets a precedent. We should be delighted that this is the case.

In conclusion, I must disagree with Deputy McLoughlin's points about the offshore fracking. There is no question that all of the arguments that apply to the dangers of onshore fracking apply equally to offshore fracking. That evidence is now piling in from the experience of offshore fracking in the United States of America. A 2014 report, Troubled Waters, says that, "At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters [and] fish...". Leatherback sea turtles and elephant seals in California and so on are being affected because of the chemicals being used in their key habitats. The chemicals used have also been shown to cause cancer and to impact negatively on human health. All of these factors apply just as much to offshore fracking. I am deeply worried because I believe that some of the biggest reserves are likely to be found offshore and the door is still open to that. The door needs to be closed. There is the pressing and urgent need also to deal with runaway climate change and the threat this poses to humanity and to the entirety of the globe. I disagree with Deputy McLoughlin on that point and I believe we should have gone further.

That being said, it is a victory for people power. I do not know what I would say about the new politics that Deputy McLoughlin referred to, but it shows that the reduction in the dominance of the two or three major parties in the State has opened the door to change. It shows that parties from across the political spectrum can co-operate on the things they agree on and get results when, critically, working in conjunction with people from outside the House and allowing the voice of civil society really to influence our work. This to me is new politics. It is about listening to the voices outside and being messengers to the Dáil for the demands, campaigns, issues and the wisdom of those who are outside the Parliament and letting that impact on the work we do and the laws we pass. In that sense, it is a great victory, but there is a lot more to be done. We need to press on to ban offshore fracking and to other issues related to climate change and environmental destruction.

It is my understanding that Members are anxious to ensure the Bill is completed today and sent to the Seanad. We still have Deputies Timmy Dooley, Mick Wallace, Brian Stanley, Martin Kenny, Eugene Murphy and the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne. I remind Members that we must adjourn the debate at 12 noon and I ask that they bear this in mind when making their contributions. If the debate is not concluded by 12 noon it must resume at a later date.

I very much welcome the opportunity to have participated in the passage of the Bill and working with Deputy McLoughlin and others on the committee. It is a testament to the approach of new politics that when Deputy McLoughlin's Bill was published Fianna Fáil was also working on a Bill and we chose to stop in order to follow the lead the Deputy set. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that the Sinn Féin party was also working on this issue. I know they can talk for themselves, but I assume they chose to hold back and to work in a collective way. To me, that is probably the most progressive sign in terms of the rules and procedures here in the decision that was taken. This was an issue of importance and interest to everybody. While I have absolutely great regard for Deputy Boyd Barrett, sometimes I get the impression that if the main political parties venture in to an area that he is particularly interested in, we are somehow excoriated because we have not had the same connection, as he sees it, to civil society. I may be mis-characterising his views in this regard but to suggest that the major political parties have not been connected with civil society or with citizens over the years would be an unfair characterisation. We listen to the people and we try to represent them and that is how we manage to get people elected.

I recognise that in the more fractured environment of society generally - pardon the pun - of course we must work collaboratively and collectively.

That is the approach our Front Bench took in the progression of our Bill. If there is a Bill with which we can work to the same effect, it does not matter that Deputy Tony McLoughlin's Bill was brought forward first. It is not about that. While great credit is due to the Deputy for the work he has done in spearheading and driving the Bill, it should not be about the party badge on the back of it. We are all here to collectively serve those who put us here. It is clear to the vast majority of Deputies that onshore hydraulic fracturing on a small island would have the capacity to have an absolutely detrimental impact, not just on the landscape but also on tourism potential and people's ability to enjoy the amenities of the region in which they live. Of course, there is also the issue of groundwater.

My own county of Clare was identified as containing an area that could potentially have some reserves of shale gas or oil. A decision was taken by the members of Clare County Council way back when it was not fashionable to talk about fracking and people did not have as much interest in it. The council was predominantly made up of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members; I cannot remember which party held a majority at the time, but the councillors were very quick to cotton on to the problem. While Leitrim County Council and others followed afterwards, Clare County Council was one of the first to pass a motion to state it wanted a ban and did not want to proceed with activities that might lead to any further investigation or exploration. It was at the forefront. Its councillors did that and it has worked really well. I know that there are councillors from County Leitrim in the Visitors Gallery because of the particular focus of Deputy Tony McLoughlin's Bill on counties Sligo and Leitrim. However, councillors in County Clare were talking about this issue a long time ago and understood the impact. People live in dispersed rural communities which presents issues of groundwater and sewerage, matters which are for another day, but it was very clear that this practice was not fit for use in this country. I will not say it was permissible or acceptable in other countries, but it was happening in regions with vast tracts of land where no humans lived.

I had my concerns during the darker days of the recession that somebody in an office high above the city of Dublin would ask why we should ban fracking when there were reserves in the ground that could potentially assist us in our time of need. I was deeply concerned that such thinking might emerge, but, thankfully, it did not. We are as a result in a position to be able to support a ban today. The Bill ensures that, regardless of what opportunities or potential might emerge at a later stage, nobody will be minded to see them as being of some benefit.

On the wider environmental issues, we have to get real about moving away from carbon and its extraction. There is vast potential in offshore wind energy projects. I appeal to the Department and the Minister of State to look at the support needed, particularly in the refit programme being proposed. It should be supporting offshore wind energy projects to the same degree as solar energy and other exploratory projects. To the best of my recollection, under the last refit programme there was support for tidal and wave energy projects, a sector that has really not been developed as far as is necessary. There is potential to support research and development opportunities in offshore wind energy generation. That issue needs to be addressed by the Department.

Passing the Bill cannot be the end of the interest of this House in protecting the environment. We have to get real in looking at other energy sources. The State has to move well beyond just banning things. It has to become proactive in supporting the use of alternative energy sources in order that we can ultimately move beyond being dependent on gas and oil. We have to move towards the use of electric vehicles. Norway, a country that has built up a great fund of sovereign wealth from the extraction of oil and gas, is looking at phasing out by 2025 vehicles dependent on carbon. Even oil producing countries see an end to its use on the horizon. We need to take similar action. We should be far more aggressive in supporting the use of electric vehicles. We have to find cheaper ways to produce energy and it cannot be from oil or gas. We have to look to making use of the wind coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

I compliment Deputy Tony McLoughlin on his efforts and congratulate his staff who have put a hell of a lot of work into the Bill. Oftentimes they are the unsung heroes, but it is right to recognise all concerned.

There are still a number of Deputies indicating that they want to contribute. I remind Deputies that the debate on Fifth Stage is confined to what is contained in the Bill and that we should not go outside it, but I am in their hands. There are less than 25 minutes left.

I promise not to talk for as long as Deputy Timmy Dooley.

My understanding of new politics is that anything for which Fianna Fáil is prepared to vote will be passed, which is great. I am delighted to hear Deputy Timmy Dooley say Fianna Fáil is to get real about climate change. I am looking forward to seeing that come about.

I commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin and all those around the country who fought for this legislation. We have debated the reasons for it.

The point I want to address concerns the deniers of the effects offshore fracking may have. I refer to an article published on truth-out.org which states that in late 2016, on the release of US federal records, it was discovered that "[f]rom 2010 to October 2014, the Obama administration approved more than 1,500 permit applications for offshore drilling plans that included fracking at hundreds of wells across the Gulf of Mexico ... An unknown number of permit applications have yet to be released, so the scope of offshore fracking in the Gulf is likely larger." In 2014 alone the industry was allowed to dump a staggering 76 billion gallons of waste fluid into the sea.

Let us get real. Offshore fracking is going to be hugely problematic. We did not just throw in the amendment. It was in the interests of protecting the health and safety of those living in coastal communities and wildlife in the oceans, and in response to the urgent need to do something to tackle the advance of climate change. Onshore fracking is a new practice and, according to the reporting, developing as a viable extraction method, the waste from which is routinely dumped straight into waters. It is unconscionable that the Government has approved any exploration licence in Irish waters in the past year. I hope to God, for the sake of people all over the planet and along the coast of Ireland, that those involved will not find anything.

Whatever happens to the Bill from here on, a ban on fracking may be challenged under the terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, the vast majority of which will most likely be applied provisionally from 1 July. We have been assured by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, that there will be a vote on CETA in the Dáil before it is fully ratified. Either way, even with provisional application, fracking comes under the terms of the agreement. The Minister has stated that in the course of the negotiations on CETA substantive engagement took place sector by sector to identify Ireland's interests, but that is simply not the case. CETA provides for a negative list system, whereby a country must explicitly name legislation and regulations to be excluded from the terms of the trade deal. The negative list has been used extensively by other EU countries. Germany, for example, submitted a 25-page list of individual pieces of legislation. Ireland only listed eight areas to be excluded, namely, flour milling, mining, the legal profession, veterinary services, maritime transport, executive employment services, privately funded social services and intercity bus services. This is a list of the professions and groups that thought to lobby the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

There has been no effort to safeguard the environment or the health of the public. Having our fracking ban attacked through the investor-court system by multinational oil and gas corporations is on the cards if CETA is ratified along with everything not on that pathetic list of eight exclusions. Even if CETA is not ratified, under provisional application a refusal to grant a fracking licence can qualify as a technical barrier to trade and end up being taken to the regulatory co-operation council. Pressure can be put on us to change our regulation in this area.

It is difficult to figure out if the Government could not give a damn about the environment or whether it is in the pockets of big business. The people who care about the environment and do not want fracking in Ireland should lobby their Deputies to ensure we do not ratify CETA.

I welcome the passage of the Bill through Report Stage. The Bill is a statement for sustainable development and common sense. I commend the campaign groups, Deputy McLoughlin and our councillors. For the past six years the Sinn Féin councillors in Sligo and Leitrim made sure that this was kept at the top of the agenda. The former Deputy, Michael Colreavy, and Deputy Martin Kenny also supported this. I recognise the work of people at local level. When campaigning on an issue like this, it can often seem like fighting a lost cause. People stuck at it and did the research to come up with the facts and figures in order to point out the disastrous consequences of fracking in the United States - the waste ground left behind and the damage to water etc.

Sinn Féin had a similar Bill ready to go. We were a few days away from pressing the button and introducing it. When Deputy McLoughlin introduced his Bill, it made common sense to withdraw our Bill and get behind his Bill.

This is a victory for "long-termism" and sustainable development, and will stop "short-termism". This country has made many decisions that were about short-termism and we did not think of the long-term consequences.

We have a very good thriving farming industry in Sligo and Leitrim even though much of the land there is marginal. We have an excellent tourism industry there that needs to be developed further.

I remember the previous EPA report coming before the committee. I say this to Deputies across the House and to the officials. We need to be careful of what consultants put before us here and in council chambers. In my time as an elected representative I have seen all types of dodgy reports being thrown up by consultants and being brought before the EPA, councillors and this House. We need to be careful about who is drawing them up.

Let me be clear in stating our opposition to offshore fracking. The task today is to ensure that we ban onshore fracking within the 26 counties of this State. We withdrew our amendment in the interests of getting that through quickly.

People say this is a Bill against fracking; it is a Bill for sustainability and a victory for common sense. I commend everybody involved. In the Seanad Sinn Féin will do everything it can to ensure it moves through quickly to get it enacted and signed by Uachtarán na hÉireann.

To get it moving on, I ask Members - I am not trying to restrict anybody, but 12 noon is-----

Absolutely, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I again commend Deputy McLoughlin on the Bill. I also commend all the community organisations across north Leitrim, which is where the core of this came from. I also commend those from Leitrim's surrounding counties. I also see people from the other side of the Border, Fermanagh, here. This issue affects communities throughout the country. It is a good day for democracy that the Bill has gone through as it has.

Many people raised larger issues relating to climate change and dealing with energy resources in the future. That is very big politics. Turning that around with all the vested interests involved will be a very big job, but one we must take on. The longest of journeys begins with the first step. We have taken not just a step, but many good strides forward today by getting the Bill through. There is a long journey to go and many things to be dealt with. We need to deal with the issue of offshore fracking and the future use of carbons in general.

As many have said, today we have had a huge victory for the communities that have worked so hard to make this happen. I commend Deputy McLoughlin and the team working with him. I also commend all Members of the House because this Bill would not have gone through but for all of us supporting it. Fair play to the people who proposed amendments. They put forward their point of view. Nobody is saying anyone is wrong here. It is not about being right or wrong; it is about what works. Today we have come up with a Bill that works, that will go through and that will succeed. I hope that success is the start of a series of successes in turning around how climate change is going on in this country. I commend the Bill and again thank Deputy McLoughlin.

I will respect the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's request because it would be a tragedy if the Bill did not pass today after all the hard work.

I greatly appreciate the work of Deputy McLoughlin and his staff. Indeed new politics did work because, as Deputy Dooley said, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, both of which were preparing Bills, decided not to go with them and give their total support to what Deputy McLoughlin was doing. That is new politics working at its best.

We have a fantastic tourism product in Ireland. In our area of Roscommon, Leitrim and the west midlands we have a fantastic product with our agritourism, heritage, waterways and lakes. That is where we need to invest and develop further. My colleagues on Roscommon County Council were the first in Ireland to take the brave decision to vote to ban fracking in 2011-12. They subsequently followed it up and stuck with it in the county development plan, which was important.

The people of Leitrim and north Roscommon fought a fantastic campaign throughout. It was a privilege to attend their public meetings in Carrick and wherever else they were held. They educated many of us. It is fantastic that what they set out to achieve has been achieved.

I commend Deputy McLoughlin. This is a wonderful day for democracy. This is an issue that has also affected people in west Cavan, a very beautiful and historic part of the country, which has the UNESCO Geopark, the Burren forest and Cuilcagh Mountain. As party spokesperson on heritage and having attended many meetings of Cavan County Council where presentations were made on this issue, it is wonderful to see it happening. It is a victory for democracy and despite the negativity about new politics, there has been huge consensus around the House on this issue. I commend Deputy McLoughlin and his staff on seeing this through to this point. I wish him luck with the final stage of it.

I am conscious of the time and we want to get this through today. I thank everybody for their support, particularly Deputy McLoughlin and his staff, for getting the Bill to where it is today. I also thank all those people who educated us on the damage that fracking can do.

I will ensure I finish before the allocated hour. I congratulate Deputy McLoughlin on the progression of the Bill which, I understand, is the first Private Members' Bill to progress through Report and Final Stages certainly in this Dáil and also for a considerable number of years.

I acknowledge the support of political parties and Independents across the House on the issue. I also acknowledge the support of former Ministers in my Department, my immediate predecessor, the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, and also Pat Rabbitte and Deputy O'Dowd, who were involved in the moratorium on fracking in recent years. I also thank the officials in my Department, particularly Orla Ryan, for their work in support of the Bill.

I also thank the committee which hosted the debate, the Chair of the committee, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, and the members of the committee who engaged with the EPA-led synthesis report which contained recommendations that also supported the basis of Deputy Tony McLoughlin's Bill.

Deputies Boyd Barrett and Eamon Ryan raised concerns about the North-South element of the matter and I omitted to comment on that on the previous occasion. If left in position, I will raise the issue at the North-South Ministerial Council meetings when the Executive is up and running again in the North.

There appear to be some concerns that the progression of technology in the future might in some way allow circumvention of the spirit and letter of this Bill. I wish to make it clear that hydraulic fracking will always require the pumping of high volumes of fluids into rock and that this activity is clearly prohibited by the Bill. I also emphasise that hydraulic fracking cannot be undertaken without the grant of a petroleum licence, and as this Bill makes it unlawful for any person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracking, no such licence could be granted.

Deputy Wallace raised a concern that the activities of the petroleum affairs division of my Department are inconsistent with the promotion of climate change. I wish to clarify in this regard that the energy White Paper aligns energy policy, climate action policy and exploration policy leading the transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050. It is important to note, however, that there will remain a significant role for natural gas, for example, as a transition fuel. If Ireland manages to benefit from the level of offshore exploration in the Atlantic margin, in terms of another hydrocarbon find, then that could have a substantial positive impact on the Irish economy such as reduced spending on imports, increased Exchequer resources for services and investment, and more opportunities for employment and local businesses.

While I acknowledge there are concerns around the impact of surveying, exploring and potentially drilling in an area of large natural habitat - issues raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett - I believe the Department's approach to understanding and managing biodiversity impacts has been hugely beneficial. There is collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the ObSERVE programme, a pioneering piece of work to acquire new baseline data with the aim of filling existing data gaps relating to protected marine species and sites in key offshore basins.

As indicated on the Second Reading of this Bill, it is my view that considerations surrounding the use of new technologies should be scientifically examined and peer-reviewed, as was done on Committee Stage in terms of the onshore prohibition of fracking. The EPA-led research programme did precisely that. The findings of this research programme together with Deputy Tony McLoughlin's Bill were scrutinised by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. There is no scientific research of this type, of which I am aware, relating to offshore, or indeed any grounds for concern in that regard. The advancement of this legislation is a real testament to cross-party co-operation. I again compliment Deputy Tony McLoughlin and thank Members for the support of the House in passing this Bill. I pay tribute to the campaigning groups present in the Gallery today and during other Stages of the Bill. I welcome the passage of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

The Bill will now be sent to the Seanad. As an exceptional measure, we will accept the applause because many of the visitors in the Gallery come from the north west. I am told that it is a former European constituency.