Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Jun 2017

Vol. 252 No. 10

Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages

The Minister of State is welcome back.


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, line 14, to delete “both.”.” and substitute the following:


Prohibition of exploration, extraction or exploitation of petroleum

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.”.”.

She has not yet arrived.

I am sure we will get one at some stage. The Senator may address the amendment.

The Minister of State is most welcome.

I addressed this matter during the Second Stage debate. What Ireland and the rest of the developed world needs to recognise is the contradiction in our energy policies. On the one hand, we are signing up to international agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while, on the other, signing oil, gas and coal exploration licences. In the Paris Agreement we have agreed that we must limit increases in the global temperature to between 1.5° and 2° Celsius. Anything more than this would cause huge disruption to our way of life that would be beyond the capacity of politics, society and technology to deal with. However, we also know that, were they to be burned, the current known reserves of fossil fuels would release such an amount of greenhouse gases that it would lead to further rises in temperature. If we were to burn more, we would see further rises in temperature, exceeding the limit of between 1.5° and 2° Celsius. Therefore, our current energy policy is nothing less than a complete contradiction, a policy that can only lead to one conclusion: we should keep the petroleum in the ground. Of the known remaining reserves of oil and gas, we can burn between one third and two fifths and still keep within the 2° Celsius range. I ask the House to think about this and what it means. It means that three fifths of the known reserves of oil, gas and coal which were located using expensive and damaging exploration techniques will just have to stay where they are: locked up and unused forever. Any other outcome would mean disaster, not just for human society but for all life on earth. We need to get real. Anyone who votes against my amendment will need to explain to me how exactly he or she plans to square the circle. Will he or she suggest exploring and then leaving the fuel in the ground or will he or she ignore the global problem and our European, global and ethical obligations to get the fuel to be burned and damn the consequences?

The amendment has been taken from US Senator Bernie Sanders's just transition strategy which has been designed to ensure state action on climate change and energy policy is equal to the scale of the problem that faces us globally. The just transition strategy is also focused on providing a pathway to a new future of work that will move people from destructive industries and help them to retrain and adapt to a new, greener future in sectors such as renewables and green technologies. This is the approach the Green Party is emulating in Ireland and the amendment is an important demonstration of that thinking. We have an example of such joined-up thinking in the global divestment movement that has seen the divestment of over $5 trillion dollars worth of stocks and shares in fossil-fuel related companies because of academics and public and private bodies in reaction not only to the moral obligations surrounding climate change but also the fact that these companies are about to be left with a mountain of stranded assets of explored and unextractable oil, gas and coal that will be the ruin of many of them unless they get out. I urge them to get out now.

Many will say this is impractical and that we cannot endanger our energy security and that we not be able to keep the lights on without new oil and gas exploration at home. However, just this week, the new French Government led by Emmanuel Macron has announced that it will do exactly what is proposed in the amendment. The new Environment Minister, the noted ecologist Nicolas Hulot, declared a new law to prohibit the issuing of all new licences for oil and gas exploration, onshore and offshore, on the principle that fossil fuels located could never be extracted and that to do so would greatly endanger the lives and safety of future generations. Before Members have a go at me about this being possible in France because of its use of nuclear power, the same government has announced the phase-out of 20 ageing and expensive atomic power plants. The exploration ban, the nuclear power plant phase-out and the proposed ending of all fracking in France are part of a new green shift that will see France emulate Germany, Denmark, Sweden and other countries in a rapid transition to a renewables future. I say: "Ireland, let us get on board."

I stress again my complete support for the Bill. My amendment is offered not in an effort to disrupt or slow down the process but to open the debate on energy policy in Ireland that will bring it to a level that really reflects the seriousness of our commitments.

I am delighted that once the President signs the Bill, which will be passed here today, fracking in Ireland will be banned, and we will have secured crucial protections for our air, water, farms, rivers, climate and, most of all, our people.

We have protected our community from the dangers and fears inherent in this technology, and vindicated the work of many groups here today in the Gallery, including Friends of the Earth, Afri and Love Leitrim. They have done tremendous work to get the Bill so far. Nonetheless, I will push for a full vote on the amendment, as my colleagues in the Green Party in the Dáil did when they suggested similar additions to the Bill. We need to face up to our responsibilities and the natural constraints of our planet. Today, we will ban onshore fracking and it is fantastic, brilliant and a real progressive step forward for Ireland. My amendment would ban not only onshore, but offshore fracking. It is the same thing. It is all about damaging and polluting our atmosphere and damaging the quality of life of our people. This is why I have tabled the amendment.

I second the amendment.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne. As Fianna Fáil spokesperson for communications, climate change and natural resources, I must tell Senator O'Sullivan that unfortunately we cannot support the amendment for the simple reason that it would not keep with the Bill and could delay it being enacted. To be consistent, in February 2011 onshore petroleum licence options for the north-west area were granted by the then Fianna Fáil-led Government. However, exploration drilling, including drilling that would involve hydraulic fracturing, was not allowed under these licence options. This is backed up by replies to parliamentary questions, which I am happy to share with interested parties. Enormous work has been done on the Love Leitrim campaign over six years by all of the councillors and Oireachtas Members, and I welcome Councillor Mary Bohan who is in the Gallery. I also welcome Scott Coombs and Eddie Mitchell, Shane Coghlan of Friends of the Earth and many more, including representatives of Roscommon County Council and Leitrim County Council. This issue is included in the county development plan.

I commend the intelligence of getting a Government Deputy to sponsor a Private Members' Bill. I have been endeavouring to get a Bill through for some time, the Registration of Wills Bill, and every time I get so far, I am thwarted again by a change of either Government or Minister and it is practically impossible. Deputy Tony McLoughlin, a Fine Gael Deputy for Sligo-Leitrim, has tabled the Bill, with the support of Fianna Fáil and the Government. The Government's input was vital in this regard. If the Government wanted to block the Bill, it could easily have done so, but it has given much consideration to the Bill.

I appeal to Senator O'Sullivan to withdraw the amendment because she is going down a very dangerous path. There is no question of fracking being allowed offshore. It is a myth at this stage. There are no applications and nothing on the horizon. It is a different process. The onshore process is well tried and well practised. Nobody is closer to this than Councillor Bohan, because it started in her area and could have done damage to the River Shannon, tourism and the agricultural industry. It could have destroyed the clean air and clean water. Water is absolutely vital and there is no guarantee the water would not come down the River Shannon and pollute it, destroying fisheries and tourism. It was the most outrageous proposal on a small island. Fracking has happened in the United States of America and Britain. Fracking in the United Kingdom has resulted in mini earthquakes in areas, and this fact is well recorded, because it is such a small country compared to the vast areas of the United States of America.

We appreciate what the Senator is trying to do, and we sympathise with her situation, but I have been advised by the Fianna Fáil research office, which is well acquainted with this issue, that this would delay implementation of the Bill. If the amendment were accepted today, the Bill would have to go back to the Dáil and go through the entire process again. We would then have the adjournment for the summer recess and it would not be law before autumn. I reiterate that we support the Bill 100%. We would like to have introduced such a Bill ourselves, and we would have liked if a colleague such as Deputy Eamon Scanlon could have introduced it, but there was no point because the Government probably would not have gone along with it.

It is in a good area electorally for Roscommon and Leitrim. It looks like a Tullymandered constituency revision. It smacks of the biggest Tullymander since James Tully was there in Meath.

Was Tully a member of Fianna Fáil?

I say this having represented Roscommon for the past 40 years, with 36 years in a beautiful consolidated county. These electoral divisions are the most outrageous Tullymander I have ever come across. It did not affect Meath. It did not affect the Minister in the Department. It is the most outrageous bit of work.

I ask the Senator to come back to the amendment. I understand that point the Senator is making, but I ask him to try to stick to the amendment.

The point I am elaborating on is that it is coming at a very convenient time for a certain person who is jumping ship from Roscommon, who may benefit from the fact the fracking Bill will be passed today, in conjunction with his colleague, Deputy Tony McLoughlin, who initiated the Bill. That is another day's work and I wish him well.

I have left Senator Leyden's hospital and accident and emergency department in great shape.

I am the only man------

Senator Leyden without interruption, but maybe on the amendment.

I always wish politicians success. I lost an area of Galway one time and landed up in lovely Longford. That was the end of my career in the Dáil. It will be difficult for other people in Roscommon.

I ask the Senator to come back to the amendment now.

I apologise for diverting but I had an opportunity.

Fianna Fáil will oppose the amendment with the Government because we believe it to be the right thing to do. We commend the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, and the Minister, Deputy Naughten. I heard the Minister on the radio today and he spoke very highly about this issue. When he came in as Minister, he ran with this Bill so he has to take credit for working with the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne. The fact is that we just cannot afford to delay the Bill. Private Members' Bills could take ten years to go through the Houses. This is one of the speediest. We may find it is the one that has gone through the fastest of any Private Members' Bill for a very long time. Feargal Quinn introduced a Bill here and got it through eventually, but it is a very slow process. The Government has backed it 100%. It sends a great message throughout the world that we will not allow fracking. It is the best publicity for our clean air, clean water, quality cattle, organic cattle, organic sheep, vegetables and fruit. Our green and beautiful land will not be destroyed by fracking. I thank all involved. Well done Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth and all the councillors, Deputies and Senators. We all backed this in our own way and it is a great day for the House and the Oireachtas.

I welcome Councillor Mary Bohan, the recent chair of Leitrim County Council who has had a very successful year, and Deputy Tony McLoughlin, whose Bill we are discussing. They are very welcome to the Gallery, as are all of their supporters and the people involved in the campaign.

I welcome everybody in the Gallery. I commend all the people who have brought us to where we are today with the Bill. I know exactly what Senator O'Sullivan is trying to do with the amendment and I completely appreciate it. The reason I do is because I am from the area of the Corrib gas project. I saw, followed, witnessed and lived through everything that happened with regard to the project and what continues to happen when we see unemployment rates at more than 30% and our gas flowing out to be followed by oil and everything else. We also lived through the seismic testing that was done offshore and the subsequent earthquake.

We might say there is no connection but there are too many coincidences.

There were attempts - in some cases successful - to divide the community on the topic. If a person was not 100% in one box, he or she had to be in the other box. I agree with every word in the amendment, without reservation, but his amendment deals with offshore exploration and extending the ban to conventional gas and oil extraction, and it is not what the Bill intends. I also recognise the absolute urgency for communities around what needs to be done to prevent fracking. I am frightened of my life of fracking and the possibility that fracking could be allowed onshore. This in no way diminishes how I feel about anything done offshore. We have often cited the true map of Ireland and our offshore exploration.

With regard to an outright ban on all exploration, the banning of conventional offshore gas and oil exploration was not the intention of this Bill and nor does it seem to be the immediate concern for all those people involved with the community groups across Leitrim, Sligo, Clare and Mayo. They, like me, are all fearful of the awful consequences that fracking could have on the environment and health. We should remember that once fracking starts, there is no end. Once there is a foothold, it will be impossible to get those companies out. The offshore environment is very different when it comes to exploration. The intention of the amendment is that Ireland would never use any oil or gas found off its shores, as other countries have done, such as in Norway, where the state has seen benefit from it. We would always have advocated the Norwegian model and how the Norwegian Government stood up to oil and gas exploration methods. We were ignored right through a decade and beyond.

Our aim should be to phase out fossil fuels and create a greener and more self-sufficient island when it comes to energy. We must be realistic. The timeframe is relatively long, considering the technology available. What storage technology is there for renewable energy, for example? We hope that technology will advance. We need a realistic timeframe for the phasing out of fossil fuels and mapping of the alternatives. This should be our priority. I desperately want to see this Bill going through so we can deal with onshore fracking. I would absolutely support what is being said in the amendment today at another stage when we seriously consider offshore drilling and everything else, including deals being done and the protection of our environment and citizens. I cannot support the amendment today but I look forward to seeing it on the table in future so we can deal with it in another context.

I welcome all the members of Love Leitrim, Friends of the Earth, the Good Energies Alliance Ireland and all the people who put serious work into an issue about which they were very fearful. People power set this train in motion. I thank Deputy Tony McLoughlin for all the work done by him and his staff. People speak about new politics and it is a good news story that a Bill could be introduced early last June and a year later it has gone through all Stages in the Dáil and Seanad. I look forward to this Bill being brought to the President of Ireland in the coming days for him to sign. It is real and good politics, with people from all sides of the political divide coming together and doing something that is right and proper.

I remember four or five years ago we introduced the visitors to the then Minister, former Deputy Pat Rabbitte, and he would have given them a fair hearing to outline fears about pollution risks to water and the atmosphere and the contribution to climate change. This Bill ensures the prohibition of any exploration or extraction of petroleum from rock that requires additional processes to increase the permeability of the rock and aid the extraction of petroleum from lithologies, shale rock, tight sands and coal seams. I went to an open forum where the film from the United States was shown and I was horrified to see people lighting water where fracking caused awful consequences. There is fluid or waste in the extraction process and the Bill would deal with such matters. This Bill will ensure fracking will not occur in lovely Leitrim, Cavan, Fermanagh and Sligo. I congratulate everybody who has been involved and this is a good news story for politics and the people of the area.

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber and I acknowledge the presence of Deputy Tony McLoughlin, who pioneered this Bill. Great credit must go to him for pushing this Private Members' Bill so far. It is great to see we are on the verge of passing this legislation. As Senators have said, we hope it will go to the President imminently so it can be made into law.

As representatives of the Government we will not support the amendment. The debate needs to happen but today is about fracking and how we can ensure this particular matter can be dealt with. Deputy McLoughlin set out an agenda and has delivered so far on it. If we brought this into the debate, it would slow the process, although the House should have the debate at some stage. Senator Grace O'Sullivan is capable and an excellent Senator but we should have a debate with the Minister on future fuel needs and how we will legislate for them. It is a broader debate that will involve solar farms and guidelines, wind farms and electric cars. A variety of topics must be dealt with. We need to have the Minister in the House for a considerable period to thrash out the issues so we can move ahead with appropriate legislation for our country. It is a key matter for us as a nation. Unless we act now, it will be too late. Senator O'Sullivan has great knowledge in the field and we must try to work with everyone in the House to ensure there is appropriate legislation for everyone.

As I stated, this Bill is about fracking and an initiative brought forward by Deputy McLoughlin. I hope that today we can bring it forward and have it passed. I hope the Bill will move swiftly through the House in the next hour and I hope it can be enacted.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin, who demonstrated an extraordinary positive initiative in bringing forward this Bill and building cross-party support. A positive aspect of new politics that we have seen is not just that quality proposals coming from the Opposition benches are more often beginning to be considered - we have some positive Opposition legislation moving through the House and becoming law - but also that some backbenchers within the Government have done the same. Senator Colm Burke in this House has put forward very constructive proposals for legislation. I commend the Deputy and it is important those proposals are being heard.

Others have mentioned Love Leitrim and Friends of the Earth. Afri, or Action From Ireland, has done extraordinary work. I also give credit to the wider movement that is asking the important questions around fossil fuels. We have seen movements for divestment from fossil fuels from the likes of Trócaire, Trinity College Dublin and National University of Ireland, Galway. We have seen a lead from many young people who understand that fossil fuels cannot be at the core of a future for them or any of us on this shared planet.

I also want to note that the Bill sends out an important signal on the international level at a time when we have seen Europe having to step up and having to put substance behind its written commitments. Given the United States has pulled back from the Paris Agreement, it has really put it up to every country to say what they will do in a concrete way about meeting the Paris targets. We need to have a stepping up of ambition across the world on that. At a local level, this sends an important signal to local and rural communities that they are not going to be sacrificed to short-term energy interests or short-term lobbies but, rather, that they need to be part of the debate around a sustainable future and that their voices will be heard.

This is at the core of the amendment Senator Grace O'Sullivan is putting forward. Her amendment points towards where we need to go next. It refers to the management of land and waters, "for the benefit of the people of Ireland". There were other small amendments we could have put forward but we have not done so. It is important that we be clear that the definition of "land" should be that which is based on the European directives and that the definition of "waters" in the Bill should include groundwater. This amendment makes very clear that the land and the waters are to be managed for the benefit of the people of Ireland.

We know that Justin Keating in a previous generation faced up to the challenges of an Irish State seeking to establish financial and economic security and sustainability for its population and, at that time, it had a 50% tax on the product of oil exploration, with a 6% or 7% royalty. The challenge at that time was the fiscal, financial, economic and energy security of a new State as it moved forward. It was very unfortunate that those provisions were rolled back and removed. I would absolutely concur with Senator Conway-Walsh in regard to some of the ways offshore exploration has been managed with regard to Shell and others in Mayo, which has been of huge concern. The stakes are now much higher, however. We are not talking simply about economic and energy security in the long term for our State, but about environmental security and the global challenge of climate change. There is a huge responsibility on the State to ensure that we are paying attention to how our land and water are managed in order to ensure it is delivering on every level benefits for our citizens and also to ensure we do not move towards the catastrophic impact of climate change, which is happening already in many parts of the world.

While I know not all Members will be able to support the amendment today, I hope they will support this as the direction we need to move in. Ireland needs to follow on from France and other countries and say that the best way we, as a State and as legislators, can manage these resources for our citizens is by no longer issuing licences, offshore or onshore, for oil exploration until we have a meaningful strategy in place and until we have fully explored what we can do in terms of more sustainable and renewable resources.

There is one other key phrase in my colleague's amendment, where she refers to the "just transition". Again, that is where Love Leitrim and such local campaigning and its international aspects are vital in bringing together the idea that we would be placing communities, workers and citizens at the centre of the debate on how we build this. That, of course, applies to green technology as well, because we need to hold green technology to the same standards of environmental and social impact assessment, as well as consultation and engagement.

I encourage Members to consider supporting the amendment and, if they cannot support it today, to say they will support the spirit of the amendment. We will be bringing it back to this House. We will look to follow France, which has banned these forms of offshore harvesting.

I want to highlight another concern on which I had planned to put down an amendment. Recognising the urgency of the Bill, I have not done so, but I urge the Minister of State to engage with the Minister, Deputy Naughten, on this issue. It is a very serious concern that even at a time when we in Ireland are recognising the huge environmental dangers of fracking, such as the impact on our water and on our climate change targets, the Minister has nonetheless indicated he will continue to support the building of a liquid natural gas terminal at Shannon, which could lead to a situation where Ireland is importing and processing fracked liquid natural gas. This is an issue where we are in it together from the local to the national to the international level. Fracking which is happening anywhere is contributing to climate change. We in Ireland, as the next step, need to look at how we stop fracking in Ireland but also how we ensure we are not contributing to hydraulic fracturing anywhere in the world. We need to take the next step to ensure that no State moneys and none of the moneys in our institutions and colleges are being invested in this industry of hydraulic fracturing or, indeed, in any fossil fuels.

These are the next steps. If Ireland is going to go further than simply sending one very positive signal today, we need to show leadership as we have previously done. Afri was very involved in areas such as arms divestment and the banning of cluster munitions, where Ireland as a small nation led the way in taking a moral standpoint that got taken on in other parts of the world. I ask the Minister of State to go further than a one-day victory, although it is a very important victory for the people of Leitrim, Roscommon, Galway, the west coast and the other counties of Ireland, and that we make this a global moment. I again commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin for putting this forward and I endorse my colleague's amendment.

I welcome Deputy Tony McLoughlin, Councillor Bohan and members of the anti-fracking advocacy groups in Leitrim and elsewhere and commend them for their work on this very important topic.

In response to Senator O'Sullivan's amendment, in the first instance, the wording of the amendment is declaratory. It is unclear what potential impacts subsection (1) may have on sectors wider than the petroleum industry, whereas subsection (2) may infringe on the existing rights of licence holders, potentially giving rise to legal and compensatory implications. However, the key point I want to stress is that Government policy with regard to climate change is laid out in the energy White Paper, which provides for alignment between energy policy, climate action and exploration policy leading to the transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050. There will remain a significant role for natural gas, for example, as a transition fuel in achieving a low-carbon economy. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.

It is important to note that offshore fracking is an entirely different process which is only irregularly used in conventional drilling and there are none of the environmental concerns associated with onshore fracking that are relevant to the offshore. Deputy McLoughlin's original Bill was the Prohibition of the Exploration and Extraction of Onshore Petroleum Bill 2016. That was taken on board, with the support of the Government, and became a Government amendment to the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016. Therefore, the genesis of this has been the onshore aspect. While I accept there is a broader debate, as Senators O'Sullivan, Lombard and Higgins have stated, I do not think today is the day for that. This is a very specific Bill in regard to banning fracking onshore. As I said in the Dáil, other debates can be had on another day. Accepting amendments at this stage which could impact on the spirit of the onshore ban on fracking would not be in the interests of the people who wish to see onshore fracking banned.

A good deal of work was done by the committee that scrutinised the Bill and the synthesis report by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, which was a combined report between the North and South. The prohibition of fracturing offshore has not been considered in the same fashion in the context of the EPA-led joint programme or any other programme of research in Ireland or internationally as far as I am aware. Nor has a prohibition of this activity offshore been introduced in any other jurisdiction.

There is a Bill in the Dáil and there will possibly be future Bills relating to the offshore. It is best to leave that area to be dealt with on another day and to have a broader discussion on it. I accept the issues in that regard, even within my Department between climate change on the one hand and natural resources on the other. Natural gas in particular is a transition fuel in terms of a transition to a low carbon economy. Senator Higgins mentioned the LNG terminal at Shannon and there are other issues we have to examine. Moneypoint, which is coal-powered, is one of them. Coal is relatively cheap at present. It is a fossil fuel but it is a very important energy generator. It will come to the end of its natural life and decisions will have to be made on what replaces it. Will it be natural gas or renewable gas in terms of the role biomethane will play? There are also the plans for a renewable heat incentive that are being developed and, hopefully will be agreed by Cabinet before Christmas, on which there was consultation earlier in the year. Can that renewable gas be put into the system and reduce our carbon emissions? Also, in regard to carbon sewerage, are there possibilities in the soon to be extinct Kinsale gas field? As it runs out, are there options for carbon storage? Is that a reasonable proposition?

There is a bigger debate than this issue, but today is the opportunity to agree on banning fracking onshore. I ask the Senator not to push her amendment as the Government will not be able to support what it proposes. It will be momentous day if we get this Bill to ban fracking onshore passed. I accept it is a first step in a wider process but that wider debate can be had in this House and elsewhere, and I will be happy to participate in that.

Despite the fact that not all the Members present are agreeing to support Senator O'Sullivan's amendment, they have nearly all indicated they would be very supportive of the concept she is trying to promote. The Senator can now made concluding remarks on her amendment.

I want to comment on one other point. We are on Committee Stage.

I cannot allow the Senator in now.

I have great respect and admiration for the work of Deputy Tony McLoughlin. Today marks a big victory for the island of Ireland and beyond. Nevertheless, as Senator Higgins outlined, my sense is that we are talking about a global issue. Will the Minister of State consider requesting that the EPA would conduct the similar study for offshore fracking as for onshore fracking? However, one way or another, as I stated initially, there is a contradiction. We are either moving towards a just transition to a fossil-free future or not. My amendment essentially requests that we recognise that onshore fracking is a problem, as is clear from the EPA report, but, equally, offshore fracking has potential risks for the marine environment and the human environment. It is problematic. On that basis, what is happening today is wonderful and I welcome it, but we need to go beyond that and have the wider debate. That is why I would like to press this amendment.

I mentioned the position that France is taking and we as an island nation have to step up. We are not ambitious enough in meeting our climate change targets. We are failing in that respect. This amendment is pushing it out a step further in recognising that fracking, as every Member here agrees today, is bad for humans and for the environment, whether it is onshore or offshore. That is why I am pressing the amendment. I very much respect Senator Rose Conway-Walsh and her support and I also respect Senator Tim Lombard. However, as Senator Higgins said, what we are agreeing with the passing of this Bill today is a victory for a day but what I am proposing is a step beyond that, namely, that we are ambitious and that we recognise that fracking, whether it is onshore or offshore, is not what this island wants to engage in. That is why I want to press the amendment.

As we are on Committee Stage, I can let Deputy Higgins back in if she wants.

Does the Minister of State want to respond?

Yes, briefly. I understand the Senator O'Sullivan's sentiment on this issue. I understand that the EPA has no remit in respect of the offshore and therefore it would not be involved in that area. I have a hunch this is an area that will be raised either in this or the other House in the very near future in terms of a Bill or a study. I believe it is an issue we will discuss in the very near future. There is no victory until such time as this Bill passes in its present form and I would not like to see any amendment made to it that could comprise the legality, or otherwise, of it. I again ask the Senator not to press her amendment.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 31.

  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelleher, Colette.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.


  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Maria.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Warfield, Fintan.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Grace O'Sullivan; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 1 agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I again commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin and all Members in the House on passing the Bill. It is very important that it is passed today, and I recognise those who were unable to support the amendment in that regard, because regulatory co-operation under the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, is due to start in July and would potentially have jeopardised this Bill. The Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement investment courts have similar agreements and have jeopardised such important regulatory measures in the past. I wanted to highlight that because we will be returning to those investment court issues and this Bill is a reminder of the reason we need to question them.

I compliment the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, and wish him well. It is tremendous that the Government has accepted this Private Members' Bill. It is a step in the right direction because bringing forward a Private Members' Bill on one's own without the backing and support of Ministers is practically impossible. I say "well done" to Deputy Tony McLoughlin and his team for pushing it forward. It is a great success for Leitrim, Roscommon and Ireland in terms of the anti-fracking campaign. I congratulate the Love Leitrim campaign, Friends of the Earth and other organisations. There was a united approach by all parties and none in Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and surrounding areas. In terms of a new Assembly being formed, the Minister has indicated that he will meet with his counterpart in Northern Ireland to ensure he or she brings about the legislation in Northern Ireland also. Northern Ireland does not have legislation to ban fracking and if fracking is allowed there, it will very much affect the Republic of Ireland. I hope all those involved will enjoy their visit to Leinster House. It is well deserved.

I commend everyone who has been involved in this Bill, including Deputy Tony McLoughlin who is present. It is a very happy day in terms of this Bill being passed, but we need to progress the ban on offshore fracking. I welcome the Minister's words on that.

I thank Senator Grace O'Sullivan for tabling that amendment and for putting that signpost there. It is firmly on the agenda and will be dealt with in a comprehensive way to both protect the environment and citizens of this country. That is what we are here to do, so let us be united on this, not divided; united to protect the citizens of this country from the vested interests that have ruined areas of this country and continue to try to take over our own country and as well as our off-shore resources.

I want to acknowledge Deputy Tony McLoughlin, who proposed this Bill, for his great input in making sure this legislation is passed here today. It is a very important day. It is great to see legislation passed in this House that will bring about a major change in people's lives in that part of the world. I want to acknowledge Tony's great input and that of the Minister who spearheaded this campaign to drive it through. Its passing marks a great and very positive day for the Houses of the Oireachtas. Hopefully it will be signed by the President in the next few days and that will be an important statement for Ireland itself. I acknowledge all the great efforts made by people to ensure this legislation was passed.

Deputy Tony McLoughlin should be referred to as Deputy McLoughlin. It is appropriate that as a Member of the other House he should have his name appropriately recorded as Deputy McLoughlin not as Tony. He is entitled to that. The conventions are there and we acknowledge them. I call Senator Grace O'Sullivan before I call the Minister of State.

This is a great day, and huge congratulations to Deputy McLoughlin for all his work and his efforts, and his bravery, as Senator Leyden observed, in taking a Private Member's motion like this, and getting the support around him of the local and wider communities for it. It is one of those days where one sees the ripple effect that it has on communities across Ireland.

Senator Leyden mentioned the North of Ireland and Brexit. It is something that we will have to be cognisant of because it would be such a shame if, through lack of negotiation and consultation, that there would be fracking in the North. We will have to keep the pressure on and keep an eye on the situation and make sure that for the people of all of Ireland, we remain fracking-free. I thank the Minister of State for his engagement which I really appreciate. I look forward to the development of this discussion and to the day when we will celebrate as a nation that our energy sector is renewable and is helping to support a healthy environment for the people of the country.

I thank all the Senators for their co-operation on this very important Bill. Once again, I commend Deputy Tony McLoughlin - lest I be corrected - for his work in spearheading this very important Bill. I also want to recognise Orla Ryan and Clare Morgan from my Department and all the Members on what is a momentous day. I am not sure when a Private Member's Bill last reached Final Stage and became law so it is important to recognise that it is a long time since a Private Members' Bill went through all Stages in the Oireachtas and I commend Deputy McLoughlin. I also recognise the great cross-party support on this very important issue of the banning of onshore fracking, and I commend all the Members.

I have already acknowledged the presence of Deputies McLoughlin and Eamon Scanlon, as well as Councillor Mary Bohan and there may be others there. They are all welcome to the debate and I wish them well.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 4.15 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.