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Thursday July 14, 2011 19:09 by Contaminated Crow
Report back on meeting
Over 60 people attended a meeting of those opposed to proposed gas fracking in the north-west at the Mayflower in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim on the night of July 12th. The major concerns raised at the meeting were organisational, with the –still nameless- group agreeing to the formation of a ‘core group which isn’t called a core group’.
Editor: Fracking is technology used for extracting natural gas trapped in rocks underground and is the process of forcing liquids and solids into the rock and forcing it to crack and thereby releasing the gas. Fracking liquids can cause pollution and the process of cracking the rock can significantly drop the water table and dry out huge areas.It has many other problems including exponential fall-off in production from year 1.
Over 60 people attended a meeting of those opposed to proposed gas fracking in the north-west at the Mayflower in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim on the night of July 12th. The major concerns raised at the meeting were organisational, with the –still nameless- group agreeing to the formation of a ‘core group which isn’t called a core group’. This was the third meeting of its kind, but the first one this observer attended. Two people –Charlie, an English woman who chaired the meeting, and Paul, an American man who had proposed a structure for the group- stood at the front by a flip-chart and appeared to direct the meeting, while everyone else sat around in a circle on chairs. As is usual at such meetings, most of the audience didn’t speak, though more people spoke later when the meeting broke up into smaller groups.
The meeting’s main focus was organisational. The current structure has involved the formation of what are called ‘focus groups’ (which appear to be specialised work groups) dealing with legal issues, technical/scientific issues, research, media and communications (the largest group by far), fundraising (the smallest group, surprise, surprise), etc., as well as the formation of locally-based groups, which has been disappointing so far: four possible local groups were mentioned at the meeting –Ballinaglera, Drumsna, Kinlough and another whose name I didn’t catch.
Four different proposals on structure were proposed to the meeting, with a woman named Lia proposing a network structure in which local groups would make their own decisions and determine their own actions, while coming together in an umbrella group to share information, while Paul and John proposed a core or hub group being given strategic and monitoring responsibilities. The fourth proposal, by a woman named Saskia, argued that legal action was what would stop fracking and so a limited liability company should be formed for that purpose. This last proposal was ignored in the following discussion which was mainly on issues of autonomy, responsibility, representation and democracy, with fears expressed over how much control the central group would have and whether the core group would impinge on the freedom of local groups and individuals to undertake their own actions, while other concerns such as the need for effective decision-making and to respond quickly to company statements were raised by supporters of the core group proposal, During the discussion one lone voice was raised pointing out that there had been no discussion of the strategy implicit in the proposals while two people raised concerns over how much of the campaign was being conducted online, pointing out that many people had no internet access: while this was acknowledged, it was not discussed further. One person who raised this issue pointed out that most people in Leitrim read the local paper and said groups should use the Local Notes section of the Leitrim Observer to announce events.
Following a tea/cigarette/discussion break, the meeting reassembled to hear a modified proposal from Paul for the formation of a core group (which wouldn’t be called a core group, as many people had difficulties with the implications of the name) which would be given two weeks to define its area of operation, just as the focus groups had been given the autonomy to define their areas of operation/specialisation, with a call for people to trust those in the core group and a suggestion that the group be comprised of representatives from the ‘focus groups’, with the group no larger than 10 to 15 people for effective decision-making. Surprisingly, despite the previous discussion, most present voted for the proposal, with no-one voting against, but a number of abstentions. (This observer abstained.) The meeting then broke up into the ‘focus groups’ for discussion of nominations to the core group and to organise these groups’ future meetings and activities. The meeting ended after the groups returned with nominations for the core groups.
While there have obviously been disagreements about the best form of organisation for opposition to fracking in the northwest and there’s an immediate need for the base of the opposition to broaden –in particular, to mobilise the farming community- so far there has been some great work undertaken autonomously by various groups and individuals. The film Gasland continues to be shown at meetings throughout the county while a recent picket on a County Council meeting drew some 50 protesters. Cinema North-West, which began the local discussion by showing the Gasland film back in May in Drumshambo will be showing the film in Dromahair this Friday, July 15 at 8PM, while screening by various groups will take place shortly in Cootehill, Geevagh and Knockvicar.
A variety of Facebook and other sites have been started (see http://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Fracking-Ireland/21739...84498 or http://www.facebook.com/WhatTheFrack ) and some 2000 leaflets were handed out and 600 signatures on a petition against fracking were obtained last weekend in Carrick-on-Shannon. Finally this Saturday, McGirls in Ballinamore will host a benefit gig from 5.30 this coming Saturday (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=232039040163294).