A County Leitrim woman is attempting to raise awareness surrounding the dangers of underground gas exploration, or ‘fracking’ by walking 133 miles in just nine days.
Cecily Gilligan plans on marking the completion of her exhaustive trek from Manorhamilton in north Leitrim to Dublin by marching to the gates of the Dail to present a petition to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.
And according to the free-talking primary school teacher, it’s a crusade she intends pursuing, with or without the Government’s help.
“We are very concerned about it (fracking),” said Cecily, as she took a brief moment of respite along a dual carriageway outside of Mullingar.
Her reference to the term ‘we’ is heavily linked to her involvement with local interest group, Love Leitrim.
The Manorhamilton environmental body’s latest slogan- ’Ban Fracking in Ireland’ is one Cecily hopes will lead to renewed dialogue over the coming months.
“There has been no public debate on the matter,” she argued, raising her voice somewhat to overcome the audible sound of traffic in the background.
“The Government haven’t really taken a look at the overall reality of the situation. The thing is there are many concerns with this practice not least the threat to our water supplies, air and human and animal health.”
More commonly known for its controversial measures in extracting gas from deep underlying rock, anxieties associated with fracking have steadily caught hold.
France and parts of the US and Britain, were among the first to suspend its activity as fears heightened over its long term environmental impact.
More locally, the stance taken towards its management has appeared more accommodating with Australian firm Tamboran Resources being granted option licences to carry out testing in counties Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh.
Economic offshoots have also been promised, but according to Cecily and those aligned to the Love Leitrim mantra, it’s a pledge which could ultimately lead to far-reaching health implications.
“This company has promised 600 jobs over the course of 50 years. That’s around 12 jobs a year. What studies have shown is that fracking increases the risk of cancer, babies are born smaller and it can bring about problems with a person’s endocrine system if water supplies are contaminated,” she claimed.
“What it will do is destroy our thriving indigenous industry in this region, these companies will come in and bring about a compulsory purchase of land and leave a huge toxic mess. Who is going to pay and clean that up?”
That, along with umpteen others, is a question the Dromahair teacher plans on directing to messrs Kenny and Rabbitte later this week.