Stormont’s only UKIP MLA has strongly backed fracking as a way of extracting fuel.
Amid ongoing furious protests in England over the controversial method, David McNarry said that UKIP were early supporters of the practice.
Fracking has split Ulster politicians along largely Orange-Green lines, with SDLP and Sinn Fein politicians urging caution over the technique.
Mr McNarry, who represents Strangford, said: “Well ahead of any other party, UKIP was first to move in promoting fracking in the United Kingdom.
“I want no stone left unturned in pursuit of maximising fracking opportunities which will benefit our local economy. Moreover it will be a welcome, viable, cost-effective alternative to suspect wind farms.
“There can be no prevarication and no concessions to tree huggers.”
Noting that the SDLP environment minister Mark H Durkan had been highly wary of fracking, Mr McNarry said: “I am calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to by-pass minister Durkan’s negativity by hosting, early next year, a Fracking Convention, welcoming all frackers in what can be seen as a Friends of the Frackers Initiative.”
Other supporters of exploring fracking include former finance minister Sammy Wilson and his DUP successor Simon Hamilton, and ex-UUP peer Lord Kilclooney.
NI Conservatives’ environment spokesman Brian McBride described some of those protesting against fracking in West Sussex as a “deeply confused collection of malcontents”. He said: “There’s so much speculation, tittle-tattle and hysteria around the subject, whereas what we need is evidence and informed debate.”
Yesterday demonstrators in Balcombe said they are determined to continue their protest against fracking despite the camp becoming much quieter during a second day of action. A heavy police presence remained outside the Cuadrilla site in London Road.
Campaigner Grace Blindell, 92, said: “We have become addicted to fossil fuel. We need three planets and it cannot be done. We have got to learn to live in a different and sustainable way.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who was arrested in Balcombe on Monday, said she was trying to stop a process which could cause enormous damage for decades to come. She will find out the police’s decision about whether to press charges next week.
See Morning View, page 20