As MLAs engaged in a fiery war of words this week on the pros and cons of fracking, The News Letter took to the street to see what the public made of the matter.
Some were opposed on the grounds that it is too risky while for others the possibility of an economic bonanza meant that it would be foolish to rule it out – and one lamented the fact the whole issue has now become so politicised.
It came against a backdrop of heated exchanges in the previous 48 hours, after SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan turned down an application to drill an exploratory fracking well in Belcoo, Fermanagh.
The move prompted from unionists, who have been inclined to back the practice.
Many of those who watched the row unfold in the media had a fairly sober response.
Richard Kenny, 64 and a retired civil servant living in Lisburn, said: “I can understand the concerns about fracking, and I think they have to be thoroughly investigated.
“But I think it’s maybe short-sighted to rule it out from the outset. I think we should examine the potential and get all the facts before we decide to go for it or not.”
Retired radiographer Edna Robinson from Hillsborough said: “I really know very little about it ... I suppose we’ve got to look for resources where we can find them but when there’s such a question mark over it, you wonder.
“The whole thing today; now it’s become a political agenda as they manage to make everything in Northern Ireland, which really irritates me.”
Patricia McKeown, a retired teacher and psychotherapist from Banbridge, said: “All I know about fracking is what I’ve read in the newspaper. And the impression I get is that it’s quite dicey ... I don’t wish to be negative about that, but that’s all I’m picking up; that it might be a risky business.”
John Creaney, 78-year-old motor engineer living in Lisburn, said: “To me, it ruins the countryside and we don’t know the consequences of it. According to what I have read it could end with earthquak es and water pollution.”
Lesley Harvey, a 48-year-old housewife from Aghalee, said: “If it’s going to be good for the economy, I think it’s the right way to go. Clearly, there’s a huge cost to heating and getting oil and so on, and if we’ve alternatives, I would have thought it’s an obvious option. It’s worth a try.”
Irene McCool, a 52-year-old teacher from Crumlin, said: “I don’t feel well enough informed to make a judgment. I’m aware there’s potential for new jobs, but also that there’s huge environmental issues. It’s not on my doorstep as well; maybe that’s why I haven’t taken a bigger interest.”
Fracking involves fracturing underground rocks by pumping in high-pressure fluid, in order to release fuel trapped within them.
See the Morning View section of the website, or p18 in the newspaper.