"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
AN IRISH-BORN doctor who campaigned to highlight health problems in communities affected by oil exploration in Canada is to give a series of talks in Ireland this week about the risks of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Dr John O’Connor came to prominence in Canada where he drew attention to high rates of cancer in residents of Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta, a remote community on the edge of the Canadian tar sands project, one of the largest oilfields in the world.
Dr O’Connor was reported to the College of Physicians in Canada by the health authorities on the basis that he was raising “undue public alarm” and had not produced evidence to back up his claim. He was later cleared in 2007.
The process of fracking could be used to liberate up to 4.4 trillion cubic feet of gas worth €116 billion at present day prices in an area of north Leitrim and south Fermanagh, according to Tamboran, the company which has been given an onshore licence to carry out exploratory drilling.
Dr Elizabeth Cullen of the Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association has also raised concerns about the process of fracking, citing examples of water contamination in the US as a reason why it should be banned in Ireland.
A recent independent study by the University of Austin, Texas, found that it was not the process of fracking but the disposal of waste water which was responsible for pollution.
Dr O’Connor will be joined by Jessica Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry who is suing an energy company for allegedly contaminating her property and drinking water.
Tamboran chief executive Richard Moorman defended the process of fracking in his native Canada at a meeting in Leinster House attended by TDs and Senators last week.
Mr Moorman said fracking had an exemplary record in both Alberta and the bordering province of Saskatchewan.
The O’Connor meetings start tonight in Belcoo community hall, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, the Clarion Hotel in Sligo tomorrow, the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon on Thursday, the Rainbow, Glenfarne, on Friday, and at a venue to be decided on Saturday in Dublin.