"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
THE company behind controversial plans to carry out gas 'fracking' in the northwest is planning to make more cash donations to local groups.
This follows a row over a €20,000 donation by Tamboran Resources to Manorhamilton Enterprise Forum to help the group's attempt to build a hotel in the Co Leitrim town.
The process known as 'fracking' involves forcing up to 10 million gallons of fluid as far as 1,000 metres below the surface to crack open rock formations. The gas found in the shale below the rocks is channelled back to a well on the surface.
However, pollution can occur if seals break in the vertical pipeline underground, which runs through aquifers and other water supplies. These concerns have led to an opposition campaign in the county.
Tamboran Resources, the company planning to drill hundreds of fracking wells in north Leitrim, said yesterday that it had established a community fund and that it intended to make some money available to other local groups.
The Manorhamilton forum said it had decided to "tackle Tamboran for money" to allow it to proceed with a planning application and feasibility study for the hotel. Tamboran gave the board €20,000 towards this. The voluntary group said it had been "extremely careful to accept the monies without any strings or promises".
It said: "We have received grants towards various projects in the past but these grants are now impossible to get.
"The lack of a small hotel in Manorhamilton means that every wedding and event associated with a hotel must go out of the area every week."
It added that the board could do whatever it wished with the money, provided that it promotes business in the region.
The group criticised what it described as unfair comments about the issue by people who were opposed to fracking, adding: "We have no idea if fracking will ever come here."
The company said: "Tamboran Resources is very pleased to have stepped up to assist them with their plans to benefit their community."
A spokesman told the Irish Independent that it was planning to donate further funds to community initiatives in north Leitrim as it wanted to play its part in the locality.
However, Sinn Fein TD for Sligo-Leitrim, Michael Colreavy, said he was disappointed that the Manorhamilton forum had accepted the Tamboran money.