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Groundswell review – the fight against fracking in Ireland

Peter Bradshaw
·1-min read

In 2010, the American film-maker Josh Fox released something that in retrospect looks like one of the most influential and original documentaries of recent times: GasLand. It was about something new to many at the time: fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, under the earth to release natural gas from shale rock, at the risk of polluting the water table and turning areas of natural beauty into sludge dumps – and that is aside from the existing larger implications of gas consumption.

The film alerted many to a new environmental menace, and it plays its historic role in this new film from Johnny Gogan about the anti-fracking campaign in Ireland, often by people who were energised by seeing GasLand and determined to resist what one campaigner calls the new way of “scraping the bottom of the fossil-fuel barrel”. Exactly so. The coronavirus pandemic has, understandably, diverted many people’s attention from the climate crisis. But there is no vaccination for climate change.

Groundswell shows how the fracking industry has been developing its interests in Ireland for many years, especially in North Leitrim, the corporations clearly calculating that it is unlikely to muster much protest because it is so sparsely populated. But communities did come together, with artists and writers joining the movement, and the Irish campaigners have been able to make international common cause with their equivalents in the United States, and draw on their knowledge.

Ireland made history by banning not just fracking but also by importing fracked gas, and the fracking corporations are now pursuing their business over the border in Northern Ireland. A lesson to communities and campaigners there and everywhere else to stay vigilant.

• Groundswell is released on 16 April on digital platforms.