An outright ban on fracking in Ireland has moved a step closer.
New laws to outlaw onshore drilling for shale gas from rocks, sands and coal seams passed the latest stage in the Dail parliament in Dublin.
The ban is expected to come into effect in the middle of the summer.
Kate Ruddock, Friends of the Earth Ireland’s deputy director, said it was a great victory for local campaigners.
“It’s also a victory for the global climate movement. All around the world communities are campaigning to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to put citizens at the heart of a new, clean, healthy energy system,” she said.
“This victory is a tribute to their solidarity and is a shot in the arm for our common cause of a fossil-free future.”
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves drilling into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is forced into rock to release gas.
The legislation was introduced by a politician from a rural region and secured cross-party support in parliament, where the government is in a minority.
Tony McLoughlin, TD for Sligo-Leitrim where the prospect of fracking faced a groundswell of popular opposition, said: “It could not be clearer that it is a very necessary law that has been heavily scrutinised and continually improved.
“The scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that permitting fracking in Ireland and Northern Ireland would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here.”
Eddie Mitchell, spokesman for Love Leitrim which helped to spearhead the anti-fracking campaign, said: “It’s hugely significant for communities like us who have taken on the fracking industry.
“But we don’t feel we can sit still yet. We have done this on the back of opposition in Northern Ireland. The situation has not changed there.
“They are still trying to get fracking there. We can’t rest until we get support for these communities. We have put down a marker but we owe it to them.”
Ms Ruddock added: “Ireland has a reputation as a climate laggard and too often our lack of climate action is a cause of embarrassment internationally, but today we can be proud of our parliament for putting Ireland in the vanguard of the movement to ban fracking.”
A parliamentary committee which assessed the legislation earlier this month found that fracking would create the potential for groundwater contamination, leaks and surface chemical spills.
It also said that uncertainty over how much greenhouse gas is produced by the industry is reason enough to ban it and that a “vigorous regulatory regime“ may not be enough to prevent pollution.
The legislation is expected to pass its final hurdle in the Seanad in the coming weeks.
Three exploratory licences were granted in Ireland in 2011 for fracking, but no extraction has taken place.
France, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Germany have all banned fracking.