Climate campaigners hold “tug-of-war” in front of Leinster House

30 July 2021 

Protesters gathered before the Dail today and staged a “tug-of-war” to highlight fracked gas imports and the climate implications of data centres. 

Members of Extinction Rebellion Ireland dressed as representatives of tech companies as part of their campaign, holding the rope on one end during a tug-of-war while children pulled on the other. 

The action aimed to highlight the recently granted strategic infrastructure status to Fortress Energy Shannon LNG import terminal and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities’ (CRU) warning that energy demand from data centres could lead to rolling power blackouts. 

“Over 700 organisations from around the world have called on our Government to lead a global effort to ban all fracking everywhere. This Government has refused that call. Now we must answer,” A Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said. 

The non-hierarchical movement also issued a number of demands as part of today’s action, including banning the use of fossil fuel generators in energy infrastructure for data centres and an explicit end to the Shannon LNG terminal. 

For the children in attendance, mother and activist Caitriona Kenny said that the decision to have them involved in activism so young was “a bit of a struggle.” 

“I don’t want to scare them, but the reality is that they are aware of it. They’re learning about climate change in school. 

I have channelled my fear and anxiety into activism, and I think that it can be positive for them, too,” Ms. Kenny told the Green News. 

Members of Extinction Rebellion Ireland protesting against fracked gas March 2021 photo: Kayle Crosson

Fracked gas & data centres 

Earlier this month the CRU told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action that the current approach to data centres was the the “appropriate one” and that new data centre connections to the national grid “would not happen for quite some time to come.” 

When pressed on whether or not the body would call for a moratorium on data centres, CRU Commissioner Jim Gannon said the CRU has not called for such an action at the current moment. 

Data centres, which house computer systems and associated components, are anticipated to account for a significant portion of national electricity demand over the coming decade. 

By 2027, EirGrid has estimated that data centres, alongside a small number of large industrial centres, will account for almost a third of national electricity demand. 

Public pressure has continued to grow on the Government for Ireland to lead a global ban on fracking. 

Earlier this year the International Human Rights Impact of Fracking report was launched by the Irish Centre for Human Rights which found that unconventional oil and gas exploration impacts several rights, including the right to life, health, water, food, and housing. 

These violations disproportionately impact individuals and communities from marginalised backgrounds such as children living in poverty, the report concluded. 

Story by Kayle Crosson and Sam Starkey