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Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Press Release October 26th 2020: 

SDLP Minister Nichola Mallon must answer perceived conflict of interest concerns behind new push for fracking in Northern Ireland following Mark H Durkan Comments that her husband "works for a pr company who have been commissioned by another company who have been commissioned by a completely different Department"

- We ask if Minister Mallon has declared publicly that her husband Brendan Scott is the main PR "liaison officer" for EHA - one of the two petroleum licence applicants in Northern Ireland, even though she announced a new regulatory process for gas exploration on October 6th 2020, which has a direct impact on the company her husband represents?

- Mark H. Durkan says on Ecoleaks that  Minister Nichola Mallon's husband Brendan Scott "works for a pr company who have been commissioned by another company who have been commissioned by a completely different Department". Which Department Mark? We are confused.

Former Northern Ireland SDLP Environment Minister, Mark H. Durkan, on October 25th, 2020  posted controversial comments on the  EcoLeaks facebook page about his former Special Advisor and now Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon on questions surrounding her husband's links with  EHA Exploration.

EHA and Tamboran are the 2 companies applying for petroleum licences, which must be decided upon by the Northern Ireland Executive (the Cabinet) of which Minister Mallon is the only SDLP member.

If Minister Mallon is prevented from voting on that decision in the Executive due to a perceived conflict of interest with EHA, then this is an issue of grave concern. The Executive decision risks opening the door to fracking on a massive scale in Northern Ireland and risks Ireland importing fracked gas from Northern Ireland  via the North-South Interconnector - a situation that runs counter to the Irish Programme for Government which has explicitly stated "We do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach".

Mark H. Durkan's final edited statement on EcoLeaks was:

"Absolute nonsense. Nichola is in no way trying to remove the ban on fracking, that I introduced as Minister. Her husband works for a pr company who have been commissioned by another company who have been commissioned by a completely different Department. She recently announced a removal of permitted development rights - a move that was called for and welcomed by anti-fracking environmental groups".

If EHA is a private company applying for a petroleum licence in Northern Ireland, how could Assembly member  Mark  H. Durkan state that Nichola Mallon's husband works ultimately for "a completely different Department"?
Is Mark H. Durkan referring to a Government Department different to Minister Mallon's Infrastructure Deparment, such as the Department for Economy, Petroleum Branch?

To which "completely different Department" is Mark Durkan referring when writing about Minister Mallon's husband Brendan Scott, who, from EHA Exploration Limited's website is EHA's main contact person?

Mark Durkan confirmed in the same EcoLeaks Post that the Brendan Scott in the post was indeed Minister Mallon's husband:

EHA's website clearly shows a Brendan Scott as the contact person for EHA Exploration:

The sensitivity surrounding these questions is evident when our questions are met with stoney silence from all levels of society. Minister Nichola Mallon announced the removal of permitted development rights (PDR) for gas exploration  on October 6th, 2020 - a move  which will have a direct impact on EHA and Tamboran if their petroleum licence applications are eventually accepted in a cross-cutting decision by the Executive of which Minister Mallon is a member. 

As the Irish Government has to publish a written policy on fracked gas imports as agreed in the Programme for Government, it will now have to account for the possibility of fracked gas coming down south via the north-south gas interconnector. This proposed activity to frack Northern Ireland requires immediate transboundary consultation as obliged under the Espoo Convention of which both the UK and Ireland are signatories. Any report being commissioned by the Petroleum Branch of the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland that undermines the Northern Ireland effective ban on fracking requires transboundary consultation at the earliest possible opportunity. We want transboundary consultation to be triggered now because of the actions of Northern Ireland Ministers.

Local Northern Ireland anti-fracking campaign group 'Belcoo  Frack Free' has also issued a press release on the matter as follows:


Concerns over reports husband of the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon works for one of the companies seeking a petroleum licence

Belcoo Frack Free chair, Tom White, called for clarifications from the SDLP over recent revelations that posed the possibility of a breach of the Ministerial Code.

"This revelation poses obvious questions in regard to a potential conflict of interest and they need to be addressed by the Minister and also the SDLP.  Mr Brendan Scott, the Minister’s husband, and Mr Brendan Mulgrew both formerly worked at Stormont for SDLP Ministers and MLAs. 

“Mr Scott and Mr Mulgrew's company MW Advocate provide public relations and advocacy for one of the companies, EHA Exploration, applying for a petroleum licence near lough Neagh. There are shortly to be decisions on petroleum licensing policy and the granting of petroleum licences brought to the Executive and Minister Mallon will be expected to vote on those matters.

"This conflict of interest has not been declared or registered. We await how the Minister and the SDLP announce how they will deal with this. Some have advised that Belcoo Frack Free should concentrate our efforts on the Department for the Economy not the Department for Infrastructure but in fact the real effort needs to be on shining a light on the activities of the oil and gas industry here. 

"Mr Scott and Mr Mulgrew have no ordinary role in their dealings with EHA. Their role is to provide a communications strategy for EHA to communities and to political decision makers in local government and at Stormont. Their job is to sell the notion that Northern Ireland needs an oil and gas industry onshore. 

"The oil and gas business is yesterday's industry but it refuses to go down without a fight. We must remain alert and where this industry is shown to have undue influence, we must call it out even when in the past those decision makers or their party have protected our community through their actions. We re-iterate our call on the Minister for the Economy and the Executive to respect the motion passed in the Assembly on 13th October last to reject petroleum licensing onshore in Northern Ireland, and to pass legislation to this effect."


John McElligott
Safety Before LNG