Representatives from a broad range of concerned community groups met with Labour Party TDs and Senators in Leinster House on Wednesday to discuss proposals to develop infrastructure in Ireland for the export of power to the UK.
The meeting was arranged by Wicklow’s Anne Ferris and TD for Kildare South Jack Wall.
Deputy Ferris thanked the groups from across Ireland who engaged in the meeting. “We cannot have an effective democracy in Ireland without involving communities at all stages in Oireachtas decisions,” she said.
“I want community groups to know that they have an open forum here within the Labour Party to make their feelings known about important issues such as energy policy. It is up to us now as politicians to take on board these concerns in a meaningful way.”
Opening the discussion Clifford Dagg from the County Wicklow D2 Alliance and PRO of Pylons Alternative Alliance an umbrella group organization representing nine counties along the proposed Grid Link pylon route from Cork to Kildare, welcomed the opportunity for politicians and community groups to engage saying that “politicians have a responsibility to look at all sides of the debate in a balanced fashion”.
Helen Gelletlie, hotelier from Co. Wicklow and founding member of Dun Laoghaire based Coastal Concern Alliance voiced concerns about 900 offshore wind pylons that are being proposed for the coastline from Dun Laoghaire down to Wexford. “There has been effectively no public consultation on this. The coastline landscape on the east coast of Ireland has attracted tourists for hundreds of years. It plays a critical role in the employment of thousands of people in the tourism industry.”
The meeting received a presentation from the organization Wind Aware who is calling for a full Strategic Environmental Assessment of all wind projects, for domestic and export. Wind Aware claims that the current SEA is flawed as it does not target the area where the environment is impacted.
Colm Fingleton from RTS Substation Action Group and one of the landowners who will host this year’s ploughing championships in Co. Laois, urged the politicians to take the ‘window of opportunity’ presented by the downturn to rethink Ireland’s energy policy, “we have to remember that power usage in Ireland at the height of the boom was some 25% higher than it is at present and there were no power outages. The lights are not going to go out if the Government takes time to consider this issue more carefully”.
David Reid of the Westmeath-based Lakeland Group spoke about the need to review the policy put in place by the FF/Green coalition government to build pylons and turbines across Ireland for the purpose of exporting renewable power to the UK. “This policy is from another era there is increasing evidence that there is no sustainable market in the UK for renewable power from Ireland.”
David O’ Brien representing the Kildare based Grid Link Action Group who are objecting to the development of pylon routes and a significant EirGrid substation in Co. Kildare spoke of the risks to the nationally important tourism and bloodstock industries. “These industries play a critical role in the national economy. The bloodstock industry of Co. Kildare is internationally renowned. Racehorse breeders and trainers are voicing very strong concerns about the effects and risks posed by pylons and so far EirGrid has not listened to them”.
John Leamy representing Kilkenny based group Care for Clara welcomed the recent decision by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte to establish a panel for the review of options to underground pylon routes. “There are real concerns in local communities about this issue if this review panel is to have credibility at local level it will need to establish terms of reference that are broad enough to encompass an inquiry into the need for these proposals by EirGrid and wind developers” he advised the politicians.