17
Jul
2006

Co. Cork Power-line protesters in Dublin High Court

Here is an update from today's (July 17)THE IRISH TIMES on the power-line protesting farmers in Co. Cork.

The broadsheet's environment editor, Frank McDonald, manages to write this report without one reference to the actual underlying cause of the dispute: the potential risk to health posed by the powerlines crossing their farms and being adjacent to family homes with young children.

Of course, it is obvious that any mention of the health damaging possibilities of overhead cables must be ignored to safeguard the Celtic Tiger's (Ireland's) economic interests. And in a lenghty News Feature article on electricity, also in today's IRISH TIMES
("Power Struggle"), its Science Editor, Dick Ahlstrom, makes this point blatantly clear in his opening sentence

"Ireland's capacity for wealth creation is critically dependent on a reliable supply of electricity."

Best, Imelda, Cork



THE IRISH TIMES, MONDAY, JULY 17, 2006

"POWER-LINE PROTESTERS FACE COURT: ESB ACTION AGAINST FIVE FARMER ACCUSED OF BLOCKING WIND FARM PYLONS

[by] Frank McDonald, Environment Editor

Five farmers who have been protesting against a
14-kilometre power line in west Cork are to appear today in the High Court in Dublin where the ESB is seeking injunctions to prevent them blocking access to their lands.

The five - Tadhg Coughlan, John Keane, Mary Keane, Jack Kingston and Susan Kingston - are members of Bantry Concerned Action Group, which has been preventing the ESB from installing poles and pylons for the 38 kilovolt overhead power line.

The line, which is intended to serve a proposed wind farm, would run through scenic areas between Colomane and Ballylickey, passing within 25 metres of some houses. Farm gates along the route are manned by pickets and there have been some stand-offs.

On May 23rd, the ESB obtained High Court injunctions against six other members of the action group, including its chairman, Joe Burke.

The injunctions prevent them from blocking access to their lands so that work can proceed on the erection of poles and pylons.

The power line is designed to provide a connection to the national grid for the proposed wind farm at Droumoureen, which is being developed by Ballybawn Wind Farm Ltd, a company controlled by Bantry-based businessmen Bob Murnane and Denis O'Shea.

Mr Murnane and Mr O'Shea have issued a civil summons against 23 named individuals from the action group seeking damages of €1.75 million in compensation for losses resulting from delays in the wind farm project caused by protests.

They have an uncontested planning permission from Cork County Council to erect 21 wind turbines with an output of 19.55 megawatts.

Last December, it sought permission for a revised scheme of 13 larger turbines to produce 40 per cent more electricity.

The local action group has not objected to the wind farm but wants the power line put underground "as is common practice throughout Europe".

An agreement was made last year to bury the line for four landowners in the Colomane area, to the exclusion of others The group has estimated the additional cost of putting cables underground at between €1.5 million and €3 million.

Quentin Gargan, the group's spokesman, said the ESB has a statutory obligation to connect to the grid at least cost, even though this would mean skirting a Sitka spruce forestry plantation and "cutting a 50 metre-wide swathe straight through native woodlands".

Referring to the Commission for Energy Regulation's set price of 5.75 cents per unit for electricity from wind farms, he said this was "lower than the price paid for electricity from gas and many other sources, and keeps the margins for wind farm operators very tight".

According to Mr Gargan, the commission should establish a higher price specifically to fund placing lines under ground.

"Already there are higher prices for electricity from offshore wind farms because of the higher construction and transmission costs," he said.

A spokesman for ESB Networks said it had no comment to make, in view of the court case. However, he noted that in granting the earlier injunctions on May 23rd, Judge Frank Clarke said it would be legally wrong for the ESB to choose the high-cost underground option.

Meanwhile, the action group is to hold a rally on Friday at Joe Burke's farm in Droumoureen. Farmers from as far away as counties Donegal and Wexford, including some who have been involved in similar battles, have indicated that they will attend.
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