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Anger was vented on local politicians during the information meeting about wind turbines in Ballyroan last week.
A letter from Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan was criticised. The letter stressed the importance of renewable energy, that consultations would take place later in the year, and updated planning guidelines would be drafted.
“These are not Ireland’s energy targets, these are Britain’s. This is sitting on the fence and trying to sound reasonable, it’s not reasonable,” said one audience member, to a round of applause.
Fine Gael Cllr Mary Sweeney from Ballyroan rejected a suggestion from an audience member that councillors were paid to support the turbine projects, as did Cllr Padraig Fleming from The Swan.
“The public perceptions are wrong. None of them take money, I work for the community as best I can so people’s properties are protected,” he said.
Cllr Sweeney said she had “very serious concerns” about the wind turbines.
“I was invited to two meetings (with renewable company Element Power) but I personally haven’t attended. We feel it is too early, there is no planning application in. Be clear that Bord na Móna and Coillte have made approaches to landowners too. This is a battle but I don’t buy into the thing that this is corporate greed,” she said.
A woman in the audience criticised her lack of knowledge.
“I am quite upset that our local representatives know so little, and the people at the top table who have only researched this in the last two weeks, know more. Are you Fine Gael? Well if you don’t know you should know, you should inform yourself,” the woman said angrily.
Deputy Stanley said most people favoured wind farms, but the problem was how they were done.
“First these should be for local use, then national, then if there is a surplus, export. In Denmark there is strong community ownership, but locations need to be worked out,” he said, defending Dep Flanagan’s call for stronger guidelines.
“Charlie made a good point, we need to be fair. I believe the guidelines are paper thin, literally useless,” he said.
Cllr James Daly said he supported the fight against the project.
“I met Element Power with the other councillors in The Heritage Hotel, we asked them very hard questions, and most councillors left the room opposed but I cannot come to a farmer and stop him signing a lease agreement.
“I heard of a number of people supposedly signing, and three out of four are living in Portlaoise, absentee landlords. I have no problem with wind energy, but in very remote forestry and bogland, keep it at that, not on our doorsteps,” he said.
All the politicians agreed to support a moritorium on advancing the project until new tighter guidelines were in place.
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