August 2, 2013

A community divided

By Laois Nationalist Reporter | August 01, 2013 |

A wind farm public information day had to be abandoned in Vicarstown last Tuesday evening when up to 200 protesters disrupted proceedings.

Ten members of the Greenwire wind farm team were forced to retreat from Vicarstown GAA clubhouse two hours before the information day was due to end on their proposals to develop wind farms in the midlands region.

Three groups are now set up opposing wind turbines in Laois. When contacted by the ***Laois Nationalist*** to find out who had organised the protest, no group took responsibility for it.

While a number of people had gathered with placards showing their opposition to the proposed wind farm developments in the Vicarstown/Ballybrittas area when the doors opened at 2pm, it was not until 5pm that crowds began to gather.

At about 6pm, about 200 men, women and children, many waving placards, packed into the GAA clubhouse.

People began demanding that Greenwire CEO Tim Cowhig, who was present, sit down and fully engage in a public debate with the local community about what his company is planning for the area.

There were also some heated exchanges, with one woman demanding to know who had invited the company to Vicarstown. At one stage, one local man accused another local landowner of inviting the company to the area, which led to an exchange of words and both men having to be restrained.

Greenwire personnel were surrounded by groups of people demanding to know how many local landowners had signed up with the company to allow them access to consider whether their lands were suitable for wind turbines.

Mr Cowhig led his team out of the hall and abandoned the meeting. They were followed out by people still demanding to know what the company was planning for the area.

Yesterday (Monday), the Laois Wind Energy Aware Group (LWEAG) made what was described by county councillors at their monthly council meeting as “a powerful” and “very emotional” presentation on their concerns around the citing of 180-metre high wind turbines across Laois. Indeed, such was the testament of one man, Michael Keane from Roscommon, to his horrid experience of living close to two wind turbines, that it drew a standing ovation from the overflowing public gallery and from two councillors, Padraig Fleming and Ben Brennan. The impact of the presentation on councillors was not lost on one independent cllr Paul Mitchell, who, at the last meeting, voted against a motion to place a moratorium on the development of wind farms in the county until the outcome of the national guidelines, told the meeting that his “position on them had softened.”

Also rowing in behind the local people in support of the moratorium was independent cllr Rotimi Adebari, who was not present at the previous meeting when the motion was voted on.

A full report on the group’s presentation yesterday to Laois Co Council will be carried in next week’s edition. See full report, comments and photographs on last Tuesday’s events on pages 8 and 9.

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