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Anxiety erupts over major Mayo wind farm proposal – Mulherin insists communities must be rewarded for supporting plan

Mayo Fine Gael Deputy Michelle Mulherin has welcomed the news that both the ESB and Bord na Mona are to engage in consultation directly with representatives of the various community groups concerned over the proposed development of Ireland’s biggest wind farm at Oweninny.

The Ballina-based representative said that there has to be proper pay back for the local community, who recognise the importance of development for their area, and stressed that she fully supported the community in looking for a fair deal from the project.

Deputy Mulherin was speaking after she had attended a public meeting, organised by Keenagh Development Association, in the Town Hall, Crossmolina, on Thursday night last to discuss the proposed 370 mega watts Oweninny wind farm.

The north Mayo TD called for meaningful dialogue by developers with communities.

She said: “The ESB and Bord na Mona must consult with the people of Keenagh, Crossmolina and the Bellacorrick areas.

“I want to compliment everyone within the local communities where the wind farm is to be built for showing their interest and coming out on Thursday night.

“The overwhelming sentiment of the people was that they were in favour of embracing development for economic growth, but wanted proper community benefit and gain from the project through local employment during construction and operation where possible and a transparent community fund in which the local people have set priorities for improvements in their own communities which can be supported by the fund.

“I fully support the community in looking for a fair deal from this project.

“To begin with the €1,000 per megawatt installed per annum for the community fund is nowhere near the amount of €2,500 per megawatt installed as set out by Mayo County Council in its draft guidelines.

“Consultation with the communities on the part of ESB and Bord na Mona has to be more than just handing out information.

“I believe we are at a watershed juncture for our county and how ESB and Bord na Mona deal with the community will set a precedent for how well embraced wind farms and other energy infrastructural projects will be by communities and how easy it will be for wind farm and other developers to develop their energy projects on the ground.

“For a good number of years, we have been talking about the best wind speeds in the country if not Europe being in County Mayo and along the western seaboard of our country. During the years of the Celtic Tiger, when money was to be made elsewhere, very little progress was made in actually developing the potential of our wind resource.

“Now it is happening. Development of our green economy is recognised in the programme for government as an essential part of investing in our economic recovery and jobs as well as reducing our massive dependency on imported fossil fuels to meet our energy demands and our green house gas emissions to meet our international obligations and providing our people and business with energy security.

“There has to be meaningful dialogue by developers with communities and now in this case ESB and Bord na Mona must do so with the people of Keenagh, Crossmolina and the Bellacorrick areas.

“These people are willing to play ball and recognise the importance of development for their area but there has to be proper pay back for them. It has to be thrashed out.

“There is no better place or time for a good precedent for community consultation and benefits to be set than in this very location where this, the biggest wind farm in the country, is being planned and where history was made in 1992 with when we saw the first commercial wind farm in the country built at Bellacorrick by Bord na Mona.

“I commend the representatives of Bord na Mona and ESB for engaging with people at the meeting, where passions ran high at times.

“Clearly the deal on the table is not acceptable to the community, but Bord na Mona and ESB have got to hear views first hand and have agreed to engage in consultation directly with representatives of the various community groups and this is a positive step towards a resolution, which I welcome and support.”