What started out as a local issue among a small group of people in the rural area of Vicarstown nearly a year ago has now mushroomed into a global campaign.
That’s what over 100 people heard from members of the Laois Wind Energy Awareness Group (LWEAG) in Fisherstown last Monday night when the BBC World Service filmed a wind energy information meeting.
LWEAG spokesperson Kevin Scully told the meeting, which was attended by people from Wexford, Kildare, Carlow, Westmeath and Offaly, that there has been a huge national upswell of resistance to wind farms and to electricity pylons.
LWEAG spokesperson Ray Conroy said that the purpose of the meeting was to encourage individuals and communities to make submissions to the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) in Britain, setting out their objections to the locating of wind turbines and electricity pylons in Ireland to generate and supply electricity for the British market only.
Mr Conroy said: “It’s very important that we let the UK know that we will be the people who will have to deal with the consequences of these. There is a questionmark surrounding the security with the property belonging to the UK. We are not in the UK. We are a neutral country. Britain’s policy is attracting certain elements and groups. How far would they (British) go to protect their property or is it our obligation to protect UK property? Who will protect their property? There is also a constitutional question over these issues, too.”
Mr Conroy said: “Our government must think we’re stupid. Without turbines, you don’t have pylons and without pylons you don’t need turbines. We can’t let these happen. If we do, we will be ruining the environment for our children and our grandchildren. These turbines and wind farms are all about greed. They’re for money and nothing else.”
Colm Fingleton from Ratheniska, Timahoe and Spink (RTS)
Substation Action Group said that it had been difficult trying to get the national media engaged in the campaign. He said that his group’s presentation at the recent An Bord Pleanála hearing in Portlaoise was “seen as a marker” for other groups nationwide.
Mr Fingleton said: “People have no idea of the scale of what’s going on in Ireland. Some senior politicians at national level haven’t a clue of what’s going on. Not one of them has a clue of what the national grid is all about. But people are now slowly starting to see the links between wind turbines and pylons. The link is made and we don’t want these turbines or these pylons that go with them.”
Encouraging anti-wind turbines and anti-pylon groups to join forces, Mr Fingleton said: “When we get together, we’ll be the largest rural organisation in the country coming up to the European and local elections. We want to see the politicians working for us and will need to know what stance they are taking on these issues.”
Mr Conroy said: “If the politicians don’t want to work for us, we’ll be politicians ourselves.”
Anne Burke said: “We’re nearly a year at this racket now. We’re at it since last February and we’ve been too nice, but we’re not going to be nice anymore.”
Brian Ramsbottom, the coordinator of the anti-turbine group from the Stradbally, Luggacurren, Wolfhill, Swan area of the county, said that there had been 226 wind turbines proposed in a ten-mile area radius in his area. He said that if these were allowed to be developed, the lands around them would be sterilised with people not prepared to live in these areas.
Cllr Pádraig Fleming complimented the groups on their campaign to date and assured them of his continued support.
Another man told the meeting: “It’s now time to tell our councillors that there are no pylons or wind farms wanted in Laois.”
Another man added: “We have one chance now with these politicians and that’s at the June local and European elections. They have one thing on their mind and that’s your vote. After the elections they won’t bother with you and will beat you off the streets the same way as they did with the people of Belmullet in Mayo.”
One man shouted: “They were talking about creating tens of thousands of jobs with these wind farms. They’re taking in 300 (garda) recruits into Templemore. They’ll need to take in 3,000 more to keep the people off the streets when we get going on this.”
Colm Ward said that while he was at home in Fisherstown last week, he was approached by a representative from a wind energy company and asked to sign a document before he could read it. He said that he refused to sign it and told the meeting: “If you sign for those documents, they count that as public consultation. I’d strongly advise if these people come calling to your door, do not sign for the document.”
Henry Fingleton from People Over Wind (POW) said: “What they term as consultation is a load of rubbish. The only type of consultation is participation.”
Before concluding the meeting, Mr Conroy said: “It’s now time for people (in other groups) to bury their egos. We now need to stand together and to stand strong. It’s now time to step it up on the politicians. Most of us starting off had no interest in politicians and the only interest that politicians had in us was our vote. If it now means that we have to join a dirty system, then we’ll join that dirty system.”
Mr Conroy said that a major rally of all anti-wind farm and pylon groups from all over Ireland will be held in two weeks’ time with the view of selecting candidates for the upcoming European and local elections.
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