An energy developer is offering up to €5,000 to each family living within 1km of a proposed new windfarm in north Meath.
The offer is in addition to a proposal from the developer to contribute €375,000 towards a €2.5m centre of excellence for the county GAA.
GAA members in the affected area say the association is facing a split if the offer is accepted.
The county’s 59 clubs are expected to vote on the proposal at a county board meeting on August 11. Clubs in the immediate area of the proposed farm are implacably opposed to the offer. The executive of the county board has recommended acceptance, but a spokesman said it won’t involve itself on any debate on the issue.
The farm is to be located in an area encompassing four villages and their hinterlands in the north of the county, which includes up to 10 GAA clubs.
The North Meath Wind Information Group is opposed to the project and said the sponsorship plan is highly cynical.
“The GAA is the biggest thing in Meath, but once they take the bait, they’re silenced,” said group chairman Michael Newman. “The developer wants to have the GAA onside when they go for planning, and that’s all this is about.”
The centre of excellence, already under construction, is located outside the town of Trim to the south of the county.
“There’s plenty of information, both pro and anti,” said a spokesman for the county board. “So all of the clubs will know what’s going on and all will have an equal vote.”
Element Power’s other novel initiative is a “near neighbour fund” which will award up to €5,000 to all homeowners within 1km of the turbines. The manner of distribution, and who exactly will qualify for specific amounts, is yet to be worked out, but the company says it will be drawn from a wider fund of €3.5m that it will invest to support local projects over the lifetime of the windfarm.
“The fund will support locally based community projects, as well as fostering local enterprise and job creation along with bursaries for third level,” according to Kevin Hayes, development manager at Element.
Locally, the proposals are being viewed with scepticism by those opposed to the farm on health, aesthetic, and quality-of-life issues. The information group held a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny 10 days ago at which they voiced their concerns.
Element Power is expected to apply for planning permission in the coming month, in an application that will come under existing guidelines which date from 2006. New guidelines which were supposed to be published in September, have been delayed.
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