Today the Irish Mirror launches a campaign to save our countryside from the blight of gigantic power pylons and wind turbines.
We want to protect precious heartland industries such as racing and tourism from a Government energy project that will only damage them.
State-owned Eirgrid is planning a €3.8billion upgrade of its network that will see hundreds of 60-metre pylons – as tall as Liberty Hall in Dublin – erected across rural Ireland.
These buzzing giants will be built just 350m apart along a 1,000km route through some of our most stunning beauty spots.
And 200 more wind farms with thousands of turbines up to 170m in height – higher than The Spire in Dublin city centre – will be built to provide the power.
In all, the pylons to carry the high voltage lines will criss-cross 19 counties – while turbines will pop up in almost every county from Donegal to Cork.
The biggest pylon project, called Grid Link, will run from Kildare to Wexford and on to Cork.
Another, Grid West, will run from North Mayo to Roscommon while a third, the North-South Interconnector, will run from Meath to Tyrone.
Now the equine industry is worried the project will threaten its very future.
Horse racing alone is worth €1billion a year to the economy, and keeps 14,000 people in jobs.
Yet these new lines are to run alongside the greatest stables in the world.
Turbines as well are being planned next to stud farms that have made us famous around the globe.
But the horse world is not going to take the threat lying down.
Already the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association has met at Goffs in Co Kildare to hear one of Europe’s leading energy experts, Malcolm Brown, call for an immediate halt to wind farms to protect equine industry.
Annemarie O’Brien, wife of champion trainer Aidan, warns the pylons and turbines are “one of the biggest threats to Irish bloodstock in the history of our industry”.
She said: “Putting wind farms and pylon lines beside bloodstock farms will render that land unfit for purpose. It is obvious to anyone who works with horses that industrial-scale wind farms and pylon lines are simply not compatible with the rearing, breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses.”
Top jockey Ruby Walsh said the pylons and turbines are a threat to racing – and wants the Government to halt plans before the “countryside is destroyed”.
The Irish Mirror has always been a proud racing paper and will fight tooth and nail to stop this threat to the beloved Sport of Kings.
But it’s not just trainers and jockeys who are saying no to the controversial plans. Other sports stars too are joining the campaign.
Cycling legend Sean Kelly is backing the bid to stop the pylons crossing his native county Waterford. The former world No1 has come out against pylons being erected in some of the most scenic parts of Waterford, such as the Comeragh mountains.
In Donegal, Simply Red star Mick Hucknall is backing local opposition to a wind-farm near Ballybofey.
The singer and the band’s saxophone player Chris De Mangary – who put €1.3million into the Glenmore Estate for shooting and fishing – fear the turbines could affect business.
And outspoken activist Paddy Massey of the group ReThink Pylons says our tourism industry – worth €4.3billion a year – will be hit.
He declared: “We should call a halt now – before we wreck this beautiful countryside of ours.”
The Government seems determined to double onshore wind power to meet EU 2020 “green power” targets.
And it is building the pylons to carry that power – but at what cost?
The €3.8billion upgrade is nearly the same as the entire cost of the Irish Water industry for two years.
Apart from the obvious effect on racing and tourism, meeting the EU targets could be done for just over one tenth of the cost – €380million – experts say.
Irish energy customers are already subsidising wind power through levies paid in our power bills – and most of us don’t even know it.
Respected economist Colm McCarthy says the current policy is “Alice in Wonderland” and that we’d be crazy to build more wind farms.
Eirgrid says it is pushing ahead with Grid Link and the other projects to ensure a reliable and high quality power supply for homes, farms and businesses.
But what will be the result? Damage to our world-famous racing and tourism, putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
And put more pressure on the already hard-pressed taxpayer – reeling from years of austerity –with another gigantic bill.
Today we say no. It’s time for the government to listen to the experts and call a halt before it’s too late.
We don’t want our beautiful countryside destroyed for decades to come with these buzzing monstrosities.
Case study 1: “I feel like I’ve lost years of my life because of this”
A couple desperate to sell their house fear they will never find a buyer because the property is just 370m away from a wind farm “as loud as an airport”.
Phil Hickey, 53, and his wife Catherine, from Ballindaggin, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, say the value of the home has nosedived because it is surrounded by 40 spinning wind turbines.
Phil said: “The noise of the turbines sounds like planes circulating in the sky at times. It’s like living next to an airport.
“And with the shadow flicker from October to February it’s like being beside a disco. That’s horrific.
“We’ve headaches from the lack of sleep. I feel like I’ve lost years off my life because of this. If we could run away we would. It’s so frustrating. But the value of the house has just been wiped out. We’re furious.”
The couple built their dream home nine years ago for €335,000. They took out a mortgage and shovelled €80,000 of their own savings into it, planning to grow old there.
But one year after they moved into their picturesque home, planning permission was submitted to Wexford county council by Castledockerell Wind Group to build a renewable energy wind farm.
Phil and Catherine are now desperate to move because they are tortured by the noise of the towering 120m high turbines – four of which are visible from their kitchen window.
The couple has yet to get the house valued by an auctioneer but believe the large three-bedroom bungalow with an upstairs storage space is now worth €150,000 at most, taking into account the property crash.
Phil, originally from Manchester, explained: “It could be worse, just the land value alone. You’re selling a nuisance.
“I genuinely believe it’s not going to be worth more than what we owe. We’re never going to see the return. After the build we had equity in it.
“We have a mortgage that we have to pay off. We got our planning permission to live in this home for the rest of our lives, that was our intentions, we’re both in our 50s.
“We put everything into it. When anybody sees the site they just go ‘wow’ all they can see around three quarters of our property is wind turbines.
“We can’t enjoy our gardens. We didn’t even bother finishing them.”
Phil and Catherine have relentlessly complained to Wexford County Council about the noise level.
If new regulations introduced by the Government had been in place at the time, it would not have got the go-ahead.
New turbines are required to be at least 500m away from residential properties – and the Environment Minister is looking at increasing that set-back distance.
In Australia, turbines must be 1,500 metres from inhabited houses.
Wexford County Council said in a statement: “Following receipt of further complaints, the council has undertaken to procure the services of external consultants, expert in the field of noise monitoring and analysis, to carry out additional investigation.
“It is expected this process and further investigation will take some months to complete, following which Wexford County Council will communicate the results to the appropriate parties, and will take whatever enforcement action (if any) is deemed necessary to ensure the development is in compliance with the relevant planning conditions.”
Case study 2: “We’ll hear them constantly”
A dad who moved his family to a remote farmhouse for peace and quiet, may soon be surrounded by noisy wind turbines, ugly pylons and an electricity substation.
Ed Barton, 52, left Ballyfermot, West Dublin, with his wife, Fi, and their daughter Autumn, now 17, for scenic Moygownagh, Ballina in Co Mayo and renovated an old farmhouse in 1995.
But now the family’s two-bedroom home and two acres of land could be fenced by a network of pylons, wind turbines and a substation if plans for the area go ahead.
Two wind farms with some of the highest turbines in Europe – 180m tall – are earmarked for the land around Ed’s house.
He fumed: “Nothing is actually going to be touching my land but with these things up we’re going to hear them constantly.
“There’s nothing to drown out the sound of them.
“Nobody knows what effect it’s going to have on people around here. There are people around here who have had to abandon their farms and everything.”
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