Wife of legendary horse trainer Aidan O’Brien: “We have to stop the pylons and wind turbines before it’s too late.”
A leading figure in horse racing has backed our campaign to save rural Ireland, saying: “We must act now before it’s too late.”
Annemarie O’Brien, wife of the world’s greatest trainer Aidan, claims pylons and wind turbines pose a huge threat to the equine industry – and to tourism and agriculture.
The 45-year-old, herself a champion trainer, comes from a family who live and breathe the sport.
Her dad Joe Crowley trained horses in Kilkenny, while her 19-year-old son Joseph is a champion jockey.
Now she’s concerned the blight of power lines and turbines will affect stud farms and stables which have become famous the world over.
Stables such as Ballydoyle, the top class operation run by Aidan, 45, in Co Tipperary, in rolling pastures near Slievenamon, which has given us world-beaters including Istabraq and Rock of Gibraltar.
The O’Briens, our uncrowned First Family of The Turf, say we must protect our heartland industries such as racing, tourism and agriculture, from the pylons’ march.
Annemarie told the Irish Mirror: “Ireland has been blessed with a unique natural resource – a combination of incredible scenery, a temperate climate, abundant rain and limestone land.
“On the back of this we have developed world-leading businesses in agriculture, tourism and horses.
“Other countries simply cannot compete with Ireland’s ability to graze its animals outside on fresh grass for up to 10 months of the year.
“This gives us a year-round supply of grass and grass products which in turn allows us to produce the highest quality food – in demand around the world.
“It also provides a stunning green landscape that attracts thousands of tourists a year and supports families the length and breadth of the country.
“Our climate and limestone land allow us to produce the best thoroughbred and sport horses in the world.
“We produce more foals per head of population than anywhere, consistently breed the finest race and sport horses and successfully compete on the world’s stage at every international equine competition.
“Ireland’s agriculture, tourism and horses all complement and support each other.
“Agricultural businesses supply the vital feeds to equine feed merchants whilst race meetings and equestrian tourism attract overseas visitors to town and country alike.
“But plans to double onshore wind power by 2020 and build more than 1,000kms of new high voltage overhead lines and pylons – EirGrid’s Grid25 programme – to carry this wind power are a massive threat to our heartland rural industries.
“Wind developments are industrial in scale – turbines are now 130 metres high, two and a half times the height of Liberty Hall in Dublin, and getting bigger as developers seek to maximise profits. To meet the 2020 EU ‘green power’ targets, another 2,000 turbines are planned
with hundreds of new 60-metre high electricity pylons to carry wind power on high-voltage overhead lines from remote rural locations.”
Ms O’Brien warned putting wind farms and pylons near bloodstock farms and sport horse facilities will render that land unfit for purpose.
She added: “Land affected by proximity to large turbines and pylons couldn’t be used for breeding or training horses.
“Horses react negatively to changes in their environment – they are highly sensitive to noise and light flicker caused by rotating turbine blades.
“Low-flying helicopters checking the lines and unrestricted access for repair and maintenance of turbines and pylons would pose huge disease control issues for stud owners.
“Furthermore, the safety of horse handlers and riders will be put at risk and health and safety insurance premiums will inevitably rise.
“Sometimes large infrastructure projects deemed to be of crucial strategic importance have to be tolerated. But as Colm McCarthy, the respected Irish economist, said recently, ‘the economic case for further investment in any more power capacity is weak and an increase in wind power is even weaker’.”
Now the bloodstock industry is taking heed of this “threat”.
Annemarie and Aidan were among 60 of the top trainers and breeders who attended a recent meeting organised by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association in Goffs, Co Kildare.
She explained: “There was widespread concern at seemingly endless planning applications being lodged in councils throughout the country, more and more of which are getting closer and closer to our stud farms and training centres.
“There are 17,000 people employed in the industry and 80% of thoroughbred foals are exported.
“Ireland is the fourth largest producer of thoroughbred foals in the world. Clearly there is a lot at stake.
“There are tens of thousands of people who participate in the industry and more than 1.25 million who go racing in Ireland each year.”
Annemarie hopes sense will prevail before the Government ploughs ahead with plans to build nearly 2,000 pylons through 19 counties.
She concedes the Government is very supportive of Irish racing – but claims departments must act in unison.
The trainer said: “Simon Coveney’s Department of Agriculture substantially increased funding this year in recognition of its role especially in rural employment and export earnings, as well as promoting the image of the country.
“What would be good is more joined-up thinking so energy policy takes into account other important industries the Government is supporting.” The current energy policy aims to produce 40% of electricity from renewable “green power” to hit EU 2020 targets.
In 2007 an “all wind” approach was adopted as that was the only green technology available.
However, Annemarie feels there are now better and cheaper options which don’t threaten heartland industries.
She said: “The most obvious appears to be converting the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint in Co Clare to produce green power by burning sustainable biomass or wood pellets. With it supplying a quarter of our electricity, converting it to sustainable biomass would meet EU targets in one go.
“At €380million it would also be a lot cheaper than building 2,000 turbines and avoid the need for EirGrid to spend €3.2billion on reinforcing electricity lines to carry wind power.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding