People Over Wind (POW), the group set up to fight the erection of 18 wind turbines spanning 594 hectares from Ballyroan to Timahoe across Cullenagh Mountain, lost its judicial review in the Court of Appeal on Friday.
Laois County Council initially rejected the planning application from Coillte to develop the wind farm. Coillte then appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála, which overturned the council’s ruling. POW then brought that decision to the High Court. After a ten-day hearing, the case was referred to the newly-established Court of Appeal, the first such case since it was established. After a three-day hearing last week, the court dismissed the group’s appeal on Friday.
POW has already spent more than €60,000 in legal fees fighting its position.
Speaking after the judgement, Paula Byrne from POW said: “We’re very disappointed with the decision. We are surprised because we felt our case was very strong and that we would of at least have been given a referral to Europe.
“Surprised, shocked, upset and angry, and we’re putting the blame fully on Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael and Labour’s policy, which has put the people of Cullenagh and the rest of the country that are under threat from wind farms and pylons into this position. It’s wrong. It’s environmentally wrong, it economically wrong and certainly socially wrong for people to be forced to live under wind turbines, with not even planning guidelines to protect them.”
Ms Byrne, who is also the PRO for Wind Aware Ireland said: “The policy is wrong. Wind is doing nothing for the environment and we’re being forced to live under these constructions to pay lip service to green energy.”
The Ballyroan woman said: “We’re blaming any politician that is part of this government. Charlie Flanagan is in this constituency. He has done nothing but given lip service to us … that he would write a letter here, he’d write a letter there. This is Fine Gael policy that is causing the position we are in. Charlie Flanagan should have gone into the cabinet and said this makes no sense; that it has to stop. He should have gone to the wire on it. If he cared about this and he did go to the wire, he should have said I will resign my seat unless you do something about it. That’s the kind of politician we need.”
Ms Byrne said: “We are absolutely determined now that we will go after these politicians as part of Protect Rural Ireland. We will get these guys and women out. This will focus people and make them more determined to get rid of toxic politicians for rural Ireland.”
She said that the groups’ legal team was examining the court’s judgement and will consider its next step, vowing: “Any opportunity we can take, if we can afford it, we will take.”
Reacting to the High Court decision, minister Flanagan said: “While I am disappointed with the court decision, I respect the independence of the court and the integrity of the judiciary.
“Notwithstanding the court decision, I have repeated my call for Coillte to abandon the Cullenagh project, as it runs contrary to the wishes of the community and should not proceed without the support of the people.”
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