A claim that ‘lives have been destroyed because of government inaction’ was made by Fianna Fáíl European Election candidate Kieran Hartley at the anti-windfarm public meeting in Aughrim.
Mr Hartley said that ‘absolutely nothing has changed’ in the past two years since the previous Ballymanus Wind Farm application and he called on local councillors to propose a motion to amend the County Development Plan.
Cllr Sylvester Bourke took issue with this and what he felt was an implication that the members of Wicklow County Council are incompetent. He reminded Mr Hartley that Cllr Shay Cullen previously proposed an amendment to extend the set-back distance which was later over-ruled by the then Minister for Environment Simon Coveney.
‘The councillors are very much on the ball and are supporting the local community,’ he said.
Cllr Shay Cullen reminded those present of the value of ‘people power’ and said that it is essential in this battle.
Cllr Pat Kennedy called on his fellow councillors to agree to a meeting to come up with a new variation and said that legal precedent has been set following a High Court appeal by Donegal County Council.
‘The High Court has overruled the Minister and Donegal has set the precedent so there is every opportunity for us to be able to overcome this obstacle. This windfarm would be dead if we can get this over the line,’ he said.
He called for cross-party support and all councillors present, including Joe Behan, Mary McDonald, Sylvester Bourke, Tommy Annesley, Shay Cullen and Brendan Thornhill, pledged their support.
Two TDs were also present at the meeting – Sinn Féin’s John Brady and Pat Casey of Fianna Fáil.
Deputy Brady criticised the ‘corporate greed’ shown by ABO Wind Ireland Ltd in seeking to build this windfarm in an area where residents have overwhelmingly rejected it. He said that it is essential that every resident makes an objection and said that people need to buy into the action plan put forward by SWWAG.
He expressed concern than any amendments made to the County Development Plan would benefit this particular wind farm proposal but said that an application from the councillors is warranted nonetheless.
Deputy Casey said that the case has been made at national level to show that on-shore windfarms are no longer viable in Ireland.
‘The councillors have a great precedent now following the Donegal judgement and the court must follow the precedent set. As a person involved in tourism, I know how important the Wicklow landscape is. It is the county’s gem and it is what tourists come here for,’ he said.