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Government ‘dithering’ blamed for taxpayer being hit with €5million EU wind farm fine

Government “dithering” has been blamed for the taxpayer being hit with a €5million EU wind farm fine.

In a CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) ruling last November, the State was hit with a running fine of €15,000 a day if they didn’t perform a proper EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for a wind farm in Derrybrien, Co Galway.

The development is part-owned by the semi-State company, ESB.

An initial lump sum fine of €5million was whacked on the Government – which was paid in January – and the meter started running at €15,000 a day from the court ruling date.

The Government has not got its act together since then.

And now the Irish Mirror has learned that the EU Commission is about to come to collect again and a letter looking for payment will be issued in the coming weeks.

A source said the Commission is “in the process of preparing the request for payment.”

The clock has been ticking for almost 300 days since last November 12 so the taxpayer will be asked to cough up the huge fine in the region of €4.5million – and rising.

Sinn Féin public expenditure spokeswoman, Mairead O’Farrell, told the Irish Mirror that this is another sign that the Government couldn’t be bothered with looking after taxpayers’ funds.

She said: “This is yet another classic example of the Government wasting taxpayers’ money again because they just don’t care, and it’s a sign of their usual dithering.

“The locals in Derrybrien were against this all along and now it is the locals along with everybody else that are going to have to pay this fine.

“It looks like the Government couldn’t be bothered with attending to this, so they’ve just left it hanging and now we’re going to be hit with this huge fine.

“It’s just indicative of this Government and the previous government’s attitude.

“They’re well able to figure out how to get themselves State cars and special advisers, but not so smart when it comes to looking after taxpayers’ funds.”

A spokesman for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG), the lead government department when the case was taken, said: “DHPLG is working closely with DCCAE (Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment), which is a shareholder of ESB and has corporate governance responsibility for same, and DPER (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) with respect to the resolution of the judgment and payment of the fines.

“The Commission has stated that it will assess progress in complying with the judgment every 6 months.

“Therefore, the Commission may shortly issue an initial demand for payment of the daily fines accrued to date noting that ESB will not have resolved the terms of the Court judgment by then.

“No notification letter for the daily fine has yet been received.”

The Mirror understands this letter is on its way shortly.

The spokesman added that the sudden arrival of Covid has interrupted their attempts to comply with the EU ruling.

And that an issue with local turbary rights is also holding things up.

A spokeswoman for the ESB said: “ESB is now preparing the necessary documentation.

“As this process is ongoing, we are not in a position to comment further on the matter at this time.”