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Television transmitter to be replaced

FIFTY years ago, the concept of a box that could transmit pictures straight into your living room would have awed the average person in East Clare but in 1959, plans were underway to erect one of the country’s first television transmitters at Maghera, Feakle. Half a century later, that very transmitter will now be replaced by another mast, as Clare County Council has given the green light to RTÉ to remove the existing 147.5m mast and to erect a 160m  mast in its place at the same location.
The executive engineer in charge of television planning in 1959 was Noel Mulcahy, who went on from that position to become a senator, a college professor and vice-president of the University of Limerick.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Noel recalls his time in Maghera 50 years ago and remembers vividly his dealings with two well-known local men, P Joe Hayes and his father, Martin Hayes.
He reveals that the name Maghera might have been absent from all national and European geographical maps of the area, was it not for Martin Hayes setting him straight.
“I decided on the mast, how high it would be and also what power the TV transmitter would operate on and what the equipment would be. The most interesting thing about the project in Clare is the name Maghera,” he recalled.
When Noel was selecting the sites for the TV transmission masts he identified Maghera as a good location, as it would serve Galway, Clare and Limerick and it met most of the criteria. So when he set about looking at the site, Ciarán Mac Mathúna, who was also working for Radio Éireann at the time, put Noel in touch with P Joe Hayes in Feakle.
Noel remembers going up with mountain with P Joe, and felt that even though he had a map of the area and a compass, he still would have lost his way if it was not for him. Noel had established that the area was suitable for the transmission mast and it was just a case of finalising things.
“On the way down the mountain, it was raining and it was very wet. I went to P Joe’s house and met his father. I was drying off by the fire, and was given suitable refreshment to keep me going. I got talking to P Joe’s father, who said, ‘What’s all this about television?’ Now you have to remember there was no television back then. It was a way-out concept. So I told him the background, and said Ireland was thinking about doing something about it. In talking to P Joe’s father I told him about this site called Oughanish. He said, ‘What do you mean about Oughanish?’ I said that’s the name of the mountain and he pointed it out very firmly ‘that’s not the name. Well now that’s wrong. We call that mountain Maghera’. So I said to him, from now on it will be called Maghera and I wrote in Maghera on my map and it became Maghera and that was it,” Noel said.
Noel saw to it that the name was corrected on the national and European maps on the back of Martin Hayes.
Noel never actually got to see the entire development through, having been given a job offer that he couldn’t refuse in the United States. He said he is “surprised it is coming down”.
“I had worked on a number of other sites and I was very proud the mast was still there in Maghera, as the mountain is half the size of some of the others,” he said.
In July of this year, RTÉ Transmission Network Ltd applied for planning permission to erect a 160m high guyed mast with associated stay blocks and equipment attached, including an adjustment to the existing access route at the RTÉ Broadcasting Station at Maghera.
As a consequence of the new mast, they also looked for planning to remove the existing 147.5m high guyed mast and stay blocks at that location.
Concern had been raised during the planning process by An Taisce and the National Parks and Wildlife in relation to peat stability.
An Taisce highlighted that “bog complexes are extremely sensitive to changes in land-use practices, which can adversely impact on the hydrology of the bog, as well as on rare and vulnerable flora and fauna”.
According to the National Parks and Wildlife service, a peat slide occurred within 800 metres of the application area and it recommended further consideration of peat stability in this area, which included a more detailed geotechnical assessment of the construction methodology and use of floating temporary trackways and any hydrological impacts associated with drainage or dewatering of excavations.
Planning permission was granted subject to 13 conditions. Among these, the planning authority stipulated that a qualified ecologist must be employed to oversee all stages of the development.
The applicant must also notify the Irish Aviation Authority of the mast’s elevation and co-ordinates at least 30 days prior to the erection of the mast.

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