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Ardnacrusha Power Station. Photograph by John Kelly.

Call to launch UNESCO bid for Ardnacrusha Power Station

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A STRONG case should be made to secure UNESCO designation for Ardnacrusha Power Station, according to a former fitter and national union organiser who worked for almost 50 years with the ESB.

Seán Treacy enjoyed a long and distinguished career with the company, starting out as an apprentice fitter in 1960 before graduating up along the ranks to become a national union official.

Mr Treacy believes the power station should be designated as a UNESCO site, saying “Ardnacrusha is an iconic place. At one stage, Ardnacrusha was the distributor for all the country. Workers in the control room turned on and off electricity for the whole country.

“It is an iconic place. If I was still involved in the ESB, I would be making a case for this designation. It takes a while to do it, but Ardnacrusha deserves this designation.”

Valentia Island is due to become a new UNESCO site within the next two years following work spearheaded by a group of people including Seán’s brother-in-law, Anthony O’Connell.

This innovative proposal is being supported by Deputy Cathal Crowe, who believes it has great merit.

“The Shannon Scheme was conceived, devised and built in the twenties over a very short timespan. It was and remains the biggest project undertaken in the Irish state.

“At the time it was considered to be the eighth wonder of the engineering world.

“It was spoken of alongside the Hoover Dam and the Suez Canal. It was seen as a colossal engineering feat decades before space exploration.

“There was a huge international aspect to it, as the eyes of Europe were on Ireland at the time. Britain had its industrial revolution in the late 1700s, this was Ireland’s revolution more than a century later.

“UNESCO look at projects for their uniqueness and the transformative nature they brought to society. On that basis, there is merit to this proposal.

“The technology used in Ardnacrusha is being used for hydro-electric power in China. I will be pursuing this on a political level.”

In the twenties, the ESB built timber houses for German workers on land near the station, which were all knocked down in later years.

After losing the First World War, the Germans, Mr Treacy said, were delighted to be involved in the biggest engineering works in the world at the time.

“The Germans brought the best equipment and engineers with them to build the Shannon Scheme. It was a marvel, it worked like glove, the design was perfect. You couldn’t find fault with it, everything was so well done.

“After Ardnacrusha Power Station was built, there wasn’t another power station constructed until the one in Ballyshannon in 1947.

“In the early thirties, only 4% of the electricity being produced by Ardnacrusha was being used on a Sunday. Now, Ardnacrusha it is only producing about 1% of the national output.”

By Dan Danaher

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