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Killaloe councillors seek briefing on East Clare windfarm

KILLALOE councillors are to seek a briefing from the developers of a multi-million euro wind farm development planned for a site on the slopes of Slieve Bernagh, just over two kilometres from Bodyke.

Earlier this month, Coillte confirmed that it is to lodge an application shortly, to An Bord Pleanála, under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. Raising the proposed Carrownagowan Wind Farm at the May meeting of the Killaloe Municipal District, Councillor Pat Hayes asked for details of communications and correspondence between officials and the developer. “I would like those details to be revealed,” the Caher-based member said. “The lack of consultation has been very remiss of Coillte.”

The Fianna Fáil councillor insisted that communication with officials was not sufficient and ignored the role of elected members. “This day last year, we were re-elected and have never had personal communication [with Coillte],” he said. “Consultation behind the scenes with different departments is one thing, but we are the voice of the people of the Municipal District. People are phoning me saying that there are lovely pictures of the wind farm, but it’s the first they’ve heard about it.”

While Councillor Hayes acknowledged that community meetings had been arranged, he said it seemed attendance at these was ‘by invitation” and to highlight the community funding that would be available if the development secured permission. “We should also have been briefed on opportunities and impacts in terms of putting this large wind farm on the site of a hill,” he said. “We haven’t been briefed in any shape or form. It makes a mockery of the role of public representatives in terms of responding to the public.”

Councillor Hayes insisted that he was not opposed to such developments in principle.

“I am not making  a public statement against wind farming,” he said. “I am aware that we have to meet our responsibilities in terms of climate change. I’m not saying there is anything untoward, but there is a lack of information and we have had no opportunity to ask questions. Maybe there is a chance to discuss the situation with the owners of the land. The process is completely wrong.”

Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District, Pat Burke said that he, like others in East Clare had received the “glossy document” with details of the development. ‘We got an email, as public representatives, some days before the brochure arrived in the post box,” he noted.

Councillor Joe Cooney told the meeting that people were well aware of the proposed development for the last year-and-a-half. “It is only at the proposal stage at the moment,” he pointed out. “Householders within a certain area have been to a number of events. Community groups have been called in, in recent months. There had been a consultation event organised for March for everyone, but that had to be put off because of Covid-19. That’s very disappointing for people. I’m not living too far from the site. People close by, naturally, should be contacted first and this is what has happened.”

“This is a substantial project,’ Councillor Hayes replied. “There are major financial applications for the council. At a bare minimum, I would expect to be briefed.”

Cathaoirleach Burke asked officials if a meeting could be arranged.

Senior Executive Officer Morgan Lahiffe told the meeting that if the planning process had begun, the briefing would not be allowed. “I can investigate if the planning process has started or not,” he said, “and find out if it’s possible to have a briefing from Coillte. I would need clarification beforehand.”

Councillor Cooney asked that clarification also be sought on if the planned public consultation event would go ahead. “It would be important for the public that it goes ahead,” he noted.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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