Wind Farms: A challenge to our TDs

Last week’s special Roscommon People report on the arrival of wind turbines at Sliabh Bán has prompted long-time anti-wind farm campaigner Mike de Jong to challenge local TDs on the issue…

Now that the noise and visual impact of wind turbines are becoming obvious on Sliabh Bán (Roscommon People 7/11/16), it might be useful to find out if our TDs can be of help.

  Michael Fitzmaurice has publicly stated his opposition to wind farms and spoken on the national stage about his concerns. (Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications Thursday, 3 December 2015). However, apart from his appreciated advice and support during the recent flooding around Sliabh Bán, he has rarely spoken publicly about local wind farm issues.

  It would be great to hear him challenge wind farm developers when they tell local residents that they will not be impacted by the noise from their proposed wind farms. Or to see him question the community benefit funds that Coillte and Bord na Móna promote. They offer money, which is a tiny fraction of their wind energy profits, and do nothing for families impacted by noise and property devaluation.

  Eugene Murphy has said that he was not opposed to the Sliabh Bán wind farm as long as there was consultation, partnership with communities, and that the turbines were more than a kilometre from people’s homes (Roscommon Herald 6/9/2011).

  Unfortunately, several of his constituents are now being impacted by the noise and visual impact of the Sliabh Bán wind farm, have homes that are over a kilometre away from turbines.

  Mr. Murphy released a press statement in 2010, which said that during a consultation with Coillte they had told him that 200 jobs would be created when constructing the Sliabh Bán wind farm. He said that Coillte had informed him that the wind farm would then generate six full-time jobs, which would fall into place as the project got up and running. (Roscommon People 6/8/10).

  It would be useful if Mr. Murphy asked Coillte where are the 200 construction jobs promised, and when will the six full-time jobs be appearing? If it’s not happening, he needs to publicly and loudly point that out.

  Denis Naughten, who is the Minister of Energy responsible for wind energy, has the greatest opportunity to do something about wind farms. The Programme for Government has committed him to introducing new wind farm guidelines this month, which will deal with turbine noise and distance from homes. These guidelines were promised three years ago.

  The Dáil record shows that Mr. Naughten was opposed to the Sliabh Bán wind farm (Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food debate, 26/5/10), and he went to several public meetings to discuss the Sliabh Bán wind farm. At these meetings he heard from a family forced to leave their home on Scrine Hill, near Roscommon town, because of turbine noise, as well as of another family struggling to sleep because of noise from turbines in Co. Galway. (Roscommon People 17/2/15).

   At least twenty families have already been impacted from the noise of the Sliabh Bán wind turbines, with only a third of the wind turbines actually in operation. His new guidelines have to meet the concerns of these people, who are worrying about the impact the noise could have on their sleep and whether they will ever be able to sell their homes in the future. (Roscommon People 17/11/16). 

  In 2014 Mr. Naughten called for compensation to landowners affected by wind turbines. (Dail Eireann debate Vol834 No.2). Perhaps he should now consider how the Dublin Airport Authority is dealing with the planned second runway at Dublin Airport. The Airport Authority is proposing to buy nearby houses at a rate ‘twenty percent’ above their market value. (Irish Times 3/8/16).

  This is an offer to city people who, when they bought their homes, knew they were living beside a noisy airport. Whereas rural families, who are now living beside noisy wind turbines on Sliabh Bán, had no knowledge that they would ever be living besides a wind farm. Will Mr. Naughten be offering a similar deal for country people to that which is to be offered to their city cousins?

  If Denis Naughten is to be truly effective he needs to stand up to his own Department and put the protection of the human rights of those who live near turbines above the profits of wind farm developers. A wind farm setback distance of 1500 metres, as voted for by our own Roscommon county councillors (Shannonside News 28/7/14), need to be put in place immediately.