ESB and Bantry landowners in power-line feud
The ESB has claimed it is losing €15,000 each day it is prevented from accessing land at Bantry in west Cork by a group of farmers protesting against the erection of a 38kv power line. The Bantry Concerned Action Group (BCAG), representing more than 20 landowners along the route of the proposed power line, have insisted it will continue its blockade until the ESB agrees to run the power line under the ground.
Last month, the ESB was granted an injunction restraining the landowners from obstructing its staff from entering their lands but a daily protest attended by dozens of local people at various points along the 14km route of the line has prevented it from proceeding with the work.
The 38kv line is intended to facilitate a windfarm development planned by Ballybane Windfarms Ltd, owned by local businessman Bob Murnane, whose local interests include Bantry Bay Sea Mussels, Drimoleague Concrete and Murnane and O'Shea Timber Mouldings as well as a new hotel under construction in Bantry. The ESB plans to erect pylons, poles and the overhead 38kv power line across the land connecting the proposed Ballybane Glanta Windfarm at Dromourneen to the substation at Ballylickey. According to BCAG spokesman Joe Burke, most of the landowners along the route object to the overhead line for health and safety reasons. He said the ESB's offer of compensation – €45 in return for allowing a single pylon and €7 for a bore-hole on his land – was insulting.
"That was an insult but this is not about compensation. We want this line to go underground for safety reasons as we believe the electro-magnetic radiation from these lines can damage the health of our children and animals. This is about people's rights. It is a case of history repeating itself. We are now fighting again in west Cork for our own land and we are prepared to go to jail for our rights to our own property," he told Village from his tractor on the blockade on Wednesday morning.
He claimed the power line was being erected to facilitate the private business interests of just one person and his companies.
A spokesman for the ESB said that the semi-state company and its subsidiary, ESB Networks, had secured an injunction to allow it to proceed with the erection of the power line which will supply electricity into the national grid.
"We went through the full planning process for the line. Last month, we secured a court injunction. The ESB is mandated to provide electricity on a least-cost basis and we moved last week to build the overhead line. The landowners blocking us are in breach of a court injunction and we will now seek to secure our costs which are running at €15,000 each day," he said.
Gardaí have been present at the sites of the blockade but as yet no one has been arrested, despite some angry confrontations between local ESB managers and the BCAG protestors. One girl was taken to hospital after she was hit by an ESB vehicle during a protest on Tuesday.