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Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Protest halts ESB for jailed woman

Jim O'Brien

Published 04/10/2011 | 05:00

Vigorous protests by neighbours and friends of the jailed Offaly landowner Teresa Treacy have halted the felling of trees on her holding.

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Contractors working for ESB and Eirgrid entered the lands last Tuesday but stopped cutting trees after protesters got access to the work area.

Ms Treacy was jailed three weeks ago after refusing to comply with court orders allowing ESB and Eirgrid to follow through with their plans to run a power line through her lands at Clonmore, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

The dispute centres on a joint venture by ESB and Eirgrid to develop a new 110kV line from Clonbullogue to Thornsberry with a view to upgrading the electricity supply to the rapidly expanding town of Tullamore and surrounding areas.

The overall development involves the construction of pylons across 90 different holdings and the felling of a 61m wide path through plantations and natural forests along the route.

While the IFA originally negotiated a compensation deal for farmers affected by the development, Ms Treacy and some landowners in Clonmore were not satisfied with the agreement.

Despite being entitled to €150,000 under the terms of the IFA package, Miss Treacy offered to forego all compensation if the line were put underground, a process that would necessitate cutting a narrower 12m path through her land.

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When Ms Treacy physically prevented the ESB and Eirgrid from beginning work on her property, Eirgrid took proceedings in the High Court to gain entry to her lands.

As Ms Treacy continued to deny entry to Eirgrid contractors, she was found to be in contempt of court. When she failed to purge this contempt, she was taken to the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy Prison on September 13.

Miss Treacy, who has lived with her sister at Clonmore for the past 25 years, planted trees on much of her 100ac property and was opposed to the cutting of an estimated 12,000 trees for the new power line.

However, a spokesman for Eirgrid/ESB said that overhead lines were the preferred international standard as they were less costly, more reliable and more readily repaired.

Neighbouring farmer Michael Dunne also opposed the power line crossing his property as he feared it would have a negative impact on the breeding grounds he had developed for wild fowl. However, he relented after facing court proceedings.

"After they took me to the High Court twice, I felt I had no option but bow to the pressure," said Mr Dunne.

Neighbour Oliver Choiseul claimed there was never a need for the ESB and Eirgrid to go through Miss Treacy's lands and that a shorter route was available if other options had been explored properly.

He maintained that if Offaly County Council or An Bord Pleanala had insisted on an environmental impact assessment (EIA) being carried out on the power line route that it would not have gone through Miss Treacy's land.

"While a 110kV line does not require a mandatory environmental impact assessment, Offaly County Council and An Bord Pleanala had the discretion to insist on one given the 32km length of the line and the likely impact on the landscape and the environment. They failed to exercise their discretion in this regard," Mr Choiseul said.

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"Eirgrid has decided, for reasons known only to itself, to drive this through Miss Treacy's property when other even shorter routes are available," he added.

A spokesman for Eirgrid said the development of the line conformed with all planning regulations and the route was sanctioned by the planning authorities who took into account the impact the development would have on the archaeology, natural heritage and housing in its path.

However, locals claimed there was no public consultation prior to the design of the line or its route and a written request for an oral hearing to An Bord Pleanala was refused.

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