GAA clubs offered €375k donation by wind firm hoping to build turbines
THE GAA has been offered a donation of €375,000 from a renewable energy company planning to erect 46 turbines in the east of the country.
Clubs in Meath will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept the money from Element Power, which has offered €75,000 a year over five years and which could help fund a €2m centre of excellence.
But the county board has refused to accept the money, saying it is a matter for the 59 clubs to decide.
It is understood that while some members of the executive are keen to accept the donation, they want the clubs to vote on the issue given the differing views on wind farm development.
"We made a proposal to the clubs that they would get a mandate from their members to support the idea or not," county board spokesman Martin O'Halloran said.
"This is nothing to do with us. We're not going to get involved in the rights or wrongs of wind power. All decisions made by the Meath County Board are made by the clubs. Each of the 59 will have a vote on this.
"Our job is to promote the development of games in Co Meath. When that type of money is offered to us, we have a responsibility of putting it to our clubs."
Element Power is planning to erect the 46 turbines, each up to 169 metres high, at three sites east of Kells in clusters of eight, 13 and 25. Expected to cost in the region of €240m to develop, it would provide 120MW of power, enough for more than 100,000 homes.
Funding of €3.5m would be provided to local projects over the lifetime of the windfarms, a spokesman said, in addition to grants of up to €5,000 per household within 1km of the turbines, which can be used to pay energy bills or retrofit properties. The offer to the GAA was in addition to the funding, with "no conditions attached" to accepting the payment.
However, opposition to the plan is mounting, with campaign group Meath Wind Turbine Information Group (MWIG) planning to write to all 59 clubs in the coming days asking them to reject the offer.
"While we acknowledge the GAA needs whatever funds it can get, this isn't a straightforward donation," spokesman Padraic Dolan said.
"There are communities between Carlanstown and Lobinstown who are bitterly opposed to plans to erect turbines, and it's on the back of that suffering that the money would be accepted.
"We want the GAA to bear that in mind. We are very concerned that a private company can divvy out funds to community groups and decide where they go."
Planning permission for the project is expected to be sought in the coming months. If approved, some 225 jobs will be created, most in construction. There will be 30 full-time positions once the turbines are erected.
A vote will take place at the next meeting of the county board in the first week of August.