'We will put our lives on the line to stop pylon plan', say farmers
Published 26/01/2014 | 02:30
They are the people 'behind the pylons', and they're determined to fight the Government's plan to erect giant 45-metre steel structures running through their properties to the bitter end.
Leslie Hendy's farm near Ballitore, Co Kildare, has already been carved up by the M9 motorway, which divided his lands. Now Mr Hendy's land is perched precariously in the centre of one of the proposed 1km-wide Gridink routes through Kildare.
"You think you own your farm, but you actually don't," Leslie told the Sunday Independent.
"They built the motorway from Kilcullen to Waterford and the pylons are due to go from Kilcullen to Waterford; they could have easily undergrounded the system and it would have been a fraction of the cost to incorporate the two. They knew about the pylons when they were building the motorway. It's just not joined-up thinking.
"I think it's the human side of it with the pylons that is the worst. It's your land and we're only custodians of it. I'll give it to my kid and I got it from my father and he got it off his father. We've already had the road going through it, which was enough of an upset to it, but now this – I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
Mr Hendy and his wife Gabrielle are just some of the growing number of residents in Kildare, Wicklow and Laois who have erected signs on their properties warning agents of semi-state company EirGrid to "keep out" of their land.
"I know we'd never win the argument on a health basis, but anyone I know who has them on their land does not like them. They hum and they buzz and they cackle and hiss," Leslie added.
"I know one man with one in a field and the cattle will always be lying well away from the power lines. There must be something in it, they can sense it. It's the unknown. If you were getting on a plane and the captain said 'there might be a problem with the engines, but we're not sure', you'd get off that plane."
Leslie and Gabrielle believe rural Ireland will revolt if EirGrid goes ahead with its controversial overground project. And they warned landowners are prepared to use themselves as human shields to stop the work going ahead.
"I would be quite willing to do that," said Gabrielle.
Leslie added: "If we could actually lead instead of following and I think it would be huge for this country. A lot of pylons were built when they didn't have an alternative, they couldn't underground them. It would be good to have on our international CV, getting back out of the hole that the country is in, that we are the innovators."
Paddy Lawlor, who has a small farm near Ballysax in Co Kildare, already has two pylons running diagonally through his 40 acres of land and he could soon have more, as his farm lies in the path of one of EirGrid's two proposed Gridlink lines through the area.
"It could wipe out my livelihood," Paddy said, standing underneath the power line. "It's like a frying pan under here if it's anyway misty or raining, they're not something you want to live beside.
"As a landowner, we have to comply with stamp duty, capital gains tax and inheritance tax, so to me that should mean that we own our property, but when these boys come along we don't seem to own our property."
Paddy's farm is home to a number of thoroughbred breeding mares, it is prime land in Kildare for this purpose, yet he has been trying to sell off 13 acres of this land for the last 10 years, to no avail. Paddy and his real-estate agent believe this is due to the pylons in his paddocks.
"They won't admit that it interferes with property values, but it has a huge impact on property values," Paddy told the Sunday Independent.
"My farm here is dissected diagonally across so you can't move away from it.
"To come along and have to go through it again, it just doesn't bear thinking about. . . I think if another power-line comes in I'm finished."