Tuesday 16 July 2019

Our fair landscape will be gone with the wind

Lay of the Land

Fiona O’Connell

'Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever." Charles Lamb's observation still holds true today. As do many old Irish proverbs. "Better April showers than the breadth of the ocean in gold" acknowledges the role seasons play in maintaining our beautiful countryside.

For it's our most priceless asset, a truth encapsulated by the Irish blessing: "May brooks and trees and singing hills/ join in the chorus too/ and every gentle wind that blows/ send happiness to you."

But those words may sound ironic to some residents in the midlands, who feel threatened by wind farm developments. RTE reported recently on the effect of wind turbines near a retired couple's home in Roscommon. Reporter Ciaran Mullooly described the noise as "a low, rhythmic, persistent sound... much louder in high winds".

But it was Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte's response that really put the wind up me. "Why is the emphasis on the protest?" demanded this stalwart of a political party that claims to champion the powerless. "Why is the emphasis not on the fact that we're creating new jobs?"

Why indeed? Especially since the promise of jobs helps politicians hold on to plum positions. But best not mention the countless jobs that will be lost in tourism and agriculture when Ireland's unspoilt image is destroyed by the erection of up to 2,300 wind turbines.

Though it's true that not only red-hot socialists will profit. IFA president John Bryan says "it's a real opportunity for landowners" to strike lucrative deals with the wind farm companies.

Pat Rabbitte wants demure citizens who say 'yes, minister'. But his manoeuvres give a new twist to the proverb: "He may die of wind but he'll never die of wisdom."

Because he won't be broadcasting the fact that we'll be exporting all this generated power to Britain. Or that the reason the UK isn't laying thousands of turbines on its own land is because British citizens, like many Irish citizens, don't want them.

The difference is that their Energy Minister, John Hayes, has listened to mounting public opposition. Last October, he said his government would no longer impose wind farms on rural communities, while the Environment Secretary referred to wind-farm "blight".

Instead, we're going to sell our soul, along with our serenity and landscape. As Richard Tol, Economics Professor at University of Sussex, says, it's a "good deal" for the British. But for Ireland, it's "giving away the family silver". For an ocean of worthless gold.

Irish Independent

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