Monday 16 December 2019

Proposed 5G mast splits opinion in Cushinstown

David Looby

The planned erection of an 80ft mast at Rathgarogue-Cushinstown GAA Club which can be used for 5G broadband infrastructure has lead to huge upset for local residents who weren't consulted about the plans.

The community has been split over the decision to allow Cignal Infrastructure Ltd to erect a large mast in the back field of the GAA complex. The plan is to lease the mast to one or more of the country's main broadband providers: Eir, Vodafone or Virgin.

More than 100 people attended a meeting hosted by a committee of 22 club members in the Horse & Hound Ballinaboola on Monday night last week where they were given an update on the project.

Chairman of Rathgarogue-Cushinstown GAA Club Robert O'Connor said: 'Earlier this year, we were approached by Cignal Infrastructure Limited, a mobile phone mast construction company to explore the possibility of a mast being constructed on our premises at Cushinstown.'

The terms of the agreement were that the club would receive a €55,000 up-front payment for the siting of the mast on club property. The club received this money but has offered to return it after local residents complained en masse that they had not been informed about the mast being erected near their homes.

The term of the club's agreement with Cignal was for 35 years.

The agreement was subject to Cignal Infrastructure Limited obtaining planning permission for the construction of a mast on the site which it did in the autumn. Cignal Infrastructure Ltd has since been bought out by a Spanish company.

Mr O'Connor said the committee checked out the proposal with other clubs and with GAA Headquarters. 'Cignal Infrastructure Limited have over the past four years entered into similar arrangements with sports clubs across the country, including GAA clubs, rugby and soccer clubs. While the proposal was communicated by the committee to a WhatsApp group comprising a number of club members, we now accept that we were not clear enough about what the proposal would mean in our communication. We have apologised to our club members for the lack of clarity in that communication.'

The decision not to hold a public meeting in March is a source of regret for the committee who are questioning why Cignal didn't erect a planning permission notice at the club's main entrance.

'We feel let down by Cignal as we believe that they make a major mistake by failing to erect a planning permission notice at the main entrance to our club grounds.'

The club entered into heads of agreement with Cignal Infrastructure Limited in March. They obtained planning permission in late September and all legalities were completed in October including the payment of the sum of €55,000.

'It has become obvious to us in the last two weeks, however, that there is significant opposition to the siting of this mast on our club property. The committee have resolved now to take all and every steps possible to terminate the club's agreement with Cignal Infrastructure Limited.'

The committee have met with the Chief Executive of Cignal Infrastructure Limited Colin Cunningham and are hoping a resolution can be found to the issue.

'We also hosted a public meeting in the last Monday night at which a broad based community committee was set up to explore the contribution that the community could make towards assisting in bringing about the exiting of the club from the agreement that it has entered into with Cignal Infrastructure Limited. We will continue to communicate the community's opposition and concerns to Cignal and will keep the public and the club informed of developments.'

There is strong approval for the mast within the locality where residents are at their wits' end trying to access internet. Some have had to travel to their local church to get reception when their data runs out, while for many standing outside the house in the elements at different times of the day is required to get a decent phone signal.

Over recent weeks animosity has grown with WhatsApp groups being formed.

It has gotten to the stage where its neighbour against neighbour in some instances, such is the level of irreconcilable viewpoints on the mast and upset locally within the community.

Many residents believe there is no scientific evidence that 5G will cause any physical harm to anyone within the radius of the mast, while others believe it will.

Concern has also been expressed that extricating the club from the issue could cost the club because preparatory works for the mast have been completed and planning permission to erect the most has cost Cignal Infrastructure Ltd thousands of euros.

New Ross Standard