CAMPAIGNERS AGAINST a controversial electricity pylon network in Co Donegal say they will continue to oppose the project.
Singers and musicians including Brian Kennedy, Paul Brady and Clannad have campaigned for years against the 110KV Electricity Reinforcement Project which is being developed jointly by ESB Networks and EirGrid.
They claim the network of hundreds of new supply lines and large poles which will stretch to more than 100kms (62 miles) will blight the west Donegal scenery.
The ESB says the new upgrade is vital for the electricity network across the county.
Deirdre Brennan of Clannad said the group objecting to the overground poles, Alternatives To Pylons, will continue to oppose the project and more protest concerts will be held.
“There are many alternatives to these overground pylons but they are simply not being investigated by the ESB or EirGrid. What is stopping them putting this network underground like is being done in so many other countries? If it works for them, why couldn’t it work in Donegal?” she asked.
She said many areas through which the network was going, including Gweebarra and Gaoth Dobhair, had been designated Special Areas of Conservation but this was now being ignored by the Government.
“We are continuing to meet with landowners to inform them what signing over their land will mean to them in future. Once landowners sell the right to allow these pylons on their land, then they will lose all their rights for the future,” she claimed.
The project received planning permission from An Bord Pleanála in 2009 and is scheduled for completion by 2013.
EirGrid project manager Peter Graham said the line is vital to develop the electricity supply across the county.
“This is vital for Co Donegal. Having a secure electricity supply will increase Donegal’s potential to attract investment. Specifically, in the areas of Killybegs, Kilcar, Gweedore and Derrybeg we are at the point where new industry requiring large electrical supplies cannot be connected without this project,” he said.
Mr Graham said investment in energy infrastructure was every bit as essential as investment in road, rail and broadband.
Donegal needed to be able to guarantee potential investors in the region that business could be conducted safely and securely at all times. Without the new line such a guarantee was not possible, he said.
The construction is being carried out by ESB Network staff based in the county, supplemented by local contractors and suppliers.
Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Dinny McGinley also gave the project his seal of approval.
“This is a much needed piece of infrastructure,” the Minister said. “As all of us from the county know Donegal has been badly hit by this recession.
“We must have the necessary infrastructure in place if we are to attract and maintain jobs and investment.
“I am particularly pleased that local contractors and suppliers are being employed by ESB Networks during the construction phase, providing much needed local employment.”