Over 1,500 protest against Comeragh mountains pylon plan
Former champion cyclist Seán Kelly calls for new power grid to be placed underground
Martin Delaney from Clonmel at Saturday’s anti-pylon protest walk to the Mahon Falls, Co Waterford. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan
More than 1,500 people walked in the cold winter rain at the weekend to protest against any proposed Eirgrid network of pylons designated for the area around the Comeragh mountains.
One possible line of pylons suggested by Eirgrid, as part of its plans to upgrade the electricity grid by 2025, runs through Co Waterford. It has drawn opposition because of fears about the effect on the countryside, and health and safety concerns.
Saturday’s walk was organised jointly by the Comeraghs Against Pylons and Comeragh Rathgormack K9 Pylon Prevention groups and took protesters from Crough Wood on the edge of the Comeraghs to the picturesque Mahon Falls.
The campaign is one of several around the country in opposition to possible networks of pylons. Among those in attendance on Saturday were walking groups, scout groups, sporting organisations, national schools and other members of the public, local councillors and TDs Paudie Coffey (Fine Gael), John Halligan and Mattie McGrath (both independent) and Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane.
The walk was to have been led by former world cycling number one Seán Kelly, who is originally from the nearby parish of Clonea-Power, but he was delayed in Belgium on Friday night and couldn’t attend. He said on Saturday: “It’s a disgrace that they’re going to put something like that in the countryside. Especially in the Comeraghs. It just can’t be allowed.”
The former champion cyclist, now overseeing his own An Post Seán Kelly team, echoed calls for the new power grid to be placed underground. “It would be a shame to put pylons in the countryside, they would be such an eyesore.”
Mattie McGrath called on Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte not to allow a new overground network. “Show him where the Comeragh mountains are. Show him what a sheep looks like. But above all, show him how we’re going to stand against this madness.”
Dermot Kirwan of the Comeragh Against Pylons group said it was “unbelievable” to think Eirgrid would place a network of pylons across the Comeragh Mountains.
Michael O’Donoghue of the Comeragh Rathgormack K9 Pylon Prevention group said it is “absolutely vital” the landscape of the region is kept intact for future generations.
Mr Coffey drew some barracking from the crowd during his speech when he said the ultimate decision about the pylons would come down to An Bord Pleanála. “No, no, no,” shouted some. The Government had to consider the future electricity needs of the country, he said, but added that Eirgrid should put any new grid underground.
“The national gas network has been put underground in this country and, in my opinion, there’s no reason the electricity grid couldn’t be put underground also,” he said.