Former taoiseach powers back to Ardnacrusha 83 years on


YESTERDAY FORMER taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, now 92, returned to Ardnacrusha power station in Co Clare, where he witnessed his father perform the official opening more than 80 years ago.

When Ardnacrusha was opened by WT Cosgrave in 1929, it was described as the first national electricity system in the world.

It was built at a cost of more than £5 million by German company Siemens, almost one-fifth of the annual budget of the Free State government.

About 5,000 people worked on the Shannon scheme, which at the time was more than adequate to meet the electricity demands of the entire country.

Liam Cosgrave, who was just nine at the opening, was guest of honour at yesterday’s special ceremony, which marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of the ESB in 1927.

The former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader said it was a great privilege to return. Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented him with a copy of a portrait of his late father by the artist Seán Keating, whose name is associated with extensive artistic work on the Shannon scheme.

Mr Cosgrave received a standing ovation after his 15-minute unscripted address, during which he said the project was initiated at a time when there was no outside money. “There was no money from Marshall Aid and, of course, no money from the European Union. They had to operate solely from Irish investment – it was a gigantic undertaking.

“ was initiated by the then government with immense courage, foresight, imagination and enterprise. Everyone involved in it deserves the highest possible commendation, particularly Patrick McGilligan, who was minister for industry and commerce.

“McGilligan was in his early 30s and was one of the most brilliant men that was ever in politics or in any other sphere in this country.

“He brought before the government in 1924 the plans, and within six months in February 1925 they were approved.

“When the work started, Larkin, who had come back from America, tried to disrupt it and sent down key men to instigate strength,” he recalled.

“In charge of workforce was Joe McGrath, who would take lip from nobody, and he knocked out Larkin’s men when he saw them, and the strike finished.

“Along with the Army and Garda, no other institution bar the ESB has served in the same way and for the same length of time.”

Mr Cosgrave told the audience they should be very proud that in the early days of the State the country had men of “capacity, determination, ingenuity, foresight and enthusiasm in initiating this scheme”.