Man could be jailed for contempt over alleged refusal to allow ESB repair pole on his land

Company says power supply to 1,000 customers at risk if job in Co Donegal not done

A landowner faces the prospect of being jailed for contempt over his alleged refusal to allow the ESB onto his lands in Co Donegal to carry out urgent repairs to powerlines.

A landowner faces the prospect of being jailed for contempt over his alleged refusal to allow the ESB onto his lands in Co Donegal to carry out urgent repairs to powerlines.

 

A landowner faces the prospect of being jailed for contempt over his alleged refusal to allow the ESB onto his lands in Co Donegal to carry out urgent repairs to powerlines.

The ESB secured a High Court injunction last month requiring Patrick Gallagher to allow the applicant do the necessary work at Galdonagh Glebe, Manorcunningham.

The ESB says it needs to carry out urgent repairs on its existing Cullion/Newtown 10kv distribution line. It says a wooden transformer pole needs to be replaced as it is rotten.

The company says the pole is at risk of collapse and poses a serious risk of powers lines failing to the ground and potentially electrocuting anybody on Mr Gallagher’s lands, the adjoining lands or a nearby road.

Should the pole break, the ESB claims, the continuity of electricity supply to more than 1,000 customers would be at risk.

However, the ESB claims in High Court proceedings it has taken against Mr Gallagher that he has refused to facilitate access onto his lands, and has frustrated and threatened its staff. It has been in contact with Mr Gallagher on many occasions since late March in an attempt to secure access.

Arising out of Mr Gallagher’s continued refusal, the ESB has been unable to carry out the works and has had to schedule power outages to customers in the vicinity.

Statutory right

The ESB claims it has a statutory right under the 1927 ESB Act to access lands to carry out safety works, which does not require it to pay any compensation to the land owner. As a result of its inability to do the repairs, the ESB brought the High Court action against Mr Gallagher.

It secured an injunction in July restraining Mr Gallagher, a lorry driver, from obstructing or preventing the ESB from entering his lands to do the work. The matter returned before the Court on Thursday when the ESB, represented by Stephen Dodd SC, said that Mr Gallagher has failed to comply with the order.

Counsel said that despite the making of the injunction Mr Gallagher’s lands were padlocked, and no access could be gained, when the ESB tried to carry out the repairs over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

When contacted, and reminded about the High Court order, Mr Gallagher said he would not provide the ESB with access,

Order for attachment

Counsel said Mr Gallagher is in contempt of court orders due to his failure to comply with the terms of the injunction. Counsel said that with great reluctance the ESB was now seeking an order for his attachment, and possible committal to prison, unless he complies with the orders.

Mr Dodd said the ESB was seeking permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring proceedings requiring that Mr Gallagher come before the court to answer his alleged contempt.

Ms Justice Siobhán Stack said she was prepared to grant the ESB permission to serve short notice of the contempt proceedings against the defendant. The judge made the matter returnable to a date later this month.

The court previously heard that in 2014 the ESB and EirGrid had to bring High Court proceedings against Mr Gallagher in order to secure access to his lands at Listack, Co Donegal to carry out works on other powerlines.

In that action, the ESB says Mr Gallagher ultimately gave an undertaking to the court to allow the works be done.