A short history of energy protest in Ireland

Fears over loss of landscape, and health and safety concerns have slowed the introduction of new energy options in Ireland

Protesters taking part in a  Solidarity Walk-Rebelling Against Pylons and Wind Turbines at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Protesters taking part in a Solidarity Walk-Rebelling Against Pylons and Wind Turbines at Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Energy has often been a hot topic in Ireland. In 1924, commercial interests objected to a plan to tap the river Shannon for a hydroelectric scheme, which subsequently went ahead at Ardnacrusha.

From 2001, plans for municipal and hazardous incinerators were opposed by Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment, which finally succeeded in its mission with a Bord Pleanála judgment in 2011.

Ireland’s first municipal waste-to-energy incinerator opened at Carranstown, Co Meath, in 2011, but only after 12 years of opposition.

The Corrib natural gas field was discovered in 1996, a licence for exploration was granted in 1993 and development began in 2004 – but has since been held up for a decade. Opponents of the scheme cite concerns about the health, safety and environmental impact of the onshore aspects of the project.

Fracking

In 2010, almost 150 protestors gathered in Rush in north county Dublin to voice their opposition to EirGrid’s proposals for an electricity interconnector underneath the Irish Sea between Ireland and the UK. In 2013, the Co Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said people there remained opposed to EirGrid’s proposals for a cross- Border interconnector.

The Republic has one of the highest levels of penetration of wind energy in the world. However, plans to build several thousand wind turbines to service an export deal with the UK received a setback in 2014 when then minister for energy Pat Rabbitte revealed it had not been possible to reach agreement with the British authorities.

Wind farms and a €3.2 billion plan by network operator EirGrid to upgrade the transmission system have also encountered protests from farm, tourism and environmental groups. Some objectors cite the impact of new pylons across scenic countryside while others warn of the health dangers of living close to both wind turbines and high-voltage power lines.

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