Heavy winds and inclement weather deterred all but the most determined protesters from marching up Vinegar Hill in Wexford yesterday to highlight their opposition to pylons and wind turbines.
Organisers had hoped to attract 2,000 people but a weather alert for the region meant hundreds rather than thousands turned out.
The protest, which was described as a walk up a hill to move a mountain, marked what organisers said was the beginning of a year of fighting against pylons and wind farms. Rethinkplyons.org has been formed as an alliance of these groups and its founder, Kieran Hartley, said he believed the campaign could mobilise 500,000 people.
St Colman’s Pipe Band from Ballindaggin led the group up the hill in the driving rain and wind. They carried placards opposing turbines, pylons and substations in places such as the Comeragh mountains, Ratheniska, Co Laois, Carlow and Kildare.
One banner declared “You can bring pylons, we’ll bring pikes”, in reference to the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798, when rebels carried pikes because they did not have weapons.
“Bury the cable, not the people,” said another banner.
Some of the groups at the protest oppose overhead power lines and pylons, while others are against wind turbines, the entire Grid 25 project and the Government’s wind energy export policy.
Speaking on Vinegar Hill, one local protester, Des O’Neill, said the public was still in the dark about the cost of these projects and it was unclear how the investment would benefit ordinary people. “The people of Ireland deserve better. We are totally opposed to the plan by the Irish and British governments to turn Ireland into a giant industrialised green energy zone,” he said.
Seán Cullinan, who is involved with Deise Against Pylons group in Waterford, said people were quickly realising that wind turbines, pylons and substations were all connected and were part of the same problem. He said about 45 groups were now involved in Rethinkpylons.org and the anti-pylon groups alone represented about 25,000 people.
Mr Hartley said the campaign was gathering force and politicians who were thinking about the upcoming local and European elections were getting nervous about the opposition to these projects. “People are being given a voice and never again will anything like this be forced down people’s throats,” he said.
As an anti-pylons activist, he has been speaking at an average of five meetings every week since last September. “We could have from six to 300 people at these meetings.”
Mr Hartley said the pylons would only benefit a small cohort of speculative developers and were an affront to ordinary citizens. The wind turbines would be the ghost estates of the future because there would be no demand for them by the time they would be put in place.
Colm Fingleton, who is involved in a group in Ratheniska, Co Laois, opposing an Eirgrid substation, said politicians were very misinformed about the issues.
“We have done the research and educated ourselves but most of them don’t know what they are talking about,” he said.
Andrew Duncan, who came from Mullingar to attend the protest, said the issue was "a powder keg, ready to explode".