Pylons show rural Ireland being abandoned, conference hears

Growing anger among farm families about Eirgrid plan, ICMSA president says

The controversy over plans by Eirgrid to erect pylons across the country is just another example of the way the State is abandoning rural Ireland, John Comer president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association has said.   Photograph: Wolfgang von Brauchitsch /Bloomberg

The controversy over plans by Eirgrid to erect pylons across the country is just another example of the way the State is abandoning rural Ireland, John Comer president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association has said. Photograph: Wolfgang von Brauchitsch /Bloomberg

 

The controversy over plans by Eirgrid to erect pylons across the country is just another example of the way the State is abandoning rural Ireland, John Comer president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association has said.

Mr Comer said there was “growing and growing” anger about the plan among farm families.

“The State seems to be gradually withdrawing from rural life vis-a-vis rural post offices, DVOs (district veterinary offices), Garda stations, hospitals, schools and so on,” he said.

On the other hand the State was putting “a massive visual blight across the landscape of Ireland that’s going to be there for the next generation and the generation after that”, he said.

People did not want “an Incredible Hulk flexed-muscle type structure looking down at them for the rest of their lives”.

Mr Comer was speaking at the association’s annual conference in Limerick.

He said the patronising attitude from the State towards rural Ireland that “this medicine is good for you and we know best” would not work.

“It is going to be resisted. There has to be real and meaningful consultation. There has to be engagement with all the stakeholders and there has to be honest debate.”

He said 99 per cent of people he knew did not understand what was going on in the pylon debate. “They just know they are plain ugly.”

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was a difficult issue “and I’m not going to take a black and white position on either side”.

He said he knew it was a very sensitive issue but he also knew how antiquated our electricity grid infrastructure was.

“But we have to find some compromise here. If we decide to put this infrastructure underground there are significant consequences to that. One, it’s significantly more expensive, and, two, there are real technical problems with it that we have teased through over many many hours,” he said.

“ If there was an easy technical solution to this, without cost implications for consumers in Ireland who need competitively priced energy, well then we would be doing it. Eirgrid would be doing it.”

One conference delegate asked Mr Coveney how lines of pylons across rural Ireland would help to promote our clean, green image abroad. Another said the depth of feeling among farmers on this issue was “incredible” and farmers in his area were willing to to any lengths to have their views heard.

Mr Coveney was also asked if the Government could do more to address the problem of the thousands of unwanted horses around the country. Mr Coveney said 3,000 horses had been confiscated this year and he was determined to fundamentally change attitudes towards horse welfare.

“There are some people who have horses, for historical reasons or traditional reasons, or whatever, who simply don’t have the resources or the knowledge to look after them,” he said. “Last year we had multiple incidents of horses literally starving when grass stopped growing, [horses] tied to lamp posts, horses with no water, on public lands and Nama-controlled land and we are putting a stop to that and I make no apologies to anyone for that.”

He also said abandoned horses did not help Ireland’s image as the producer of high-quality food. “If people come here to buy food, we don’t want them to see animals that are starving in fields.”