By Joe Barrett
“No number of threats or heavy handed tactics by Eirgrid/ESB will deter our community from protecting our precious resources and environment.”
That was the defiant message from protesters on Saturday as they picketed the controversial site of a proposed ESB/EirGrid 400kV sub-power station for the Laois/Kilkenny Reinforcement Project at Coolnabacky in Ratheniska.
Speaking from the picket line members of the Ratheniska-Timahoe-Spink (RTS) Substation Action Group said: “Our community in Ratheniska cannot believe in this day and age that semi-state companies can treat communities with such utter contempt and disregard to their water supply, environment and landscape.
The community calls on both companies to apologise for their behaviour, most recently for threatening our community with legal threats while asking us to consider entering a meditation process.
Eirgrid and ESB must acknowledge that agreements they made in Dáil Éireann with our community and our three TDs including the then minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, Seán Fleming and Brian Stanley have not been honoured including their commitment to share all future plans of this proposed piece of electrical infrastructure.”
They said: “After 12 years and almost 800 days of peaceful protest at the site, the local community in Ratheniska, led by the local farmers who are hosting this year’s ploughing championship, have shown their commitment to protecting their water supply, our environment and landscape by our actions.
“As the competitors arrive again this week in Ratheniska for the National Ploughing Championship, we are reminded that this is indeed a particularly beautiful area of Laois. It fills us with pride that our community, through enormous commitment and perseverance, has managed to protect our precious resources from both Eirgrid and ESB who are determined to plough on with the project at any cost, with disregard for our community and natural resources.”
“Eirgrid/ESB are issuing legal threats in the same sentence as looking for our community to enter mediation in the latest phase of the ongoing electrical infrastructure project debacle in Ratheniska/Coolnabacky, now in its 12th year.
“The community have stated that Eirgrid and ESB have never, to this day, explained the true scale of the project originally stated as a single power line to Kilkenny and a substation. It has been clear to us that it’s now a substation for 17 power lines, powerlines up to 85 meters high, and more disturbingly the sub-station containing up to 1,000 tons of oil on site as well as hexafluoride gas. This site is directly on top of our aquifer which supplies 2.5 million litres of pristine water per day through seven reservoirs to 12,000 people in Laois. The Ratheniska community says this poses an unacceptable risk to our only water supply.”
They said: “Our community’s concerns were backed up by the RTÉ investigates programme where a whistle-blower in ESB demonstrated that ESB showed shocking disregard for our environment with leaking pollutants, oil and gas. Have no proper processes in place to deal with oils or gases. At least 1million litres of oil had leaked from various sources. No proper storage facilities for the storage of SF6 gas bottles. Extraordinarily poor reporting culture where it took a whistle-blower to report the pollution outside of the organisation in order to have the problem recognised.”
The group continued: “To be very clear and transparent on a number of issues. Eirgrid and ESB broke the law when they breached the conditions of planning permission in 2017. (No commencement notices. No construction management plan. Building pylons that did not have planning permission. No protection for the aquifer as stated in the oral hearing).
“Our community re-iterates our call to ESB/Eirgrid to do the honourable thing, withdraw from Ratheniska/Coolnabacky and scrap this project. No number of threats or heavy handed tactics by Eirgrid/ESB will deter our community from protecting our precious resources and environment.”