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Connacht Tribune

State is facing massive fines over Derrybrien

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Environmental issues surrounding a controversial South Galway windfarm could end up costing the Irish Government more than €4 million in fines.

The Derrybrien Windfarm, situated on the Slieve Aughty Mountain, has in the past seen devastating landslides that have threatened local homes.

And last week the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) advised that Ireland should face substantial and increasing penalties because of its failure to fulfil a court order related to the facility.

The windfarm was developed by the ESB to generate electricity more than 15 years ago – but it has also been dogged by controversy from the start, reaching a pitch with a massive landslide in 2003.

In 2008, the Irish authorities informed the Commission that the windfarm operator (ESB) had agreed to provide an updated environmental impact assessment.

David Murray, Chairman of the South Galway Flood Relief Committee, said that there was still no proper environmental impact analysis – leaving the Irish Government facing stiff fines as a result.

“On the one hand the Government says it’s committed to action on environmental action and on the other they are incapable of the right action.

“We’re throwing money away on fines because of our carbon consumption and then we’re throwing even more money after that because we can’t develop these sites properly,” he said.

The original Environmental Impact Assessment of the Derrybrien Windfarm indicated that there would be no additional drainage needed on the four square kilometre site, sitting on top of a 350m peak on the Slieve Aughty Mountains.

Mr Murray said that after the 2003 landslide happened the developers put in place a robust drainage scheme, which involved digging six feet wide and eight feet deep drains from each of the 71 turbine bases.

He added that drainage of the site was further impacted by the clear-felling of over 200 hectares of forest, over 25 kilometres of new drains and over 17 kilometres of roads were constructed.

“With no impact assessment, there was no consideration of how these changes would affect the hydrology of the mountain and its influence on the subsequent flooding of South Galway in 2005,” he said.

In November 2009, Hugh O’Donnell and his family from Beagh had to be rescued by helicopter after their home was rapidly engulfed by flood waters.

“We want a proper assessment on any impacts of mountain operations in this area and retrospective mitigation to ensure that potential flooding impacts from the windfarm are mitigated in some way.

“What kind of message are the Government sending about windfarm development if we are steadfastly ignoring best-practice and the concerns of the people?

“Why do we have to look to Europe to solve this and why is there nothing being done? There are many questions to be answered about our Government’s inaction,” Mr Murray added.

Responding to the story this week, the ESB stated: “ESB, through its subsidiary Gort Wind Farm Limited, constructed a wind farm at Derrybrien within the Slieve Aughty Mountains between Loughrea and Gort in County Galway.

“The wind farm has been in production since 2006. We are aware of the court case between the European Commission and the Irish Government, and understand from our discussions with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government that a final ruling is expected from the European Court of Justice in the coming months”.

Connacht Tribune

Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road

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Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.

Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.

This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.

It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.

During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.

Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.

While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.

Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.

Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.

In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.

Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.

“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.

“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.

“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.

The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.

Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.

(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)

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Connacht Tribune

Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure

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Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.

Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.

During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.

A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.

He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.

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Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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