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 tributes to loved ones
These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.
But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.
If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.
All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.
You can email that with a photograph to us, to email@example.com or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.
We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.
This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances. You can contact our team for further details at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gardaí seek help in locating missing man
Gardaí have sought help in locating a man missing in Galway since the end of December.
34-year-old Luke Davoren was last seen in the University Road area on December 30.
He is described as having fair hair, 6ft in height and having an athletic build. He was last seen wearing a grey hoody, brown leather jacket, blue jeans and brown leather boots. He also had a black back pack in his possession.
Gardaí and Luke’s family are very concerned for his welfare and have urged him to make contact.
Anyone with information, particularly any road users with dash cam footage of the Newcastle/University Road areas between 1am – 2am on December 30, is asked to contact Galway Garda Station on 091 538000.
Hospitals cope with overcrowding and staff shortages as Covid crisis peaks
Confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to skyrocket in Galway, as virus-related frontline healthcare staff shortages persist and now overcrowding emerges as a new threat.
Galway experienced four days of record-breaking positive case notifications in the past week, as hospitalisations grew exponentially and pressure was heaped on the critical care units at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and Portiuncula.
Hospital management said it was unsure whether community transmission had peaked locally yet – and they expect hospitals to be under ‘significant pressure’ from Covid admissions well into February.
Nurses have highlighted how overcrowding in the Emergency Department of the county’s two main public hospitals has returned – some 112 patients were stuck on trolleys awaiting admission to UHG and Ballinasloe on five mornings in the past week. Meanwhile, it hasn’t yet been officially confirmed that the new UK variant of Covid is present in Galway, but authorities believe it is.
The latest data shows there has been no let-up in new cases notifications in Galway – 604 confirmed cases were notified for Monday, the highest in Ireland and Galway’s worst ever day by a long shot.
It was a frightening figure but it was not for one day and was part of clearing the backlog of cases over Christmas and New Year, the HSE said.
That pushed Galway’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 to 1033.9 more than double what it was a week ago and eight times what it was a fortnight ago. Some 2,668 new Galway cases were notified in the fortnight to midnight Tuesday.
Read the full story and comprehensive coverage of the Covid-19 crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie