Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has welcomed the news that both the ESB and Bord na Mona are to engage in consultations directly with representatives of the various community groups concerned over the proposed development of Ireland's biggest wind farm at Oweninny.
Deputy Mulherin said that there had to be proper pay back for the local community who recognised the importance of development for their area - and stressed that she fully supported the community in looking for a fair deal from the project.
Dep Mulherin was speaking after she had attended a public meeting, organised by Keenagh Development Association, in the Town Hall, Crossmolina, on Thursday night to discuss the proposed 370 mega watts Oweninny wind farm.
The Ballina TD called for meaningful dialogue by developers with communities. “The ESB and Bord na Mona must consult with the people of Keenagh, Crossmolina, and the Bellacorrick areas,” said the Ballina Deputy.
“I want to compliment everyone within the local communities where the wind farm is to be built for showing their interest and coming out on Thursday night. The overwhelming sentiment of the people was that they were in favour of embracing development for economic growth, but wanted proper community benefit and gain from the project through local employment during construction and operation where possible, and a transparent community fund in which the local people have set priorities for improvements in their own communities which can be supported by the fund.
“I fully support the community in looking for a fair deal from this project.”
Dep Mulherin added: “To begin with the €1,000 per megawatt installed per annum for the community fund is nowhere near the amount of €2,500 per megawatt installed as set out by Mayo County Council in its draft guidelines. Consultation with the communities on the part of ESB and Bord na Mona has to be more than just handing out information.
“I believe we are at a watershed juncture for our county and how ESB and Bord na Mona deal with the community will set a precedent for how well embraced wind farms and other energy infrastructural projects will be by communities, and how easy it will be for wind farm and other developers to develop their energy projects on the ground.
“For a good number of years, we have been talking about the best wind speeds in the country, if not Europe, being in County Mayo and along the western seaboard of our country. During the years of the Celtic tiger when money was to be made elsewhere very little progress was made in actually developing the potential of our wind resource. Now it is happening.”
According to Dep Mulherin the ESB and Bord na Mona must engage with the people of Keenagh, Crossmolina, and the Bellacorrick areas.
“These people are willing to play ball and recognise the importance of development for their area but there has to be proper pay back for them. It has to be thrashed out. There is no better place or time for a good precedent for community consultation and benefits to be set than in this very location where this, the biggest wind farm in the country, is being planned and where history was made in 1992 when we saw the first commercial wind farm in the country built at Bellacorrick by Bord na Mona.”
Dep Mulherin said the deal on the table is not acceptable to the community, “but Bord na Mona and ESB have got to hear views first hand and have agreed to engage in consultation directly with representatives of the various community groups and this is a positive step towards a resolution which I welcome and support.”