INTERCONNECTOR DAY11

This section dealt with human beings: land use

The inspectors heard from the Meath IFA Chairman Diarmuid Lally (also representing the IFA in Monaghan and Cavan), Kingscourt IFA (Eugene Lambe a dairy farmer from Cordoagh) and the ICMSA President John Comer and local representative Lorcan McCabe from Bailieborough. Lorcan Mc Cabe who is Chairperson of the ICMSA Farm Business Committee and is a Cavan man who is here today with me to represent the views of our members in the North-East.

Diarmuid Lally claimed there had been inadequate consultation with farmers by EirGrid. There had been an inadequate consideration of alternatives such as undergrounding. The cost of undergrounding had started off at 25 times the cost of an overhead line, but now the cost was almost equal, he said.

Mr Lally claimed there was no need for the interconnector. It was about sending electricity to Northern Ireland and had absolutely nothing to do with the North East. He said the NI Assembly had not yet clarified its plans for the power stations at Coolkeeragh and Ballylumford and there might be no need for transferring the extra electricity produced in the Republic to Northern Ireland. He wondered why a coastal route had not been chosen along the eastern seaboard, at the time the machinery had been in place to lay the underground cable connecting Rush in Co. Dublin to Prestatyn in Wales (the East-West interconnector).

The IFA Meath Chairman said the approach of EirGrid to the farming community had been arrogant. There was no engagement with the community. Mr Lally raised questions about the effect of the line on the health and wellbeing of farm families and workers. He also wondered what the effect would be on the single farm payments received by farmers for working their land, if EirGrid constructed one or more pylons on their property. Who would be compensating the farmer?, he asked.

He also made a number of points regarding health and safety on farms and asked what studies the company had done about potential crop disease or soil problems arising from the construction work. He wondered how farmers would do their business because of disruption during the eight to twelve weeks it took to construct a pylon on their land. He also asked EirGrid about the effect the power lines might have on the use of GPS equipment in machines such as combine harvesters.

The ICMSA President John Comer said the interconnector plan was of major concern to their members in the North-East and they opposed it. He said the identified route mainly traversed open countryside, having been designed to avoid towns and villages and clusters of rural housing. The proposed route would have the vast majority of the pylons erected in existing farmland and the power lines would overhang farm land. Mr Comer said there was deep frustration in rural communities on this issue and how it had been managed to date.

He said the ICMSA believed that the importance of the agri-food sector to export driven growth in the economy could not be underestimated with the total value of food and drink exports from Ireland in 2014 reaching a record of €10.5 billion. There had been considerable investment and energy expended over many years on promoting the very successful “Clean and Green” Irish brand abroad. The Association believed there was potential for considerable damage to Ireland’s reputation by the erection of large pylons through some of the most productive farmland in the country.

One of the main contentions was the reluctance by EirGrid to examine alternatives to the construction of the pylons, which would dominate the landscape and tower above homes and landscape features. The ICMSA was acutely aware of the importance of a properly functioning electricity network in terms of promoting foreign direct investment and jobs for the region, but it believed this must not be at an unnecessary cost to farm and rural families and their livelihoods. In this context, the ICMSA supported the undergrounding of cables to ensure minimum impact on the rural environment.

Mr Comer said the people who depend on it for a living believed a detailed independent cost-benefit analysis should be carried out and published on undergrounding before any final decision was made. In addition, the ICMSA believed a comprehensive independent Environmental Impact Study must be carried out which specifically addressed the impact from a farming, agri-economic and rural perspective.

ICMSA believes that all major farming enterprises including dairying, beef, sheep, equine, horticulture, forestry, tillage and poultry would be impacted by the proposed scheme and has concerns regarding the fact that not one single study of farming activities has been carried out and no alternative measures have been proposed. In addition, this proposal was likely significantly to devalue agricultural holdings. The construction of the transmission lines and associated large structures would significantly disrupt farming operations on an ongoing basis. Agricultural land would be rendered sterile along the 1km wide corridor which would traverse the countryside, Mr Comer said.

He called for further research to be done on the impact of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on living organisms. EMF was a particular concern for dairy farmers and the possible impact on somatic cell count and the associated costs. The ICMSA President pointed out that there were health and safety issues that needed to be addressed.

He continued: “It is a widely held view that that these high voltage power lines and pylons are the most objectionable form of public utility infrastructure on land. In addition to farming related issues they impose significant negative effects in relation to visual and environmental impact, land and property devaluation, and health and safety concerns. The ICMSA, on behalf of its farming members, supports the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign and their legitimate objective of demanding that these lines be placed underground.”

Responding to the points raised by the IFA and ICMSA representatives a property consultant for EirGrid Tom Corr repeated his view that the development of overhead lines was not expected to have any effect on farmland prices. There was no evidence of farm prices being impacted by the more than 400km of 400kV lines and 1800km of 220kV power lines already in existence in the Republic. He said international research showed that the impact of overhead lines diminished with time.

Mr Corr said that coming as he did from County Monaghan, it was his own experience over more than 30 years that he best customers were not out off by a property for sale that had an overhead power line.

Aidan Geoghegan, project manager for the EirGrid interconnector, told the hearing he could say with confidence that overhead lines did not interfere with GPS systems and the conductors would not affect the system signals.

Agricultural consultant Con Curtin for EirGrid said the concerns over electromagnetic fields around the lines had already been dealt with. The farmer would continue to have use of the land under the 400kV lines without any significant change. He said safety at sites could be managed and that farmers already had to operate machinery under overhead lines such as telephone wires.

Regarding the possible spread of animal disease such as TB from badgers, Mr Curtin said the risk was imperceptible. Vehicles used by contractors at a farm would be disinfected where required. Livestock would not be allowed to stray between holdings, he added. Regarding claims that Ireland’s green image for food could be affected, Mr Curtin said there was no reason for it to be affected. EirGrid pointed out that there were agri-food ventures in other counties such as Clare that had overhead high voltage lines.

Finally, another mapping error was revealed. Mr Curtin corrected a land use evaluation in the application by EirGrid surrounding a proposed tower no. 125 near Annagh in Co. Monaghan. The pylon would be located in a 1ha field and it was assumed that it was part of a particular holding, but the wrong one was outlined on the map originally provided. The impact of the tower on the corrected holding is now said to be slight adverse and in the adjoining land parcel it is now described as imperceptible.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY7

This section dealt with the impacts of the project on health

The third week of the oral hearing opened with presentations on the impacts on health of the interconnector. The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee told the hearing local residents were terrified about the proposed 400kV line and felt they had been bullied and intimidated by EirGrid.

CMAPC FEARS ABOUT HEALTH ISSUES

Margaret Marron from Corbane, Shantonagh said the fact that the proposed line was going so close to their homes had already had a detrimental impact on their lives. The perceived risk of constant exposure to radiation sent shivers down their spines, she said. They had genuinely held concerns and fears about health issues arising from the planning application.

They knew their property would be devalued; they would not be able to provide (building) sites for their children; it would impact negatively on their work and farming practices; it would produce annoying noise. They were terrified it would affect their own physical health and more especially that of their children. This was the reality of life for people along the proposed route in Co. Monaghan.

They were very angry and felt that they had been bullied, intimidated and treated as second class citizens by EirGrid, she said. Almost 800 submissions to the Planning Board had referenced health as a huge issue. Farming including milking of cows would be totally unsustainable as there was no time frame on the project, no telling what time of year construction would start or finish and a farmer could not do his work without free and unrestricted access to his land.

Margaret Marron said there were a number of families with children with autism living in tranquil rural locations that were in close proximity to the proposed line. The quality of their lives would change irrevocably if the interconnector in its proposed format went ahead, she told the hearing.

Children with autism were highly sensitive to noises such as those emitted from power cables. One parent with a pylon construction site entrance 10 metres from the boundary of her home was absolutely terrified about the possible effect on her child with autism.

EirGrid’s spin doctors and PR consultants had failed miserably over the past eight years to assuage people’s concerns and fears regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields, a feature of the overhead high voltage power lines.

There were many landowners in the Monaghan area who were fitted with implanted medical devices (pacemakers) who worked in the open air and would have to work under and around the power line. This seemed to be potentially a serious health risk and EirGrid had just swept it under the carpet.

She said the committee believed that an EirGrid commitment not to place an overhead line within 40 metres of a dwelling house as a precautionary measure was simply not good enough. She hoped EirGrid would comply with any new pylon policy and siting guidelines that were currently being drawn up by the Department of Environment, which is updating a report published in 2007. The project is due to be completed this year.

The EirGrid CEO Fintan Slye had said he personally “would have no issue living next to a pylon” because he knows “it is technically safe and I have no problem with that” (December 2013). If that was the attitude of the CEO then it was no wonder all health concerns had been totally dismissed by EirGrid, the CMAPC representative said.

She concluded: “He is entitled to his view, the same as anyone else, but I can assure this hearing that it is not the view of CMAPC or of the landowners, residents and communities that we represent”.

NEPPC

Padraig O’Reilly said there had been no stakeholder input on the routing of this major new power line, despite a recommendation in the March 2007 report to the Environment Department by an expert group on health effects of electromagnetic fields. In the contention of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign the application sought to impose wholly unacceptable and unnecessary risks on local communities in Meath, Cavan, Monaghan, Armagh and Tyrone.

He claimed EirGrid had failed to provide the Planning Board with an objective analysis of the documented risks relating to electromagnetic fields and high voltage power lines. Because EirGrid had failed even to consider mitigation against any of the risk factors, it left no option for the Board but to refuse the application.

MEATH COUPLE OUTLINE HEALTH RISKS

A County Meath couple claimed the cancer they were diagnosed with had been brought on by living “in a toxic environment” beneath a high-power voltage power line for over three decades. Paula and Mike Sheridan used to live at Curraghtown, near Dunshaughlin, in a house that is 35 metres from a 400kv high voltage line from Moneypoint running directly above their back garden towards a sub-station nearby at Woodland. Both of them were diagnosed with different types of cancer in recent years and have now moved to rented accommodation. Mrs Sheridan who is a medical scientist raised her concerns about the impact on health of electromagnetic fields.

She said they believed there was a connection between their ill health and their long-term exposure over thirty years to such high levels of an electromagnetic field. During all their suffering, the response from EirGrid had been appalling, they said. The company’s attitude along with the ESB during this sad and stressful period was to ignore and dismiss their concerns. This was despite a visit to their home by a senior EirGrid representative in August 2013 when the couple raised all their health issues.

EIRGRID REPLIES ON EMF FIELDS

EirGrid said there was an absence of any proven harm from electromagnetic fields. International experts brought in by the power transmission company explained that the scientific consensus was that there was no credible way to explain how electromagnetic fields could cause cancer. The overall results of scientific research on this issue did not confirm this fear, or explain how it could happen, according to EirGrid.

Dr William Bailey, one of two scientific consultants brought in from the United States, is an expert in applying assessment methods to environmental and occupational health issues. He explained how it was useful to understand the role of scientific research about electromagnetic fields and health. He said EMF fields could not reasonably be taken to be a carcinogen. He pointed out there was a difference between health hazards (such as being hit by a car) and health risks and the terms had to be used correctly. Along with Dr Gabor Mezei a senior managing scientist with over 25 years’ experience in health research, they set out to answer some of the points raised by the Sheridans.

EirGrid’s explanation in its supporting documentation is that electric and magnetic fields, or EMFs, are present in both natural and man-made environments. People everywhere are exposed to EMFs wherever they live. EirGrid says it operates the transmission grid to stringent safety standards set by national and European regulators. They set guidelines on the maximum amount of EMFs that the infrastructure can emit, and we work well within these limits.

EirGrid acknowledges that the issue of EMFs is an emotive and contentious one, powered by fears about health that are strongly held by some people. The company says some people fear that EMFs cause cancer. However, the overall results of scientific research on this issue do not confirm this fear, or explain how it could happen, according to the company. The concern that electric power lines may cause childhood cancer arose in 1979. It started with a single epidemiological study. Since then, many large-scale studies have investigated this initial finding. These studies have not convinced health authorities that EMFs are a cause of cancer, EirGrid points out.

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY2

DAY TWO

This section dealt with the legal and statutory processes.  

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard

Esmond Keane SC for NEPPC told day two of the oral hearing in Carrickmacross that the North/South interconnector planning application by EirGrid was entirely invalid, fundamentally flawed and would be detrimental to landowners. He said EirGrid had not been given statutory power to construct the lines themselves and it was the ESB which had such power. So this was not a valid application from a person entitled to apply to carry out the development, he claimed.

The barrister said there was a possible conflict of interest in An Bord Pleanála deciding the planning application also being designated as the relevant authority in the Republic to manage an EU energy infrastructure Project of Common Interest. Referring to the environmental impact statement, Mr Keane said it failed to comply with what was required. There must be early and effective participation of the public in the consultation process. But this was utterly misconstrued by EirGrid. There had been no effective opportunity for the public to participate about how undergrounding of the power lines could be carried out.

Mr Keane said planning drawings showing proposed 400kV line pylons were utterly incomplete and inadequate. EirGrid said the towers ranged in height from 26m to 51m (80ft to 165ft). It was utterly inappropriate for members of the public not to be shown details of the insulators, conductors and points of connection for the towers in each area and how they related to their own homes. The drawings had failed utterly to give proper notice of what this development comprised of.

“One would have thought EirGrid on this occasion would have shown all the elements of the development and shown all elements of each tower at each location”, the barrister said. There was no idea from the drawings where a fibre optic cable mentioned in some of the documentation would go and if it would be strung between the pylons with the other wires.

Michael O’Donnell, a barrister representing Braccanby Irish Farm LLC and NV Irish Farm LLC in County Meath, told the hearing the entire basis of the planning application had been predicated on a fundamental error. It was not even clear who the applicant was because the construction work was purportedly to be carried out by the ESB, acting as an agent of EirGrid. He said the Planning Board was being put in an impossible position in deciding the application because it was also acting as the competent authority for a project of common interest.

EirGrid’s response was given by Brian Murray S.C. who confirmed that they were the applicants and all planning documentation stated this. So there could be no doubt who the applicant was. He explained that EirGrid exercised a close monitoring role regarding any construction carried out by the ESB on its behalf and such work was monitored by EirGrid engineers. EirGrid was the electricity system operator and was the proper applicant, he insisted. He said there was no legal inhibition on Bord Pleanála operating as a planning assessor and having a separate unit to consider PCIs.

EirGrid senior planning consultant Des Cox was asked by the NEPPC counsel Esmond Keane about arrangements for construction work around pylons and access routes. He explained that the temporary routes would not involve excavation or the laying of stones or wooden sleepers, but instead rubber mats or aluminium tracks would be laid on land required to gain access to pylon sites.

Asked if it would require the removal of hedges and the construction of entrances, Mr Cox replied that regarding hedges there would be a cutting down in some cases but not removal. Regarding a specific site near Kingscourt in County Cavan where the NEPPC claimed a new entrance would be needed, Mr Cox replied: “I do not know; I am not down at that level of detail”.

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY1

BORD PLEANÁLA HEARING ON EIRGRID INTERCONNECTOR PLAN OPENS

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD

A legal move by anti-pylon campaigners failed to halt the opening on Monday of a planning enquiry into a major project by EirGrid to construct a high voltage electricity line through Meath and parts of Cavan and Monaghan extending into Northern Ireland. Two inspectors from An Bord Pleanála began a hearing in Carrickmacross concerning the proposed North/South 400kV interconnector.

The hearing has been divided into two parts and it’s expected it could last up to three months. Over 900 submissions comprising over 2000 people and groups were made to An Bord Pleanála, most of them objecting to the overhead power lines and pylons.

DAY ONE

Project overview and views of the planning authorities.

The inspectors heard an overview of the project from EirGrid and brief submissions by planners from the three local authorities involved. But when the inspectors began the section dealing with legal and statutory processes, a challenge was made by a lawyer on behalf of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign.

He asked the inspectors to adjourn the oral hearing because NEPPC had earlier in the day attempted to get it stopped at the High Court in Dublin. Judge Humphreys did not grant an interlocutory injunction but agreed to a review involving all parties on Friday 18th March. Senior planning inspector Breda Gannon said she intended to proceed with the hearing until such time as she received any court order to stop.

Sitting alongside another inspector Deirdre McGowan, Ms Gannon explained at the outset that this was an information gathering exercise for the Board. She said she would prepare a report and make a recommendation. The ultimate decision on the application rested with the Board, who she said might or might not approve it, with or without modifications.

This is the second such inquiry in over five years. A previous hearing in 2010 ended abruptly when a discrepancy was exposed in the planning documentation regarding the height of pylons and EirGrid withdrew the application.

INTERCONNECTOR PLAN

The high voltage line proposed by EirGrid would connect the electricity systems on both sides of the border. It would run for 103km from an existing sub-station at Woodland near Batterstown in County Meath, through a small part of County Cavan and through 42 townlands in County Monaghan. This section in the Republic would have 299 pylons ranging in height from 26m to 51m above ground level to carry the overhead wires. 165 of the pylons would be in County Meath, covering 54.5km and 134 in Cavan/Monaghan covering 46km of the line.

At Lemgare near Clontibret the line would cross into County Armagh and thence to Turleenan near the Moy in County Tyrone. This section is subject to a separate investigation by the NI Planning Appeals Commission, which will hold a one-day preliminary hearing in Armagh in June to consider legal issues.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

A barrister for EirGrid outlined why the semi-state company needed to construct the second interconnector. He outlined some of the technical reasons why the line was needed to balance the supply systems North and South.

Jarlath Fitzsimons S.C. told the hearing the project was essential to secure safe, reliable, economic and efficient electricity supply between the Republic and Northern Ireland. He said that an independent report by international experts in 2012 had estimated that undergrounding of the wires would cost three times more than putting them overhead. EirGrid was therefore proposing that the best technical solution was for a wholly overhead line.

He explained that the electricity markets North and South were interlinked and interdependent. If for any reason either accidental or deliberate the current interconnector was disabled then the consequences would be very grave indeed. If the imbalance caused by such an event was not corrected quickly then a system could collapse, he said.

Mr Fitzsimons said it was estimated the development would save €20m annually from 2020 rising to between €40m and €60m from 2030 onwards.

EirGrid senior planning consultant Des Cox explained the proposed route for the interconnector. Using maps he showed how the pylons had been sited in order to avoid residential areas where possible. Consideration was also given to avoid areas where there were important archaeological or geological features, and heritage interests. He said the application included a temporary storage yard for materials outside Carrickmacross.

MONAGHAN COUNTY COUNCIL

Toirleach Gourley a senior executive planner with Monaghan County Council said the EirGrid response to submissions published in December represented much of what was set out in the original application. A number of issues previously raised by the Council remained to be addressed, he said. He outlined some of these for the inspectors. Some of the detail about temporary access routes for the construction of pylons was quite limited.

Regarding photomontages that had been supplied by EirGrid, he said a number of these were not representative of the views at various locations and no new information had been provided to address this issue. Concerning roads, the Council still had concerns about the transport of excess soil from pylon construction sites to a waste disposal area and how it could impact on local roads that could not physically accommodate larger vehicles. The proposed video survey of roads before and after the erection of pylons was inadequate in terms of identifying any damage to them.

Mr Gourley said the Co. Monaghan heritage officer believed there was still insufficient information regarding the potential impact on archaeology and protected structures. The view of the council’s tourism officer was that the development will have an adverse impact on tourism in the county, in areas such as the Monaghan Way.

A senior executive planner for Meath County Council Fiona Redmond pointed out that since their submission last year commenting on the EirGrid application, the Council had approved in December a new county development contribution scheme 2016-2021 which came into effect on 1st January. She pointed out that the infrastructure charge for erecting a 400 kV pylon would be €10,000 per pylon to be paid by the developer.

CMAPC SUBMISSION ON LEGAL PROCESSES

The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee was represented by Nigel Hillis. He told the inspectors EirGrid last week published its latest All Island Generation Capacity Statement 2016 – 2025. It stated that the second North-South interconnector was vital to ensure the security of electricity supply for the future in both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“In association with the competent authorities in the respective jurisdictions, we are actively progressing work to deliver this Project of Common Interest by 2019”, the document said.

Mr Hillis observed that it was not clear from this if the competent authorities referred to were the competent authorities under the (cross-border) Project of Common Interest regulations or the competent authorities with regards to planning matters.

In any event it did not matter as there was only one competent decision making authority in this case, namely An Bord Pleanála. So therefore, EirGrid and An Bord Pleanála were actively progressing work to deliver this PCI.

Mr Hillis asked if this planning application had been prejudged. “Has the decision been made? Are we wasting our time coming to this oral hearing?”, he told the inspectors.

A lawyer for the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign requested that their submission on legal matters be adjourned until the morning as their senior counsel was not in a position to make a presentation, owing to his involvement that day with the case in Dublin.

Presiding Inspector Breda Gannon said the NEPPC was inconveniencing the hearing. She had allocated five hours for them to speak and in the circumstances she had no choice but to finish the first day of the hearing early. She penalised the group by reducing their allocated time to three hours when the hearing resumed on Tuesday morning.

INTERCONNECTOR

IMG_20160128_223901A Bord Pleanála oral hearing begins on Monday 7th March into EirGrid’s latest proposal for a North/South electricity interconnector, one of the largest ever infrastructure projects in the history of the state. Two inspectors from the Planning Board began hearing submissions at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross.

The plan proposes building 299 pylons in the Republic to carry a high voltage (400kV) power line from Woodland in Co. Meath where there is an existing substation to Turleenan near the Moy on County Tyrone. It would pass through Meath, a small part of Co. Cavan near Kingsport and then through 42 town lands in Co. Monaghan. The line is due to cross the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, beside Derrynoose in Co. Armagh. eirgridLogo

The line is a total of 135km long. The Northern Ireland section is subject to a separate planning application by EirGrid’s subsidiary SONI. It is under review by the Planning Appeals Commission, which will hold a preliminary public hearing in Armagh on June 21st to examine legal aspects of the application.

The Commission was requested by the NI Department of the Environment to conduct a public inquiry under Article 31(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 for the purpose of considering representations made in respect of the 2009 application. The inquiry opened on 6th March 2012 but was adjourned on 20th March 2012 when it came to light that the application and the environmental statement and its addenda had not been properly advertised in the press. The Commissioners recommended that before it was re-advertised, the environmental statement should be consolidated and updated to take account of changes put forward by the applicants in their evidence to the inquiry.

On 9th October 2014, the NI Environment Department renewed its request for a public inquiry into the 2009 application for the electricity interconnector proposal and asked that it be conjoined with an inquiry into the 2013 application for associated works. Copies of a consolidated environmental statement relating to both applications had previously been forwarded to the Commission. However, in a further letter dated 18th November 2014, the Department informed the Commission of the applicant’s intention to submit additional environmental information relating to the trans-boundary landscape and visual effects of the proposed development.

The Commission said it would take no further action in relation to the inquiry until:-       the additional environmental information had been submitted and the public consultation period had elapsed;
the Commission was provided with copies of all documents relevant to and arising from the additional information; and
the Department confirmed that it had in its possession all the environmental information it considered necessary to meet the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and Regulations.

System Operator for Northern Ireland welcomed the news that the PAC public enquiry would recommence in June. It said the North South Interconnector was required urgently for security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland. It said the proposed project would reduce electricity prices and provide Northern Ireland with a secure electricity supply by linking the grids in NI and the Republic.

After being referred to the PAC, the Public Inquiry hearing originally began in March 2012 and was subsequently adjourned to allow the submission of further information relating to the planning application. Having received all relevant information, the PAC has notified SONI that proceedings can now continue, a major milestone for the project as SONI’s General Manager Robin McCormick explained:

“We are pleased to have been notified by the PAC about the recommencement of the public inquiry into the North South Interconnector. It is a critical piece of infrastructure, essential for a secure supply of electricity for Northern Ireland. It will also significantly reduce the cost of electricity for consumers across the entire island and will allow us to increase our use of renewable energy, reducing Northern Ireland’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. SONI has worked tirelessly to progress the planning application to make these benefits a reality.

“The project is fundamental to the Northern Irish economy and is supported by DETI, the Utility Regulator and all of the main business organisations including CBI, Northern Ireland Chamber and Manufacturing NI, but, in order to keep the lights on and to avoid increasing consumer costs, the interconnector must be built by 2019 and to that end, we would hope for a speedy resolution from the inquiry.”

“We understand that some people have concerns, especially when it comes to large infrastructure projects of this nature. We have teams on the ground, listening and responding to those concerns and would like anyone with questions to know that we are available for discussions, up until the inquiry begins.”

SONI’s specially appointed Agricultural Liaison Officer Fergal Keenan, is available to provide information about the project and can be contacted directly at 07966-930844 or via email fergal.keenan@soni.ltd.uk.

FROM SLANE TO OMAGH

Plaque at Ledwidge Cottage

Plaque at Ledwidge Cottage

My journey this evening took me along the N2 heading Northwards from Dublin and past a sign indicating “Ledwidge Country” outside Slane in Co. Meath. It’s a good staring point as I mentioned it at the end of yesterday’s blog about Maev Conway-Piskorski. Her mother Margaret (Maighréad Uí Chonmhidhe) had given a lecture at the folk school in Bettystown in 1966 about the poet-soldier Francis Ledwidge. I quote from the book “Seanchas na Midhe” (eds. Ní Chonmhidhe Piskorska & Brück 2009):

“Margaret Conway remembered meeting the poet when she was a young girl in Colga, when he visited her brothers and “fellow poets” at their home. Her painting of the Maiden Tower at Mornington, reproduced on the cover of this booklet, depicts a scene romantically associated with Francis Ledwidge and with Ellie, the young woman who inspired many of his poems” 

Meath Lore

Meath Lore

Ledwidge was born in Slane in 1888 and after joining the Volunteers in 1913 enlisted in the British Army the following year in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed at the battle of Ypres (Ieper) in Flanders in July 1917.

In 1982 a museum was opened by the Omagh writer Benedict Kiely in the cottage where Ledwidge was born. There is a plaque in his memory attached to the front wall of the cottage. It states that it was erected by the Slane guild of Muintir na Tíre on September 9th 1962. A copy of the plaque is set in stone at the approach to the bridge over the River Boyne at Slane.

Ledwidge Cottage & Museum

Ledwidge Cottage & Museum

Continuing past Slane I stopped in County Louth close to the county boundary with Monaghan, where the province of Ulster begins. I watched another Tyrone writer and journalist Martina Devlin being interviewed on the RTÉ Nationwide programme about her home town of Omagh. Talking about the education she received at Loreto primary school, she mentioned the influence of the local poet, novelist and writer, Alice Milligan, whose background is very interesting. From a Protestant family and educated at Methodist College, Belfast, she went on to become an Irish nationalist and a leading figure in the Irish literary revival, who mixed with people like Yeats, Casement and James Connolly. She edited a magazine produced in Belfast at the end of the 19thC, Shan Van Vocht and was an organiser for the Gaelic League. Born at Gortmore, outside Omagh in September 1866, she died in April 1953 and is buried in the Church of Ireland cemetery at Drumragh.

Grave of Alice Milligan

Grave of Alice Milligan

DJ O'Donoghue & George Sigersondiscussing memorial

DJ O’Donoghue & George Sigerson
discussing memorial

While researching William Carleton in the UCD Archive I found a number of letters from Alice Milligan then living at University Road Belfast (near Queen’s University) written to the biographer DJ O’Donoghue (librarian at University College). One of the letters enclosed five poems (LA15/1149). She also agrees to contribute to the Mangan memorial fund, a project which O’Donoghue was working on with George Sigerson to provide a memorial to the poet at St Stephen’s Green. The photo of the two men chatting about the Mangan project is copyright © IVRLA  (Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive)  and is reproduced with the kind permission of Professor Helen Solterer  from an original in  UCD Library Special Collections. The bust of James Clarence Mangan can be seen if you are walking through St Stephen’s Green not far from Newman House and near the middle of the park.

James Clarence Mangan

James Clarence Mangan

UPDATE: Thanks to Charles Fitzgerald for having read the above and sending in the following quotation from a Ledwidge poem (Ceol Sidhe):

“And many a little whispering thing
Is calling the Shee.
The dewy bells of evening ring,
And all is melody”.

The poem and other works by Ledwidge can be found here.