I am writing in response to the article on page thirteen of your paper dated Tuesday, 13th August, 2013. I believe the article undermines the public forum for debate on the issue of wind turbines in the midlands by using misleading anonymous accounts and failing to provide an unbiased journalistic report on the issue.
The article begins with the worrying title ‘Intimidated by turbine protest’ and uses two anonymous sources, supposedly asking to remain so for fear of more intimidation. The first source describes her experiences: “My kids are being harassed in school, people don’t wave at me, I am getting dirty looks.”
Apart from these being innocuous examples of intimidation to say the least, surely, in the case of children, any threatening behaviour should be reported to school management. It is unquestionable that people from both sides of the argument, for or against wind turbines, are feeling intimidated during this challenging time in our community.
I know that people who wish to be neither for nor against the turbines are intimidated too. Opening up a local public forum for information and discussion on this crucial matter is proving very difficult.
Unreasonable sound- bites like this only add to the confusion at local level by making a link between wind turbines and local development: “This is going to bring employment. That income would surpass what a whole farm brings in.
There is going to be more money so local business will get a lift.”
The connection between employment, income and local business is not clear here.
At national level, claims from wind energy companies and government that further reviews are not needed feed into the real fears and concerns of people in the community.
The second anonymous source adds little of benefit to the debate: “I don’t have a problem with turbines, but I have a difficulty with people claiming to be representing locals. They aren’t, they are new to the community.”
If I am new to the community am I not local? If my family have lived here for centuries does that mean my opinion on these matters carries more integrity than my neighbour’s who have has been here for merely a few decades?
I am certain that the members of local community groups do not want to represent anyone but themselves, whereas anonymous sources represent no one.
“Turbines don’t do any damage, there is not going to be any oil or coal in the future, what do they want us to do?
What’s good for the local economy is good, especially right now.” I am a concerned citizen rather than an expert.
But by favouring an uninformed nameless contributor the article ignores the rights of locals to show concern and objection on grounds of real evidence on issues of health, property devaluation, and environmental damage among others due to the cumulative effect of 187 metre wind turbines.
Disturbingly, promises of employment and boosts to local economies have so far not been borne out in any plausible fashion in other areas of Ireland.
In terms of the air of expectation in communities, there may be parallels between now and when Sean Lemass, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, opened the Asbestos-Cement factory in neighbouring Athy.
An article in the Leinster Leader dated 6th May, 1937 captures how the factory was presented as a great benefit for the community and country; “The Asbestos Cement Factory is one of the most important of our Irish industries, its establishment a vital step towards the fulfilment of the country’s programme of industrialism.”
The devastation subsequently visited on the local community by this factory is well documented.
At a meeting in County Hall in Portlaoise on 29th July, Michael Keane from Roscommon presented a harrowing account of living beside wind turbines and the devastation it has caused him and his wife, resulting in them leaving their home for good.
It was clear to me that the majority of the Laois County Councillors empathised with Michael.
I knew very little about the debate before that address to the County Council and went along to accompany my family.
Since then I have tried to learn as much as possible from both sides of the argument.
The decisions taken with regard to the planning and construction of wind turbines in the midlands will affect us and the generations to come.
Last night a sign objecting to the wind turbines was removed under the cover of darkness for the second time from my parents’ private land in Ballybrittas.
This smacks of cowardice and anonymity.
If you want to investigate reports of division appearing in the community, please use real people with real fears.