Christmas lights are left in the dark

Scrooge is alive and as miserly as ever - in the form of the EU, claim Laois Christmas lights activists.

Scrooge is alive and as miserly as ever - in the form of the EU, claim Laois Christmas lights activists.

They say the EU is about to order the ESB to meter electricity for festive lights and charge top dollars for it.

“Basically, this would mean that Christmas lights would be a thing of the past,” states Mountmellick Town Councillor Marc Connolly.

Abbeyleix Christmas lights committee member Cllr John Bonham exclaims: “It’s like telling a child Santa is not coming. We are absolutely boggedf down with bureaucracy.”

Portlaoise Christmas lights promotor John McNamee says he would be “very afraid” of the new regulation.

An ESB spokesperson says the Board, where requested, has agreed to place festive lights on its poles, subject to normal safety precautions and provided that its personnel does the work.

A major review of the situation will take place in January, she reveals, and that stage the ESB will decide on its future policy relating to Christmas lights.

Cllr Connolly, the Mountmellick Christmas lights committee PRO, insists that the EU has instructed the ESB to meter illuminations and charge industrial electricity rates for them.

He says the ESB has indicated that people can escape the new regulation if they apply to erect lights within the next two weeks.

Each meter would cost €1,300, states Cllr Connolly. Mountmellick would need seven, he estimates. The electricity bill for the lights would be €5,000, he calculates.

He says his committee has in recent years spent nearly €35,000 on providing festive lights.

He asserts: “This is another law brought in by the EU commission in Dublin. I cannot see them having the same problem in other countries. There would be war if they brought this into other countries. It’s more EU bureaucracy ruining the element of Christmas.”

Cllr Connolly thinks the new regulation will also hit the financial viability of Mountmellick’s famous Christmas tree. He says he intends raising the issue with Liam Hyland MEP.

Cllr Bonham describes the new regulation as “unacceptable”, even though he doesn’t anticipate that it will cause any problems in Abbeyleix, where, he explains, the festive lights are connected to the electricity supplies of individual consumers.

Mr McNamee says it costs up to €22,000 to run Portlaoise’s Christmas lights. He comments: “We are very cognizant of the difficulties facing us in the next number of years. I can see a situation whereby a small committee would just say ‘we are going nowhere’.

“We will have to have a very serious look to see what direction we are going to take in the future, but we believe that this year will be ok.”