22 May 2022

'Zero respect': Residents protest blocks work at big ESB electricity substation in Laois

esb laois

Protest at the Coolnabacca site in the Ratheniska / Timahoe area of Loaois on Tuesday morning, May 19

A protest in Laois has prevented ESB workers from gaining access to the site of a big electricity substation that has been in the pipeline for a decade but which has been fought at every step by residents.

Members of the Ratheniska Timahoe Spink Action Group mounted a picket at the site in the Coolnabacca area which prevented work proceeding on Wednesday, May 19.

The residents have objected to the €110 million Laois Kilkenny Reinforcement line project since day one but it has planning permission. They believe that the substation presents a serious threat to the groundwater which supplies thousands of homes in Laois.

They were angry to see ESB vehicles return to recommence work.

"An absolute thundering disgrace that ESB/ EirGrid subcontractors have started back work in Coolnabacca forcing our community back to protest, protecting our water source and environment. What are they thinking trying to sneak in with people still nervous around Covid considerations?

"Really showing zero respect for our community! A new low for ESB in a long history of terrible developer behaviour," said a statement on social media.

The residents also believe that ESB and Eirgrid have not delivered on commitments. 

"The CEOs of EirGrid &ESB made an agreement with our Community at a meeting in the then Minister for Justice's (Charlie Flanagan) Dáil office in January 2020 that before any progress was made on-site, they would fully reveal the future purpose of the development.

"They have not honoured that commitment. For ESB to be trying to force their way onto site, trying to intimidate us with a convoy of vehicles is a really damning indictment of their approach, thoroughly in keeping with their behavior thus far. Senior management have made an unholy mess of this project, and must take full responsibility for this absolutely unacceptable confrontation situation," they said.

The ESB says the Laois-Kilkenny Reinforcement Project is required to address electricity reliability issues across Laois, Carlow, Kildare, Wicklow and Kilkenny. It sas these issues are caused by continued growth in demand for electricity and weaknesses in the transmission network across the Midlands and South East.

EirGrid has identified that if this project is not progressed it will result in a reduction in the quality and reliability of supply across these five counties.

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