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many polls. Too many polls.09:45
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Teresa Treacy Ordered to Jail over ESB
national | environment |
Monday September 12, 2011 19:57
by Niall Harnett
“You picked the wrong place here” - Teresa
Treacy to ESB consultant Shane McLoughney, April 2007.
Teresa Treacy, a 65 year old woman
from Tullamore, Co Offaly has been ordered to jail by High Court Judge
Daniel Herbert at the request of the ESB.
Ms Treacy, who shares
the family farm with her sister Mary at Woodfield House, Clonmore,
Tullamore, Co Offaly has refused the ESB access to her lands in order to
protect the natural environment and the native trees that she has
managed there for many years.
In February 2006 the ESB began plans to construct a
110kV transmission powerline from Cushaling to Thornsbury. The plans
specify that double woodpole structures and steel towers accommodating
overhead powerlines be built at 200 metre intervals over a total distance
of 32 kilometres through the lands of local landowners.
outlined her objections in a number of letters to the ESB and arranged a
number of meetings with them to request that the powerlines be constructed
underground for the following reasons.
1) The Health &
Safety risks, including cancer risks which are increasingly associated
with overhead powerlines as a result of Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF).
2) The fact that she has always maintained and improved her land as a
natural habitat which includes native trees, old and new, cared for and/or
planted by herself for future generations as a sustainable natural
resource, through which the ESB want to smash.
3) The fact that the
undergrounding of powerlines is now considered to be best practice across
Europe. Ireland and the ESB are at the bottom of the league in terms of
catching up with international standards and the progress which has been
made to ensure that underground powerlines are the progressive way
The ESB were also pointed to a recent decision in
2006 to underground the Bantry (Colomane - Ballylickey) 38kV powerline,
which arose out of intense local protest opposing the overgrounding of
that line. The ESB were contracted to that project by a private windfarm
developer who succeeded in getting injunctions against local farmers but
decided not to enforce them. He abandoned overgrounding in favour of
undergrounding the powerline. See here: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/77007
When the Cushaling – Thornsbury project was proposed for Tullamore in
early 2006 it appeared that there was stiff opposition to the project
among the affected 90 landowners in Offaly. Undergrounding options were
discussed as technical possibilities and European best practice had come
to the attention of the public.
It's one thing to have a private
developer opt for undergrounding but the ESB, fearing that a precedent may
be set, were clever enough to use the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) to
negotiate a compensation package with the landowners, most of them
Teresa Treacy stood to gain up to approximately 150,000
euro in 3 staged payments if she agreed to the project and on condition
that no legal costs were incurred by the ESB if they had to go to court,
in which case the last 2 payments would be 'forfeited'.
negotiated by the IFA over the course of 2 years, seemed to appease most
of the landowners so by the time a public meeting was called to organise
the landowners, by Ms Treacy in March 2009, less than a dozen people
By the summer of 2011 Teresa Treacy was the only one
refusing access to the ESB.
The ESB has made a number of
applications to the High Court over the summer, including orders for Ms
Treacy to unlock her gates and let them in and subsequently an order
empowering the ESB to break the locks after Ms Treacy refused to obey the
first order. The ESB told the court that Ms Treacy “has an emotional
attachment to her trees”. When Ms Treacy obstructed them from breaking the
locks the ESB decided to go back to court to issue contempt proceedings
against Ms Treacy.
Today, Monday 12th September 2011, Judge Daniel
Herbert told Ms Treacy that he had no choice but to uphold the law and
ordered that she be jailed for contempt of the court orders.
begging them for years” said Ms Treacy today. “5½ years, what a waste of
time it was trying to talk to them”. Facing jail she said “I feel good, I
really do. I just couldn't let them in to do that. It's just not
“The route is cutting through our forest and the old
Whitethorn hedgerows. For over 25 years I have used all my time and energy
getting our lands into a place of natural beauty and overnight it can be
destroyed with high powered lines going through forests beside the old
bridge, the old laneway and through the new Oak and Ash woods I planted
over 20 years ago. I have spent many years replacing dead trees and
cutting gorse with my hands. I filled containers with water from the river
so that my forest is a model. All my trees have been pruned individually
by me to promote their growth”
“My heart is broken by the thought
that they may be uprooted and thrown away. I know I will never see them in
their full glory but was satisfied knowing that others would enjoy them
long into the future”
“We already have 10 ESB poles on our land and
feel that we have already done enough for the common good. Our farm is our
life's blood, its scenic beauty from the untouched fields to the river and
through the bog, all of it natural flora and fauna”.
proceedings were heard by Judge Mary Laffoy who granted orders to the ESB.
I'm wondering did Judge Laffoy decide not to be available to the ESB to
hear contempt proceedings. Who would want to send an elderly woman to jail
in these circumstances? When judgements are made in the High Court they
are usually presented as ' ... the High Court has ruled such a way ...',
and the name of the judge is understood to be irrelevant for the purposes
of law. A judge is simply an instrument of the law and the law must be
applied regardless of the personality or opinion of the judge. It is
legally correct for a judge to take responsibility for 'difficult cases'
because that's their job, and regardless of good reason, and the 3 reasons
outlined above, the law must be applied, mustn't it?!
will remain in jail until she 'purges her contempt' by agreeing to comply
with the court orders. The ESB, however, are in a position to make an
application to the court for her release, but this is unlikely, at least
until they've smashed the trees and constructed their outdated powerlines.
Her incarceration is in their hands.
Bury the powerlines, not the
Old Hedgerows with mature native
Teresa Treacy at home at