Republican News · Thursday 24 August 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Musicians back Donegal pylon protestors

Some of Donegal's most renowned musicians are joining forces in an effort to stop high tension power lines being erected through the county.

Clannad's Máire Brennan, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Dermot Byrne of Altan are headlining a special benefit concert on Sunday, 27 August, to raise funds for a community group opposed to ESB plans to erect poles and pylons along a 70-mile stretch in the north west of the county. The concert, to be held in the Ostán Loch Altan, is the latest stage in a growing campaign of opposition to the powerlines.

The ESB says that the controversial 100Kv powerline is needed to meet increased electricity demand in the region and says there is no realistic alternative to the overland route using poles and what they refer to as `steel towers' - or pylons, as most of us might know them by. Donegal County Councillors have already assented to the plan but locally based groups and An Taisce have appealed planning approval to An Bord Pleanála and are awaiting developments.

Poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh, who will host the benefit night, says the ESB pylons would be `a desecration of sacred landscape'. Three of the `steel towers' will be situated in view of the old Cashelnagor railway station, a place commemorated by Ó Searcaigh in his epic landscape poem `Anseo ag Stáiosiún Chaiseal na gCorr'.

Opponents, organised as a group called Alternatives to Pylons (ATP), concede the need to satisfy electricity demand but point to an alternative method of bringing the power to the north west which they say would add greatly to the environment instead of blighting it.

ATP's spokesperson, Moira Miller, says the ESB could route the powerline along the bed of the disused Derry and Lough Swilly railway line which adjoins the proposed overland route. She says it would allow the development of a walkway or linear park, serving tourism and the ESB simultaneously.

Ironically, four years ago the ESB consultants who researched the current proposals recommended the railway line be developed as a Linear Park. In 1996, ESB International prepared a 56-page feasibility study for Udarás na Gaeltachta concluding the transformation of the railway as a walkway to be `a viable development'. In 2000, the original surveying of the railway line is found to be most useful. ESB International, now working for their parent company, recommend much of the very same path for the powerlines.

The Donegal ATP group is drawing on the experience of those involved in opposing ESB pylons in Cork, and the injection of funds from the benefit concert will enable them to strengthen their campaign.

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