Republican News · Thursday 13 July 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Donegal community fights ESB vandals


The ESB are planning an act of outrageous environmental vandalism across probably the last unspoilt part of Ireland. It plans to run huge pylons taking a 110 kv power line from Letterkenny to the industrial estate in Derrybeg, Gweedore.

The Alternative to Poles and Pylons group staged an ``Awareness Walk'' through the North Donegal village of Gortahork on Saturday, 8 July.

The group wants the ESB to lay the roughly 40 miles of cable underground. This would prevent the visual pollution of an area of outstanding natural beauty and would also eradicate the undoubted health hazard that high voltage cables constitute.

There is a strongly suspected association between these overhead power cables and childhood leukaemia clusters.

Pat Maguire, an English woman now settled in Gortahork, is active in the group. She said: ``Having lived overseas in such countries as Botswana, Borneo and the Seychelles, I have seen these countries' natural resources eroded by devastatingly inappropriate development. We can't allow the same to happen in Donegal.'' Like Miller, she was urging all those involved to put the power lines issue on Independent TD Tom Gildea's shopping list.

These people, this community, are on their own. Instinctively they know that - the only political party that was visibly represented on the protest was Sinn Féin.

The group and the community in general are furious that Fianna Fáil Minister for Tourism and neighbouring TD Jim McDaid is openly supporting the ESB plan, even touting his medical qualification in a statement of 18 May stating that these power lines constitute no health hazard.

Internationally acclaimed gaelic poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh spoke at the walk when it assembled. He had already embarrassed the local authorities a few weeks previously when he used his opening address at the Errigal Arts Festival in Letterkenny to slam the ESB plan.

Local man Pearse Doherty, the mobilisation and campaigns officer of Ógra Shinn Fhéin, was also on the walk. Doherty told An Phoblacht:

``It beggars belief that the Minister for Tourism, a Donegal man, should support the ESB in this act of vandalism. This community has a long tradition of banding together to oppose injustice. Sinn Féin will play its full part locally to oppose these overhead powerlines.''

Derry woman Moira Miller, the group's spokesperson, urged all those who attended to make life hell for newly married independent TD Tom Gildea, who has the affected area in his constituency.

Gildea has made much recently of his ``shopping list'' for the government to ensure his continued support. This group, broadly based in the community and determined, aims to push this environmental issue to the top of Gildea's wish list. In doing so, they hope to save an invaluable wilderness area and clip Jim McDaid's wings.

A fundraising concert for the campaign is currently being organised by Clannad's Deirdre Brennan in Gortahork.

The Alternative to Poles and Pylons group can be contacted at (074) 65252.

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