There were two wind-farm related votes put before Wicklow councillors recently. On the eve of the local election, it is worth looking at how councillors voted.
Motion one would have zoned many areas of Wicklow as not suitable for wind farms. It was proposed by independent councillor Tommy Cullen.
The motion was defeated.
As a result, the following areas were left open for wind farm development: Carnew, Shillelagh, Manor Kilbride, Tinahely, Dunlavin (areas 6,7,8,9) and also Newtownmountkennedy, Rathnew, Glenealy, Redcross, Laragh, Glendalough, Roundwood, Rathdrum, Arklow.
It is worth noting that while many of the areas above are in south and west wicklow, most of the councillors who voted against the motion are based in the eastern half of the county.
The following county councillors voted against this first motion:
Vincent Blake (Fine Gael)
Sylvester Bourke (Fine Gael)
Mick Glynn (Fine Gael)
George Jones (Fine Gael)
Gráinne McLoughlin (Fine Gael)
Derek Mitchell (Fine Gael)
John Ryan (Fine Gael)
Irene Winters (Fine Gael)
Pat Casey (Fianna Fáil)
Pat Fitzgerald (Fianna Fáil)
Pat Vance (Fianna Fáil)
John Byrne (Labour)
Conal Kavanagh (Labour)
Christopher Fox (Independent)
Jimmy O’Shaughnessy (Independent)
The following county councillors voted for this first motion:
Edward Cullen (Independent) (proposer)
Barry Nevin (Independent)
Jim Ruttle (Independent)
Tom Fortune (Independent)
Pat Doran (Fianna Fáil)
Nicky Kelly (Labour)
Edward Timmins (Fine Gael)
John Brady (Sinn Féin)
John Snell (Sinn Féin)
Pat Vance (Fianna Fáil) said that Cllr Cullen’s proposal would have meant further public consultation. “The members of this Council will not be able to make the decision in the timeframe that the existing members have here”, he said.
So the logic of at least one councillor who voted against Cllr Cullen’s motion is that the lifetime of this particular council is ending, and this justifies the flawed amendments to the development plan. Better some than none.
Motion two was passed. It leaves over 50 percent of Wicklow open for wind farm development. This motion varies the development plan as per the three amendments which were published earlier this year.
There are a few questions arising:
1. Why wasn’t there proper public consultations in the first place, either in 2010 or in the last few months?
2. The Irish Wind Energy Association commented on the amendments that were passed, and requested a meeting with the Council : “an urgent meeting to discuss our concerns prior to any adoption of these proposed amendments”.* This letter constitutes lobbying on this matter by the Irish Wind Energy Association. Did any such meeting take place?
3. The only reason that the voting record was available for this blog post is due to The Wicklow Times’ reporting. Why is there no voting records available online?
So more than half the county now remains open for wind farms, as per the flawed 2010 development plan and the second motion passed.
Luckily, there is a solid planning process, and wind farm developers are subject to it. It is the reason why many wind farms are not going ahead in the wrong places.
And as for elected representatives, we speak via the ballot box tomorrow.
*Irish Wind Energy Association comment on recent amendments: