Derrybrien wind farm ‘financial scandal must be addressed urgently’ – Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus and Galway East spokesperson Louis O’Hara have criticised the “ongoing financial scandal of taxpayers’ money being squandered on fines” relating to Derrybrien wind farm.

The Sinn Féin representatives called on government to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

In November 2019, Ireland was fined €5 million by the EU Court of Justice for failure to carry out a proper environmental assessment and a further €15,000 a day until the situation is resolved. The €5 million was paid in January, however, the €15,000 a day continues to apply.

Midlands North-West MEP MacManus described the issue as “shocking”.

“Last November’s ruling was the final stage in lengthy proceedings against the state, which have been ongoing since 2008. As we are now 12 years further on, it is shocking that successive governments have failed to address the issue.

“In August of this year, an ESB subsidiary lodged an application with An Bord Pleanála for substitute consent, which allows for retrospective applications in exceptional circumstances where there has been no environmental assessment.

“However, a month previously in July, the Supreme Court ruled that substitute consent is invalid under EU environmental law, because it lacks several key factors that a proper Environmental Impact Assessment must include, such as public participation allowing key stakeholders to input into the process.

“It was being used as a means of avoiding the issue rather than fulfilling our environmental obligations.”

‘Money is disappearing into a black hole’

His party colleague O’Hara said: “It is mind-boggling that the state should choose to proceed with an application for substitute consent when it has recently been ruled invalid.

It is almost certain that the application will fail on this basis and it appears to be an attempt to kick the can down the road. In the meantime, fines will continue to build up and eat into public finances.

“This is an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money, especially given that the state has had since 2008 to resolve the issue. €10.5 million would go a long way towards addressing the housing and health crises and tackling the huge levels of inequality that exist in this country.

“Instead, that money is disappearing into a black hole that the state appears to have no intention of addressing.”