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Laois Councillor hits out at substation protest and throws support behind €500,000 community fund

RTS Substation Group Ratheniska

A Laois County Councillor has hit out at a group who have been protesting over the proposed construction of a substation.

The RTS Substation Action group have been protesting for almost 800 days at the site of the proposed Eirgrid and ESB project.

The issue of the controversial substation came up at a recent county council meeting as councillors were asked to select a representative on the Eirgrid Laois Kilkenny Reinforcement Project Community Forum.

Cllr Paschal McEvoy, who is from Timahoe, was nominated to go forward to this forum which has a promised fund of €500,000 to be distributed among community groups if the substation is completed.

According to Fianna Fail’s McEvoy, the protestors are ‘hijacking’ a lane nearby the development where a family live.

He said: “There is a family living on the lane where this development is taking place.

“Their house and their lane has been hijacked for the past four or five years. I think it is an absolute disgrace.

“I would be absolutely be disgusted with the carry on of protestors standing their with their placards.

“Why don’t they go to the ESB offices and not hijacking a family?”

Fellow Fianna Fail Cllr Padraig Fleming, who expressed his opposition to the substation citing fears over potential damage to the aquifer which supplies water to 25,000 people, said the protester were ‘respectful’ and were not ‘inhibiting or upsetting’ others.

However, Cllr McEvoy countered and called on Cllr Fleming to ask the family affected ‘how they feel’.

Fine Gael’s Cllr Aisling Moran called on Cllr McEvoy to use his position to challenge EirGrid and the ESB.

She wanted them to cost how much it would take to fix the aquifer if it became polluted and for that money to be ringfenced before the project starts.

Cllr Moran said: “Where they want to build this station is directly over an aquifer which serves 25,000 people.

“The Twin Towers and the Titanic were not supposed to happen and they did.

“I would ask Paschal if you would ask that question (the cost of fixing the aquifer or sourcing another water supply) to Eirgrid.”

But Cllr McEvoy insisted he was happy with the reports that have been done about the safety of this project.

He said: “I won’t ask the question.

“I am happy that Laois County Council gave planning and an Bord Pleanála in turn gave the planning and that all the consultants involved have their work done are happy that this go ahead.

“I’ll go ahead I am not a populist.”

Sinn Fein’s Aidan Mullins interjected to say that the conversation had gone way off topic.

He said: “I think we are gone crazy here. We are gone way off the agenda.

“Aisling’s concerns could be genuine and have been raised in other fora but today they are not up for discussion.

“Paschal’s role is not going to be to do with raising issues of concern it is to do with distributing funds to communities.”

In the end, the meeting moved on and it was agreed that Cllr McEvoy would sit on the board.

SEE ALSO – Local Laois group once again call for ESB/Eirgrid to withdraw substation project

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.