UPDATE: It all makes sense now. The illegal road, built with public funds, to the privately owned Mahon River hydro power station, had to be finished in order to qualify for Leader funding. This notice from the Waterford Leader Partnership appeared in the latest issue of the Dungarvan Leader. That explains why the road had to be finished despite it being appealed to An Bord Pleanala, a flagrant violation of our planning laws. It also explains why the WCCC turned a blind eye. Perhaps it also explains why An Bord Pleanala have been so slow to act?
Is that the smell of slurry, or the stink of corruption?
We all share wonderful memories of the Mahon Falls – as children going for walks with our parents, as teenagers meeting that special someone in the carpark, and until recently, as grandparents taking their grandchildren along the beautiful path to the Falls themselves. But that beauty has been badly damaged by a deep scar running through the once beautiful scenery – the road that is being built by the Comeragh Community Development Group.
That matter is the subject of a dispute before An Bord Pleanala, who have been sitting on it for months now. We were able to get a copy of the letter they sent to Declan McGrath, the person who lodged the complaint.
We have asked many people as to how can an illegal development be “complex”? Surely the law has been broken and that is that?
What did make our hearts sore is that the ancient bog has been destroyed. The valley is a special place, millions of years old and shaped by glaciers into the extraordinary shapes that are a marvel to the eye. The bog is also very old, and so important to the eco-balance of this special place. How dare somebody tear it up with a digger to build their access road? As An Bord Pleanala itself has said: “As well as being an endangered form of biodiversity, peat bogs are critical carbon stores and they provide important ecosystem services such as flood prevention.”(2012)
This blog is not about the road and the vandals who built it and destroyed an ancient bog – that is something that An Bord Pleanala must deal with. This blog is about the fact that this illegal development was funded by the Council, with public monies that all of us pay by way of rates and levies.
We have discovered that WCCC have contributed at least €105,000 to the Comeragh Community Development Group. We say ‘at least’ because we were only allowed to see documentation up to and including June 2015. Who knows how many more tens of thousands of our public money has been given to the CCDG since then, and all to fund an illegal development that is destroying our heritage.
When the Crough Wood project was first discussed, it was described as a walk, not a road. A letter from Declan Mulhearne and Niamh Quinlan of the CCDG to the Council asking for money confirms this.
But now it is a very wide road that has been built to access the Mahon hydro plant, which is a privately owned facility (owned by Mahon River Hydro Ltd (No.498790) with some of its shareholders being the same people who are members of the CCDG.
Also involved with this hydro-electric plant is another private company, Waterford Renewable Energy Society, which seems to be owned by members of the Council, as that is its registered address: “Civic Offices, Tankfield, Tramore, County Waterford.”
We are also aware that Leader funding has been used in this project, even though it would seem to be for the benefit of private individuals in private companies. If this road was supposed to be a walk and an extension of the Crough Wood (Phase 1) and Riverwalk (Phase 2), then why has this road now been extended and levelled right next to the hydro-plant?
So how was this funding obtained from the Council if it was in fact an illegal development without any planning permission whatsoever?
It was authorised by Michael Walsh, the CEO of the Council. Whilst it was not exactly done on the back of a cigarette box, it still seems a very casual way to dole out public money – by scribbled note on the bottom of an e-mail. Was the other 175 000 euro authorised in the same casual manner?
And this is the same man who was asking the Council to increase the rates we pay because the Council are in financial difficulties (if rumour is to be believed, they are well over a million in debt). Is it any wonder they are in debt if this is the way the Council spends public monies, which they took from our own pockets and the mouths of our children?
Is this the sort of parish, county, and country that we want to live in? That our fathers and grandfathers fought and died for?
We are four angry ladies, and these questions need to be asked (journalists, get off your arses and do your job):
- On whose authority was over a hundred thousand euro of public money paid to the Comeragh Community Development Group?
- As custodian of the planning permission process, how did the Council allow a road to be constructed illegally in a protected area, destroying an ancient and precious bog?
- As custodian of public monies, why did the Council fund this illegal development?
- What is the link between the Comeragh Community Development Group, the Mahon River Hydro Company, the Waterford Renewable Energy Society, and are public monies being used to further private interests?
- Why has An Bord Pleanala not ordered the closure of the illegal road and the repair of the destruction to the Mahon Falls valley?
Our next investigation will be looking at the funny business that surrounded the building of the turbines in Dungarvan. Please send any information you have, especially regarding the conduct of An Bord Pleanala, to email@example.com
SAVE YOUR PARISH! SAVE YOUR COUNTY! SAVE YOUR COUNTRY!