Another “Rossport” type stand-off to halt the erection of a mobile phone mast?

Another Rossport?

An activist group in South County Dublin has threatened to create another “Rossport” type stand-off to halt the erection of a mobile phone mast in their community.

An Bord Pleanála last week ruled that the mast at Shankill Garda Station would constitute an exempted development and has granted permission for it to go ahead.

The decision was made in response to a Section 5 declaration by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council seeking clarification on whether the re-erection of the mast could be considered an exempted development.

In contrast, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council upheld a complaint by Dalkey residents in declaring that alterations to the telecommunications mast located at the Garda station there is not an exempted development under the planning laws.

In this case the council ruled that the erection of a mast would interfere with the protected structure of the Garda station.

For the last nine months residents have prevented Vilicom - telecommunications consultants for the Office of Public Works - from erecting the mast at Shankill.

About 60 similar sites are utilised under a deal with telecoms companies to establish mobile communications masts on Garda stations. But the OPW says it has about 400 sites available.

It is believed that the Government receives millions of euros from mobile phone companies from the lease of their buildings to accommodate mobile masts.

Hundreds of locals took part in three marches to protest against the erection of the mast and the health fears associated with it this year. More wrote letters of protest to Dún Laoghaire TDs Fiona O’Malley (PD), Barry Andrews (FF) and Education Minister Mary Hanafin (FF), asking them to intervene.

In a strongly worded statement last week, Shankill Community Against Radiation (SCAR) blasted local Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats TDs and threatened that locals would hit them where it hurts – at the ballot box - in the next general election.

The group also vowed that the site would remain blocked to Vilicom despite the An Bord Pleanála ruling.

“Any attempt by the OPW or Vilicom, their agents, to access the site will be vigorously resisted,” the statement reads. “And if the Governments want another Rossport scenario on their hands six months before an election then so be it.

“The PDs and Fianna Fáil need to decide if they will now start to support the Shankill community or if developers and big business, like phone companies, are more important. The decision is theirs. The people will give their verdict next May.”

It adds: “The people of Shankill are fed up getting second class treatment from the Government, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and from some of their public representatives. We will no longer tolerate it.”

The residents pointed to a recent successful campaign against a mast on a school in Terenure.

“The health and safety of the people of Shankill is obviously not as important as the health and safety of the people of Dalkey and Terenure,” the statement continues.

“The three Government TDs - Fiona O’Malley, Barry Andrews and Minister Mary Hanafin - now have to stand up and be counted.”

Earlier this year Minister Hanafin said in the Dáil that the situation would have to be reviewed if the mast was erected within 240 metres of nearby Scoil Mhuire.

Local Fine Gael councillor and general election candidate, John Bailey, last week called on the Government to change the law to ensure that the erection of mobile phone masts are not exempted developments under planning legislation.

“It is time for anomalies in legislation, which allow for the installation of commercial masts without planning permission, to be removed,” he said.

“It is clear that this Government lacks the will and the vision to examine and change such legislation.”

Dún Laoghaire TD (FF) Barry Andrews said: “I have worked very closely with the local community on this and on other issues and would fully intend to work with them in the future.

“What they do with their votes is their own matter and in a democracy they can do whatever they like. However, I am not going to change the way I work with the community on the basis of threats or inducements.”


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