As the Minister of State, Deputy Malcolm Noonan, knows, this last week has seen a devastating bog slide at Meenbog, near Ballybofey. Thousands of tonnes of peat have slid down into the river on the mountain. This peat will make its way to the Derg river. It has probably killed thousands of salmon at this stage, ultimately compromising the Mourne and the Foyle river systems.
This is the culmination of a long planning history at this site where the development has been pushed on against the wishes of the community. This site was part of a planning application that was initially submitted to An Bord Pleanála in 2015 and was refused due to the work of the community highlighting that it was environmentally suspect.
There is a serious issue regarding how applications are foisted on communities, and this is what we get. During the planning phase of this wind farm, the local community told the developer that the ground conditions would make this site liable to slippage and it was ignored.
The development was taken out of the initial application and applied for again to the board, when it was granted. It has always been believed that this was just a first step in achieving the whole development. It has inevitably led to the developer contacting the local community this week to say that he intends to submit an application in the coming months for the rest of the site, which was the original application. This is blatant project splitting and was not called out by any official organisation.
I am raising the issue of Meenbog, but the like has unfortunately been seen at other sites around the country, for example, Derrybrien in County Galway and Drumkeeran in County Leitrim. At how many other sites will this happen? Sadly, this is about the Government turning a blind eye to big, wealthy developers. Local communities cannot rely on the Government to support them and their interests over the interests of developers in such cases. They know that the Government will use An Bord Pleanála to ensure that applications are granted. To add insult to injury, there is little or no control of developments after they have been given permission. Developers can do as they please. Even if planning permission promises to do X, Y and Z to protect the environment, there is no effective control to ensure that they do. That is the end of the process and no one examines it from there on. That is wrong.