Snapshot of Derrybrien Windfarm Controversy

Its only been over a week and that has already added and additional €130,000 in fines with no end in sight.

In October 2003, a landslide at the wind farm caused severe damage to the local river system

Some people thought I was being too harsh early in the year when I wrote  ‘Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools‘  -Here is a summary of situation as it unfolded over the past week – oh and we already own €130,000 more than we did last week!


  • The Irish Government has been fined €5 Million for its failure to carry out an environmental impact assessment (‘’EIA’’) in respect of the Derrybrien windfarm.  It has imposed a €15,000 daily fine as long as Ireland is non-compliant
  • This as a harsh and rightful judgement against Irish Government’s desperate failure to deal with environmental issues relating to Derrybrien windfarm.
  • A bittersweet victory highlighted by local Campaigners who say it’s a win for rural Ireland against big corporations but at the same time it’s the Irish Taxpayer
  • The European Court clarified that the EIA to be conducted now must take into account not only the future impact of the windfarm but all the environmental impact from the time of its completion. The daily fine will accrue until this has been dealt with
  • Since the judgement last week we have accrued over €130,000 in additional fines and we still have complete radio-silence from Minister Murphy and Minister Bruton
  • There are growing concerns of having lost trust in the Government to correctly deal with this issue with impartially.

The Judgement

Penalty Tracker

Click to the link below to see how much the penalties are adding up to today:


Track the Derrybrien Penalty here

Key Quotes

The following were some the worthwhile quotes here.

Semi-State companies need to take into account the welfare of people and the environment – The Irish Times


These is a warning shot to the big corporations who thing they can stamp all over the environment and all over local communities – Martin Collins, Derrybrien


This will now also put a spotlight on other ‘renewable’ activities such as forestry, biogas development –  it’s just too easy for corporations with no connection to a rural area to hide behind Green and Environment ‘incentives’ and not consider the impact on communities.  -David Murray, South Galway Flood Relief Committee


Misty international publicity campaigns promoting green credentials can no longer conceal the abject failure, in multiple cases, of Government policy, agencies, and semi-State companies to do even the minimum required by law to protect landscapes, their ecosystems and, ultimately, the welfare of our people. – The Irish Times


The Department of Housing, which has responsibility for planning, issued a one-line statement yesterday to say it was considering the ruling. –  Pat McGrath, RTE


The Irish Government introduced the substitute consent procedure, however, it could not compel the wind farm operator [Hibernian Windpower/ESB] to apply for this. This argument was despite the fact that the operator of the windfarm is a wholly owned subsidiary of a semi-state entity.  Fieldfisher (Ireland) – Patrick Reilly and Zoe Richardson

Media Reports

A comment from the Government would be appropriate

Media Reports

Response to South Galway Flooding Update

There was a lot of reaction to the last update Winter water levels and more Flood-Relief delays leave South Galway exposed and some responses were gotten from many sides.

In particular there was a very good article in the Connacht Tribune as well as several interviews on Galway Bay FM – ( Interview with David Murray and Interview with Cllr Joe Byrne)

Some of the responses were slightly skewing off the mark with some distracting and conflicting points of view so I’ve decided to try and add clarity and separate facts from myths.

Fact 1 : The scheme is already 18 months behind target and we are only on the 1st phase

There are 5 phases to this project and if the duration of the 1st phase has almost trebled then what about the next phases? Yes – we understand that this is a very challenging and with groundbreaking science and have accepted this in the past but in July this year we (South Galway Flood Relief Committee), our Ministers and our local County Councillors indicated that we would not tolerate any more delays as this will increase risk of our community suffering yet another flooding disaster – This was agreed by all so, when we were faced with a surprise 6 month delay  – we needed to raise this as a significant issue – remember this is only the 1st phase.  If each phase doubled in duration this project would not be deliverd for another 6 years.

Fact 2 :  The community is skeptical and concerned.

This community has been promised solutions many times in the past and are rightly concerned that this project work will not bear any fruition and will be parked because of Cost-Benefit or Environmental Feasibility.  These are real concerns that have not been assuaged by the current delay and increasing risks due to Cost-Benefit Analysis and Environmental Constraints.  It could turn out that the project won’t meet feasibility – this was a warning given by GCC at the start of the project and it’s still a potential reality – while people can say that no – we are getting a design -the fact is that if we don’t pass feasibility for a real solution then the ‘design’ will be relegated to the recycle bin

Some or our County Councillors moved to reassure people that ‘things were happening’ and pointed to Kilternan, Dunkellin,etc. but this has nothing to do with the project.

Myth 1 – There are several things happening e.g.  Ballindeereen, Kilternan and Dunkellin

The scheme that we, the South Galway Flood Relief Committee (SGFRC) is active on is the South Galway/Gort Lowlands Flood Relief Scheme. This is the scheme that we have provided local knowledge, input, feedback, monitoring and includes flooding from the main rivers of Slieve Aughy and some from Clare. sgfrc_meeting_scope

While there may be good progress around Ballinderreen, Kilternan, Dunkellin these are  not part of this scheme so these should not be included when talking about the South Galway/Gort Lowland flood relief scheme.

Fact 3 : Advanced Works are not very advanced

The Project brief indicates that certain works could be advance of the full project in a minor works aspect.  In January 2018 – SGFRC identified 10+ items for consideration – GCC/Ryan Hanley came back with 5-6 options in March 2018 and have eliminated many as they could have downstream affects. There were minor works in Roxborough but the main one identified is the emergency access in Rinrush as this community is seriously isolated – See Flooding in Ballylee, Rinrush and Newtown .  This was something we though would be in place for Winter 2019 but its not as far advanced as we though it would be. This is a target now for 2020.

Fact 4 : Relocation is not considered a solution

Surprisingly there was one quote on Galway Bay FM from one of our County Councillors who highlighted relocations as an an example of things progressing  – Ouch! In South Galway over the past 30 years, as this flooding situation has gotten progressively worse,  we have increasingly lost more and more homes – Over 15 homes up to this point  – The SGFRC does not consider ‘home relocation’ as a solution to flood relief.  It can of course be a last option if we can’t get a solution but our goal is to aim for a solution that keeps people in their homes.  Remember Bridie Willer’s interview after the last floods.

 “The people of South Galway have  a right to live in our homes without a fear of flooding” – Bridie Willer’s comment on Primetime 2016

Fact 5 : Phase 1 of the scheme is mainly about ‘Feasibility’

Again, there seems to be confusion over this fact –  Phase 1 is mainly ‘Feasibility’ and will produce a report with several options.  The project brief states the following:

Stage 1 : Feasibility Study and Preparation of a local Flood Risk Management Plan and General Scheme Development

  • Identify and map the existing and potential future3 flood hazards within the Study Area. 
  • Assess and map the existing and potential future flood risks4 within the Study Area.
  • Identify viable structural and non-structural options and measures for the effective and sustainable management of flood risk in the Gort Lowlands Area.
  • Undertake Feasibility Study.
  • Prepare a local Flood-Risk Management Plan for the Study Area
  • Review proposed schemes identified in the Feasibility Study and Flood Risk Management Plan
  • Prepare a preliminary Benefit Cost Analysis for the preferred option. 
  • EIAR Screening for Appropriate Assessment 
  • Undertake a Valuation Survey to identify each reputed proprietor, owner and rated or other occupier of lands/property on which works are proposed under the preferred scheme or which may be interfered with during the course of the works including access routes and future maintenance routes

We know that with the hydrology modelling there will be a lot of up-front ‘solution exploration’ done and flow estimation, channel sizing, climate change inclusion etc. – much more advanced and comprehensive than anything done previously and it’s a significantly positive aspect to the project but we are not guaranteed a positive outcome – this project may not be feasible from cost-benefit or may have too many environmental constraints or it could pass Cost-Benefit and Environmental constraints but not be an acceptable solution for the communities.

That’s our real concern here – that we will be blocked and all this work would create yet another paper trail and no results – and we’ve been there before.

Fact 6 – Everybody wants a solution

While that’s the real situation I do think the people and organizations engaged with this project; Galway County Council, OPW,  our Ministers, Deputies, and Councillors, our Design and Environmental Consultants all want this solution to progress but we have to ensure we face the facts stop the ‘all will be fine’ rhetoric and ensure there are no more delays and remove any blockers

We’ll know more about the viability of a proper flood relief solution in a few weeks.

-David Murray

Chair, South Galway Flood Relief Committee