FOLLOWING major criticism of the ESB after it felled a number of trees in the Gearagh after Storm Ophelia, remedial work is to begin today.
In a statement to the Southern Star, the ESB said that the work is expected to take up to five days to complete.
‘As a safety precaution, the walkway will be closed to the public for the duration of the works,’ it added.
Last month Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada called on the ESB to assure people that paths in Macroom's Gearagh would be restored.
The Ireland South MEP claimed that machinery brought in to carry out conservation and maintenance work churned up paths leaving parts of them impassable. ‘I have no doubt that the work carried out was of great importance to the Gearagh, especially after the effects of Storm Ophelia,’ she said.
‘However, the Gearagh is used by a large number of people, particularly among the local community, and an assurance that paths will be restored as soon as possible would go a long way to allaying any fears regular users may have. The MEP wrote to the ESB, who have a statutory responsibility when it comes to the conservation and protection of the Gearagh, to raise her concerns and seek assurances that the paths would be returned to a useable condition.
Fianna Fail TD Aindrias Moynihan added his disappointment with the way the Gearagh was left after the ESB work. He said he was ‘deeply annoyed’ at the ‘solo ru’ that ESB management undertook at the Gearagh. ‘The action damaged the protected habitat and made the area unusable by local residents.’
Deputy Moynihan said a number of parliamentary replies from the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht had ‘basically let the ESB off the hook’ for its actions. ‘Let’s call a spade a spade. The ESB ignored existing clear protocols and guidelines which requires them to seek approval from the Parks and Wildlife Service, under the EU Habitats’ Directive, to engage in tree cutting irrespective of the weather conditions,’ he said.
But today, the ESB issued the following statement: ‘Following Storm Ophelia on 16 October last, ESB undertook emergency works along the public walkway at the Gearagh to remove a significant number of fallen trees and branches that had been damaged during the course of the storm,’ the ESB said today.
‘The works were undertaken due to concerns for public safety especially given that a subsequent storm, Storm Brian, was about to make landfall. ESB is now planning to undertake additional remedial works on the surface of the walkway and also additional pruning which will aid natural regeneration of the trees.’ The ESB apologised for any inconvenience caused during the remedial works.