Independent General Election candidate, Cllr Niamh Kennedy, has slammed comments made by the Energy Minister, Alex White, about wind energy.

White spoke with the Irish Independent and said that "onshore wind has worked really well - are we going to close that down?"

Cllr Kennedy has responded and said, "Quite clearly all the evidence shows that wind energy is ineffective and a recently tweeted picture of Mr Brendan Halligan, a director of Mainstream Renewable Power with huge wind farm projects, opening a constituency office for Mr Alex White suggests at best a conflict of interests.”

She went on to call the row "whitewash" as "in reality the setback distance of 1km between turbines and towns and villages was not an issue since it was highly unlikely any such project was ever, or would ever, be applied for".

She continued: "Minister White is trying to muddy the waters from the real issue and that is the setback distance between homes and turbines. It is three years since the Department of Environment promised an update on those antiquated 2006 guidelines which had no definite set back distance. These two Labour ministers are involved in an unedifying, trumped up row which has achieved the effect the outgoing government wanted – to put the thorny issue of setback from turbines off until after the general election.”

Cllr Kennedy said the issue has "particular relevance" in Donegal, where there are almost 300mW of turbines in place and there are planning applications in place to bring in another 160mW.

She said, "At best Mr White proposes a mandatory setback of 600mtrs which means little change from the suggested figure of 500mtrs in 2006. At that time turbines were about one third the size of what is currently suggested for Carrickaduff in the Finn Valley  where Ireland’s largest wind farm of 49 machines each 156mtrs high is being decided upon by An Bord Pleanala. Yet Donegal County Council voted to change its County Development Plan in 2014 to enshrine a ten times by turbine height setback distance from homes. This was done after a public consultation in which 98.4% of  the respondents agreed with the proposal. Yet, Alan Kelly issued a shameful Section 31 Order overturning the Council’s properly mandated decision. People seem to have forgotten that."

Cllr John Campbell sought permission from the High Court to challenge the legality of the Minister's order to overthrow DCC's Variation and was successful in securing a Judicial Review of the order.

She concluded: “After over a year of  legal blocking that Judicial Review was to take place on 22nd January last but incredibly Minister Kelly’s barristers have managed yet another sleight of hand by insisting not enough Court time had been allocated to hear the case in January and an examination of the High Court schedules now sees the case pushed out until mid-June 2016. Somehow this is an appalling abuse of process – quite clearly, no more than revising the 2006 Wind Energy Guidelines, it did not suit Alan Kelly or this Government that this Judicial Review of the Donegal times setback Variation would take place before the election. If elected I promise to bring much pressure to bear on the incoming Minister of Environment to review Kelly’s order against DCC and to relinquish it long before the High Court review in June”

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