A junior minister has rejected calls for the 70 turbine windfarm at Derrybrien in south Galway to become operational once more.
In a Dáil debate on the issue, Minister for State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, has described the ESB wind-farm as 'unauthorised development'.
Minister Naughton told Independent TD Michael McNamara that "any attempt to keep the wind farm operational would, therefore, be unlawful".
"There is no legal basis for Derrybrien's continued operation," she said.
In February of this year, the ESB paused operations at the wind farm after An Bord Pleanála refused a ‘substitute consent’ for the windfarm and all works in response to a 2003 peat-slide event at the site.
On March 16th 2022, ESB confirmed that it has decided to close the Derrybrien wind farm on a permanent basis and decommission the renewable energy project.
Minister Naughton stated that it is very important in the context of compliance with EU law that "immediate steps are taken to ensure the plant is decommissioned as quickly as possible and that discontinuation of the unauthorised wind farm should be a key factor in seeking to end Ireland’s liability to pay significant daily fines to the European Commission."
The State has already been subject to a lump sum fine of €5 million concerning infringement proceedings and significant daily fines of €15,000 per day until the terms of the judgment are met.
Minister Naughton said it is the Government's view that "the An Bord Pleanála decision and the acceptance of the ESB of this decision and its stated intention to decommission Derrybrien brings the State into compliance with the original judgment".
Minister Naughton stated that the full impacts of the closure of Derrybrien wind farm have been considered.
"There are limited global and European energy policy arguments to be made for the continued operation of Derrybrien," she said.
"There are no substantive arguments to be made from a domestic security of supply perspective. Any attempts to retain the wind farm in operation would face planning and legal obstacles."
Against the background of increasing concerns over the country's energy security, Deputy Michael McNamara (Ind) stated that he found it "slightly surprising the conclusion that there are no substantive arguments to be made with regard to the security of domestic supply, given Derrybrien provides, on a good day at least, 1% of the energy needs of the State at a time of energy crisis".
In a Dáil debate on the issue proposed by Deputy McNamara, he said: "Nobody is suggesting that those who flouted environmental norms be rewarded, but rather that the State would not be penalised."
"There is a real risk and a worry in the community that in seeking to decommission, we are going to cause further damage along the lines of the damage that was already caused."
Deputy McNamara suggested that ownership of the wind farm could be transferred to a local authority to make a new application with the explicit undertaking that any and all profits that are made from this development go back into protecting the environment of Slieve Aughty.
"What I am suggesting is that another attempt be made to bring Derrybrien into compliance with European Union law," the Clare TD said.
"Maybe a better application should be made to mitigate the very negative effects of what has happened."