The company at the centre of a protest over a telecommunications mast in Co Kerry has met concerned residents and politicians today.
The community protest against the erection of a 20-metre mast in Inch has now entered its 52nd day. Access to the mast is being blocked by local protesters who are calling for its removal.
The new mast which was granted planning permission by Kerry County Council on a site owned by Eir is situated within 20 metres of a dwelling house. The Foley family, with the support of local protesters, are demanding the removal of the mast and its relocation at an alternative site.
Today representatives from Towercom, the company operating the mast, met with the Foley family and protest leaders.
Four Kerry TDs - Minister for Education Norma Foley (of Fianna Fáil), Brendan Griffin (of Fine Gael), Pa Daly (of Sinn Féin) and Michael Healy Rae (Independent) - also attended the meeting which took place in the Foley family home.
Under a leasing arrangement with Eir, the new mast structure is owned and controlled by Towercom Ltd and will be used to provide 5G coverage to three mobile providers.
Planning permission to replace an existing 9-metre pole was granted by Kerry County Council on 1 October. A number of objections were considered during the application process. The council's decision to grant permission was not appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
The Foley family say they were shocked when they saw the scale of the new mast when it was erected in early December last.
Protesters have been camped outside the entrance to the site, during night and day, for over seven weeks. Temporary shelters have been erected and protesters are carrying out "patrol shifts" on a rostered basis.
After this morning’s meeting, Michael Healy Rae said he hoped Towercom would take on board "the political view, the community’s view and the family’s view".
"We all negotiated skillfully and politely and at the same time forcefully on behalf of the community here. The answer is we want it taken away, we want it down," he said.
Brendan Griffin described to mast as "a terrible monstrosity" and while he accepted the company had full permission he said he believed the situation was "morally wrong".
Norma Foley said that the thrust of the meeting was "solution focused".
"I think it's very difficult for the family, that the first thing you would see in the morning and last thing at night is this mast from your family home. We are looking for an opportunity for this to be explored again," she said.
Pa Daly said it was time for the company "to go away and listen to what the community and the Foley family have said and return with new proposals".
In a statement, Towercom said the mast has full planning permission and was being erected as a response to "a surge in public demand for better connectivity".
"Today’s meeting provided a very useful opportunity to clarify specific points and to address residents’ and public representatives’ questions related to the improvement of telecoms reception for homeowners, businesses and visitors to Inch."
"The points raised will now be reviewed further by Towercom in finalising delivery of these services," the statement said.
A spokesperson for Towercom refused to be drawn on whether the company might be considering relocating the mast saying that details of this morning’s meeting would now be reviewed.
Colm Bambury, one of the protest leaders, said that 10,000 people had signed a petition against the mast and that the blockade of the site would continue.
"We’re going nowhere. We are not budging until Towercom agrees to move this monstrosity to a more appropriate site. The community here is 100% behind the Foley family on this," he said.