Councillors in Kerry have unanimously rejected a ministerial request to change their recently adopted wind policy and vastly increase the area where turbines would be "permitted in principle" in the county.
Earlier this summer, local councillors opted to restrict any further wind turbines to a narrow corridor along the Cork-Kerry border in its county development plan 2022-2028. They maintained their position at a special planning meeting yesterday.
The Minister of State for Local Government, Peter Burke, put Kerry County Council on notice of his intention to revise its plan and permit turbines from Abbeydorney to the outskirts of Tralee, Castleisland to Cordal, Beaufort to Killorglin and the near outskirts of Killarney.
The direction was also to replace the words "open to consideration" with the more permissive "permitted in principle" for turbines.
The policy adopted by councillors was "inconsistent" with the policy objectives of the National Planning Framework to promote renewable energy to meet national targets for a low carbon economy by 2050, the minister said.
The public had two weeks to make submissions and 785 were received. The vast majority of these were opposed to the ministerial direction, a special planning meeting in Tralee heard yesterday.
With 364 turbines, more than any other county, and others in the pipeline, Kerry had "done enough for wind" for the national grid, councillors again maintained.
Fine Gael Councillor Aoife Thornton said the submissions were not surprising.
"How can any planning system not take into consideration what's already on the ground ... How can the minister attempt to push us into more development when he has no (national) guidelines... It’s an outrage," she said in reference to long wait for new wind guidelines which have not been updated since 2006.
Fine Gael Councillor Jim Finucane criticised what he called a lack of effort by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and other ministers on securing additional energy for this country.
The Tralee councillor said there was a high level of activity in Europe by governments to secure energy but Ireland had "a farcical approach at ministerial level" which was about "pontification" rather than activity.
Sinn Féin Councillor Robert Beasley called for every consideration to be given to the development of the Shannon LNG terminal near Ballylongford, currently before An Bord Pleanála .
Labour Councillor Terry O'Brien from Tralee said: "Looking north, all my skyline is covered with wind turbines. We have done enough."
The Chief executive of Kerry County Council will now compile a report for the minister and the Office of the Planning Regulator on the views of its members and the public.
It will then be up to the minister to decide - on the advice of the OPR - whether to override the county development plan as agreed by the locally elected council.
However councillors can take a judicial review of any such intervention, they have warned.
The Green Party in Kerry said it supported the ministerial direction.