A community protest against the erection of a telecommunications mast in Co Kerry has entered its 269th day.
The 20-metre mast was erected in Inch on the Dingle Peninsula last December but since then access to the mast is being blocked by local protestors 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 house.
The Foley family, with the support of local protestors, are demanding the removal of the mast and its relocation at an alternative site.
Since December last protestors have remained camped outside the entrance to the site preventing the installation of telecommunications equipment on the new mast structure.
Temporary shelters have been erected and protestors are carrying out "patrol shifts" on a rostered basis.
The protestors say over 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of the mast from its current location.
Under a leasing arrangement with Eir, the new mast 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 nine metre pole was granted by Kerry County Council on 1 October 2021.
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.
Katie Foley says the mast's proximity to her family home is causing upset.
"We’re completely stressed out by it," she said.
"It’s a horrendous structure built right beside our home. We spent the summer trying to get on with life, trying to work as normal, trying to put it out of our minds, but we can’t because you walk out the door or look out the window and it’s right there in your face.
"It’s so important that our community takes a stand on this. Nobody should have a mast of this size built right beside them.
"If this can happen to us it can happen to many other communities across Ireland."
Inch Community Council has identified five alternative sites and presented them to Towercom as alternative locations for the mast.
It is understood Towercom is currently evaluating the viability of two of those sites.
Máire Ní Riain, a member of Inch Community Council, said the current proposal may offer hope of a resolution.
"We can’t understand the decision to grant planning for the mast in the first place," Ms Ní Riain said.
"We believe this mast is at odds with the County Development Plan which states that these masts should not be located close to dwelling houses if there are alternative options available.
"We have a very active committee here who engaged with local landowners and we identified five sites which may be suitable for the relocation of the mast.
"The company is willing to look at two of these sites. The sites are in the vicinity of the existing mast but are situated at a considerable distance from dwelling houses."
A representative for Towercom said the company was engaging with the local community on the matter and that discussions were ongoing.
The representative said the company would not be commenting further on the matter at this stage.
It is understood the removal and relocation of the mast on a new site could incur considerable costs.
Inch Community Council says it could amount to over €100,000.
Representatives for Towercom met with the Foley family last February in an effort to resolve the issue.
The meeting was also attended by four Kerry TDs along with local councillors.
Fine Gael TD 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’.
Towercom has previously defended the erection of the mast which it says has full planning permission and is being erected as a response to "a surge in public demand for better connectivity."