Written Answers. - Telecom Site.

Tuesday, 20 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 461 No. 7

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[1947]

  239.  Miss Coughlan  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   asked the Minister for Justice  Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen   the permission, if any, he gave for full approval to the use of Garda force in order that Cable Management Ireland could enter the Telecom site at Mulmosog Mountain, Altnagapple, Ardara, County Donegal, on 13 December 1995, at 1 am; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3971/96]

  246.  Miss Coughlan  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   asked the Minister for Justice  Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen   if her attention has been drawn to the anger of local people in the Ardara and Glenties area, County Donegal, regarding the Garda activity at Altnagapple, Ardara in particular on the occasion of the installation of MMDS by Cable Management Ireland Limited on Wednesday, 13 December 1995; the cost of this operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3583/96]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I propose take Questions Nos. 239 and 246 together.

I should start by saying that regardless of local opinions or feelings about this system the Garda have a duty to uphold the law. How this is done is a matter for the Garda authorities. I understand that the sequence of events was as follows.

Cable Management Ireland Limited (CMIL) were granted a licence by the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications to install the system and received the necessary approval of Donegal County Council and An Bord Pleanála. Telecom Éireann leased space on their communications mast at Alt na gCapall to the company to accommodate the system.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the entrance to this site had been picketed on a daily basis from 27 November 1995 by a group who were protesting against this type of system being introduced in the area. When the gardaí were notified that personnel from the company concerned planned to visit the site on 6 December 1995, a local Garda officer went to Alt na gCapall, on 5 December 1995, and spoke to those picketing the entrance. [1948] The officer was assured that the picketers would conduct a peaceful protest and would not prevent company personnel or their equipment from gaining access to the site.

However, on 6 December, when three company officials were accompanied to Alt na gCapall by gardaí, they were confronted by a group of 200 to 300 people. This group blocked the public road and prevented the gardaí and company vehicles from proceeding along the roadway. One of the protesters had chained herself to a cattle grid at the entrance to the site and two tractors were positioned on the access road. The gardaí were unable to persuade the protesters to allow the company officials through peaceably and the attempt to gain access was abandoned.

CMIL personnel and equipment did in fact enter the site in the early hours of 13 December 1995 and installed the equipment without incident. They were accompanied by sufficient gardaí to prevent any possible breach of the peace.

The Garda authorities have informed me that the extra cost of this operation over and above normal operational duty costs was £3,900.


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