Hamill’s Beat

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Proposed wind turbines cause concern around Eglinton

Things aren’t always as they appear. In the case of wind turbines, it’s more accurate to say they’re worse, even than they appear to be.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th December 2015''New Leader of the DUP Arlene Foster pictured at a Belfast Hotel where she was chosen as party leader of the DUP.''She is pictured with First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson MP, Ian Paisley MP.''Picture by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 17th December 2015''New Leader of the DUP Arlene Foster pictured at a Belfast Hotel where she was chosen as party leader of the DUP.''She is pictured with First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson MP, Ian Paisley MP.''Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The turbines are a source of clean, non-polluting energy. We have to acknowledge that. They generate electricity without producing pollutants or greenhouse gases. On the face of it that’s all good but unfortunately the whole story isn’t nearly as positive as that.

Giant windmills, on every hill and spare piece of flat land, can only ever amount to expensive tokenism. They can never generate enough power to make a significant contribution to our power supply. They’re a tokenistic nod to the concept of green energy. Were they to make anything like enough electricity to make a real difference by replacing other power sources, we’d need so many of them we’d no longer have room for people.

Ah well, you might say, at least the government and the big energy companies are paying for these follies. Wrong! You’re paying for them through the price you pay for electricity. It’s actually another way of taking money from many to give to a fortunate few. And, as subsidies go to landowners, it’s like a regressive tax – a sort of Robin Hood in reverse.

A couple of years ago many of us didn’t mind a few tokenistic windmills on a few remote hillsides. At first we thought they weren’t too visually intrusive and in some cases even quite iconic of the modern age.

A delighted Gregory Campbell goes for his mobile to break the news that he has been elected as a MLA for East Londonderry.  LS11-503MT.

A delighted Gregory Campbell goes for his mobile to break the news that he has been elected as a MLA for East Londonderry. LS11-503MT.

It’s very different now. They’re everywhere. They’re eyesores now. And there’s a crazy race going on. We’re facing a proliferation of new applications by farmers and land owners to get them on their land before grants run out next year.

Over the holidays, residents around Eglinton were in touch about a proposed wind farm at Highmoor Forest, above the village. They say trees will be felled and wildlife including red squirrels will be driven away.

It’s just one of the downsides to turbines. The spinning blades kill birds and other wildlife move away.

Even more concerning is their possibly adverse effect on human health. I’m not competent to adjudicate on these things but serious concerns have been raised.

�Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland -  08th Jan 2014''Linda Ervine''Mandatory Credit - Picture by Brian Thompson / Presseye.com

�Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 08th Jan 2014''Linda Ervine''Mandatory Credit - Picture by Brian Thompson / Presseye.com

“Infra sound from wind turbines can cause cancer, heart disease, emotional distress, depression and insomnia, according to research carried out in various parts of the world,” said John McCartney a spokesman for a number of Eglinton residents. Mr McCartney says according to international criteria turbines should not be within 2,000 metres of homes yet here only 500 metres has been accepted. He says one of the proposed turbines would be 476 metres from his home.

Mr McCartney also claims there shouldn’t be turbines within a ten mile radius of an airport as they can interfere with radar and communications as well as posing a danger to low flying aircraft. “Why is City of Derry Airport being ignored?” he asks.

Windmills are a prime example of a phenomenon all too common today. Once an idea gains popular traction it can be swept along on a breeze of popular hot air. If it ‘looks’ good then planners, politicians and the world of officialdom become disturbingly reticent about asking questions and subjecting proposals to the intellectual rigour that is sometimes called, “common sense”.

Will Arlene Foster listen to Gregory Campbell?

Now it’s First Minister Arlene Foster. If she, “wants to leave a bigger legacy than the man she replaces, she will need breadth he could not sustain,” wrote commentator Fionnuala O’Connor.

Even some unionists consider the biggest challenge facing Arlene is to work more constructively with Sinn Féin than Peter Robinson managed to do. From time to time he expressed encouraging aspirations but always quickly regressed to solidarity with his community’s baser instincts. We saw this, on flag protests, on Orange marches and on developments at the Maze, for instance.

If Mrs Foster wants a broader vision she needn’t look to her MP and MLA for Cúil Rathin agus Léim an Mhadaidh (Coleraine and Limavady) for encouragement. Gregory Campbell never misses an opportunity to reinforce past hurts.

“The near sainthood now bestowed on John Hume is galling,” he said last week. Referring to the early 1970s exodus of Protestants from, “the West Bank of Londonderry” he accused Mr Hume of, “not just silence but denial”. Then, “he moved into talks with Adams when the IRA were under big pressure in the 1980s…” said Mr Campbell.

Referring to a radio interview in which Seamus Mallon said John Hume had been played like a 3lb trout by Sinn Féin, Gregory said, “To continue Seamus’s fishing analogy we need to keep them under pressure not let them off the hook”.

Hmmm! If that’s the lead Arlene follows don’t hold your breath for the fresh start we’ve been promised.

East Belfast says ‘tá’

That not ‘tá’ as in ‘ta’ which is popular baby language for thank-you; it’s ‘tá’ as in the Irish verb that stands in for ‘yes,’ in the absence of a more precise equivalent. Whereas Protestants in Ulster are more famous for saying ‘no,’ a surprising number of East Belfast’s Protestants have been saying ‘tá’ as in the phrase, “Tá cúpla focal agam” (I have a few words of Irish).

The hero of this movement is the redoubtable Linda Ervine. After organising a number of cross-community ‘taster’ classes Linda became a full-time Irish language development officer in September 2012. Just three months later the loyalist flag-protests erupted and it became all but impossible for many to attend inner-city classes. The course had to be moved, briefly, to a Presbyterian Church in relatively leafy suburbia.

If you ever get an opportunity to hear Linda tell her story, go and hear. Last week she addressed a meeting in Portstewart. It was the most inspiring talk I’ve heard in a long, long time. Mrs Ervine is a courageous woman and a superb speaker.

She gave a convincing account of how, contrary to widespread ignorance, the Irish language is part of the rich heritage of Protestants as well as Catholics. With strong support from, “working-class unionism,” and despite opposition from, “middle-class unionism” Linda has been a true champion of education.

I’d love to nominate Gregory ‘curry my yogurt’ Campbell to learn something from Linda Ervine.