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Clare landowner 'surprised and shocked' by Varadkar's comments about wind farm

The Taoiseach later said he was making a joke.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Image: Bloomberg via Getty Images

ONE OF THE landowners to lose out as a result of the Doonbeg wind farm refusal has said planning should be a “level playing field”.

Michael Shannon was commenting on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s admission that he made a phone call on behalf of Donald Trump in 2014 to Clare County Council concerning the planning application by Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd.

The planned nine turbine wind-farm by the firm was refused planning permission by the council in October 2014 and by An Bord Pleanála in July 2015.

Twenty-three landowners stood to make €5,000 per year from the development and stood to gain €100,000 to €125,000 over the 20 to 25-year lifespan of the energy project.

West Clare farmer Michael Shannon has said he was “surprised and shocked” to hear Varadkar’s comments on Thursday concerning his phone call about the application.

Shannon said: “At the time we would have been hopeful that the wind farm would have got planning permission. It would have been a big help to quite a few landowners and would have been a major boost to our income. It would have been worth an awful lot as the land in west Clare is very marginal.

It is very disappointing to think if Leo Varadkar did have some input into it being turned down. At the end of the day you would just wonder if he did have a say on it being turned down.

Clare County Council said that it has no record of any “brief” or “status update” being sought from Leo Varadkar on the application.

After questions arose about his possible intervention, Varadkar said he was just making a joke, stating: “It was all entirely within procedure, all entirely above-board.”

He doubled down on his defence today at the New York St Patrick’s Day parade. When asked if he thought he made a show of himself, he said he didn’t think he had. He added that he felt he had clarified matters and that that was the end of it.

‘Trump has more power’ 

Shannon said that, while there was local opposition to the plan, “there was probably as much support as there was opposition against it but obviously Donald Trump has more power than everyone else”.

Shannon said, with the call by Varadkar, “you are back to the Galway tent – the Bertie Ahern era of the Galway tent again”.

However, another landowner who was set to benefit from the wind farm, John McMahon, said that “whatever Leo Varadkar did, it had no bearing on the planning application”.

The Doonbeg man described the current controversy as “a storm in a teacup”.

“Leo Varadkar said that he made a phone call – sure every public representative in the Dail makes phone calls on different occasions.

I don’t think the public representatives have any bearing whatsoever on planning issues anymore. Council officials are paid to do their jobs independent of public representatives.

“I presume Mr Varadkar was just pointing out to the council that he had received the phone call from Trump There was a huge amount of local opposition to the wind-farm as well.

“I would have preferred if it had gone ahead but locally, there was a huge campaign against the wind farm and I would say that that was detrimental to it getting planning,” McMahon said.

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Gordon Deegan

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