Who’s Afraid of the GDPR?

being followed

The GDPR – how will it affect us?

I have been inundated with questions about the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

My default excuse of “I haven’t had time to look at it yet” was wearing a bit thin, so I decided to make the time to have a (very quick) look at it and attempt to answer the FAQs, starting with most asked to some others that raised interesting points.

Q: “Is this an attempt by our neo-nazi Irish Government to infiltrate us and destroy us from within?”

(Yes, this was the most-asked question. I substituted the phrase ‘neo-nazi’ for more offensive expressions).

Just to be clear, the Irish Government is a fairly passive player in this whole thing. In fact, there are certain aspects of the GDPR that must be scaring the bejaysus out of the Government. More on that later.

As the GDPR is a Regulation, it has “direct effect”, which means it automatically becomes Irish law on its commencement date, simply by virtue of Ireland being a member of the EU.

This is unlike the other source of EU law, the Directive, which allows the Member State quite a long time to implement it, and the Member State is also allowed to modify the contents to align it with its own national law, as long as the national law maintains the core values and spirit of the original Directive.

Irish governments do have a bit of a reputation for delaying the implementation of Directives for as long as they can or even after holding out after the final date. They also are often guilty of diluting the core values, or in the case of Aarhus for example, actually removing some of the best bits to the detriment of its citizens.

They are certainly not the only EU Government guilty of such shenanigans, and the EU decided to avoid all that nonsense this time by supplying the law through a Regulation.

In other words, this is something imposed on all Member States by the EU. I say imposed, but there would have been a huge amount of talks and backroom deals being done before the EU Parliament could agree on the final draft. The GDPR really is a collective effort, rather than the work of some evil genius sitting in a chair stroking his cat.

The official reasons provided by the EU Commission for replacing the Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC + Directive 2002/58/EC) with this Regulation were as follows:

  • “eliminating inconsistencies in national laws”;

  • “raising the bar to provide better privacy protection for individuals”;

  • “updating the law to better address contemporary privacy challenges, such as those posed by the Internet, social media, mobile apps, cloud computing, “big data,” and behavioural marketing, that were in their infancy when the Data Protection Directive was drafted”;

  • “reducing costly administrative burdens for companies dealing with multiple data protection authorities.”

In other words, the primary policy objective is uniformity across the EU with regards to government departments and online businesses keeping all your personal information for years on end so they can bombard you with email advertising. I personally applaud this, given how often we are doing electronic transactions etc. with people in other countries or completing electronic questionnaires for some or other government department.

Q: “Can the GDPR be used to find out details about fund-raising for example?”

No. The GDPR is all about “personal data”.

Personal Data is defined in the Definitions section of the GDPR as:

“ … any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person”.


The first thing to notice is that this is only about information on a “natural person”. This means a flesh-and-blood human being. It does not include organisations or juristic persons (a person ‘created’ by the law so it can sue or be sued in its own name – a company being the most well-known example).

The main thrust of the GDPR seems to be to force governments and businesses to not hold onto personal information about citizens or clients and where they do have to hold onto some information about you, to anonymise that information, or if that is not possible, to secure and safeguard that information from any outside access. Its main stated objective is to stop the government or businesses from “profiling” people, either with regard to things like their political beliefs or their consumer trends.

A person will be entitled to approach any government department or business and ask them if they are holding personal data about that person and furthermore insist that it destroys that personal data that they are holding unless they can show that it is necessary to achieve the legitimate purpose for which that data was originally gathered (unless that person specifically consents to the department or business continuing to hold onto that personal data for use in a specified future activity).

Article 6 of the GDPR explains these parameters of fair use of personal data:

Lawfulness of processing.

  1. Processing shall be lawful only if and to the extent that at least one of the following applies:

(a)  the data subject has given consent to the processing of his or her personal data for one or more specific purposes;

(b)  processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract;

(c)  processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject;

(d)  processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject or of another natural person;

(e)  processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller;

(f)  processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.

Point (f) of the first subparagraph shall not apply to processing carried out by public authorities in the performance of their tasks.”

It is also interesting to note that the definition of “personal data” is attempting to eliminate the huge confusion caused under the current Directive when attempts were made to define what was meant by “personally identifiable information”. Adding the phrases “location data” and “online identifiers” to the existing language of the Directive makes it more likely that the Regulation will capture various forms of identifiers used in mobile devices and apps, advertising networks, and website analytics (infamously used by big providers like Google and social media like Facebook for commercial and content profiling – the so-called ‘knowledge algorithm’).

The existing Directive already allows data subjects to opt out of direct marketing, and it requires transparency if there are automated decisions such as computers declining transactions based on risk scores. These provisions are expanded in the Regulation, in sections entitled “Right to object” and “Measures based on profiling” (Articles 19 and 20). Automated decisions must include safeguards such as an appeal to a real human. In addition, automated decisions (i.e. by a computer) cannot be based solely on the defined sensitive categories (mentioned below) of personal data such as race and health.

An indirect benefit of the GDPR is that it will hopefully stop a lot of people living in an information bubble where they were only exposed to news / information that they would find “agreeable” (i.e. consistent with their beliefs/prejudices/religion). I suppose if a person specifically asks for that information bubble to be created, that will constitute consent, which means I am being ridiculously optimistic. People generally want their beliefs and prejudices confirmed, not challenged, hence the massive growth of Facebook and Twitter.

Article 9 carries over from the Directive the concept of “special categories” of especially sensitive data concerning race or ethnicity, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, health, or sex life. These types of data collections are expressly prohibited in the general sense. Where such collections are necessary, they generally require express consent or a legal obligation in order to collect or process the data, and they require heightened security and attention to data storage limits. The Regulation adds genetic and biometric data to the categories of sensitive data. This will clearly include membership of community (non-commercial) organisations that are organised around a political, social or religious belief.

The law is fairly clear on the point that fundraising is not a commercial activity (which is why charities are now being closely watched after the recent scandals involving some high profile Irish charities). The collection plate at Sunday mass will never be legally classified as a “commercial activity”! There is therefore little chance that somebody who dropped a euro into the collection plate will now have the right to ask for that information, and even if they did, they could only ask that you delete the reference to the fact that they were a contributor. This is not like the FOI laws, it is about not storing and/or removing personal details, rather than trying to reveal details that somebody else is trying to hide.

Q: “Is this an attempt to emasculate NGOs, especially environmental / conservation / community groups?”

I could really just answer ‘no’, but I know that would never satisfy the conspiracy theorists among you, so here goes:

This is really a two-fold question. The one obvious fear is that people are concerned that the government will be able to infiltrate and destroy community groups from within by having access to their data. The second fear seems to be that the community groups (including their FB pages, their blogs and their newsletters) will be regarded as Data Controllers and therefore be susceptible to requests (from the wind industry for example) for what they would regard as sensitive information?

In this regard, notice must be had to Clause 18 of the Preamble, which says:

“(18) This Regulation does not apply to the processing of personal data by a natural person in the course of a purely personal or household activity and thus with no connection to a professional or commercial activity. Personal or 4.5.2016 L 119/3 Official Journal of the European Union EN (1) Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of micro, small and medium‑sized enterprises (C(2003) 1422) (OJ L 124, 20.5.2003, p. 36). (2) Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data (OJ L 8, 12.1.2001, p. 1).

Household activities could include correspondence and the holding of addresses, or social networking and online activity undertaken within the context of such activities. However, this Regulation applies to controllers or processors which provide the means for processing personal data for such personal or household activities.”

(My emphasis)

I would argue that this should exclude FB pages and blogs, depending on the interpretation of the phrase “no connection to a professional or commercial activity” and just before it: “purely personal or household activity”. So for example, the fact that I am a law lecturer by profession, does that mean if a write a (non-commercial) blog with legal content that there is a connection to my professional /commercial activity?

I doubt that very much, as that would be an incredibly expansive interpretation of that clause. As neither phrase is defined in the Definitions section, they must be given their ordinary everyday meaning. I would argue that this involves public authorities / government departments and/or commercial organisations who are operating for profit or some other material gain. It cannot and should not be extended to private or personal activities that a person does at home without the primary aim of making money.

The definition of “enterprise” in the Definition section of the GDPR as meaning a “natural or legal person engaged in an economic activity, irrespective of its legal form, including partnerships or associations regularly engaged in an economic activity” seems to support the view that this Regulation concerns government departments and commercial businesses.

The related question is whether a government department or agency, or a business (like a wind farm) could seek information from a community group engaged in opposing that government or business?


This GDPR is not replacing the Freedom of Information legislation (including the freedom to environmental information legislation). Its purpose is different to typical freedom of information legislation. The purpose of the GDPR is to empower a citizen to have the right to demand to know what personal data is being held about him or her, to be told what is the reason for holding that personal data, and if that personal data is being held purely on the basis of consent, to allow the person to withdraw that consent or at least challenge the retention of their personal data.

In other words this is not so much about asking a government department or business to disclose information per se, but rather to disclose the extent of their information on you, and to justify their holding onto it after it was used for its initial or original purpose.

Therefore the GDPR is going to be used by private individuals against government departments or commercial organisations, but not the other way around.

Another clue is the fact that the GDPR says it is also applicable to organisations outside the EU (for example the USA and China) where those organisations practice personal data processing that relates to “the offering of goods or services to data subjects (individuals) in the EU or the monitoring of their behaviour”.

This interpretation is confirmed by the definition of “controller” (i.e. data controller):

‘controller’ means the natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data; where the purposes and means of such processing are determined by Union or Member State law, the controller or the specific criteria for its nomination may be provided for by Union or Member State law;”

Whereas the person identified by the personal data was clearly defined as an individual  flesh and blood human being, the definition of ‘controller’ is very wide and embracing. Public authorities are expressly included, and the more general description of “other body” can be linked to that commercial or economic activity that we talked about earlier, i.e. businesses. I do not think that a non-commercial / charitable / political NGO can ever fall into that net. That is clearly not the objective of this Regulation.

Another clue that this only covers the government and big business is that Articles 35-37 stipulate that an  organization must appoint a data protection officer (DPO) if it employs “250 or more persons” or if its core activities require “regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects”.

This has been a very quick glimpse at the GDPR. It is most definitely not meant to constitute legal advice, nor is it a particular comprehensive commentary on a huge document (the PDF file is 88 pages of tiny print). I simply identified a few of the questions that I have been routinely asked by individuals and organisations that I help, and I have attempted to shine a little light on those aspects.

Posted in Apple; Google; Data Centre, Cloud; iCloud; Data Centre; Data Center, Freedom of Information; Access to Environmental Information; AIE; Commissioner for Environmental Information, lobbying; democracy; political process; general election, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC, Press Freedom, Profiling; Data Collection; Information Algorithm. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Lies



No matter where they are in the world, the wind industry try to sell us the same porky pies. And their paid politicians are only to happy to take their money.

via Wind Industry Claims that ‘Coal is Dead’- Nothing But Lies, Myth & Propaganda

Posted in EirGrid; Insurance; Law; Cancer; EMF | Leave a comment

The End of the Road – for the CCDG

The Comeraghs
As readers of this blog are well aware, I have for a while now followed the longstanding dispute between the two Declans – Declan McGrath, well-known author and conservationist, and Declan Mulhearne, the Chairperson of the Comeragh Community Development Group (CCDG).

  1. My coverage of this local dispute has come at some personal cost, having been the subject of a number of personal and vicious attacks from one of the individuals involved in constructing the “Mahon Falls Highway”.

The dispute between the Declans came about as a result of an illegal road constructed by the CCDG through the scenic Mahon Falls valley (Coum Mahon).

  1. Declan McGrath first appealed this matter to the Waterford City&County Council, who did not react for a long time (subsequently explained by the fact that they were funding the illegal development.

The WCCC (on foot of complaints by Inland Fisheries) finally referred the matter to An Bord Pleanala (‘the ABP’) as to whether they could regard the road as “exempted development”. This was strange coming from the WCCC, a Planning Authority, in light of the fact that the WCCC have been involved in three other identical incidents, and on each occasion it was made clear that a road in an SAC can never be “exempted development”.

The ABP ruled quite clearly and unconditionally that the road is indeed illegal and that it is not an exempted development, as originally claimed to me by Declan Mulhearne.

“AND WHEREAS An Bord Pleanála has concluded that: (a) the construction of a road is development as defined in section 3(1) of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, and (b) the construction of a road is not exempted development.

NOW THEREFORE An Bord Pleanála, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by section 5 (3) (a) of the 2000 Act, hereby decides that construction of a road at Coum Mahon, Mahon Valley, County Waterford is development and is not exempted development”.

The ABP Inspector highlighted the anomaly that public funds were used for a private development on privately owned land and commonage:

“With regard to the question of whether it is or is not exempted development, a relevant consideration is whether the works were carried out as part of the works of a statutory undertaker or public body (Article 80). It appears that public funding was used for the works, and the report from the planning authority does not address the issue, but it seems clear to me that it was undertaken by a private body on privately owned lands (which are not part of Coilte works), and the land is not part of the public highway, and is not part of an existing private street, road or way, and as such is not exempted under Schedule 2, Part 1, Class 13.
8.2.2. The land, while open and a mix of privately owned land and (possibly) commonage, is not a park, open space or ornamental garden, or used for athletics or sports. It is open ground used seemingly for sheep grazing, or is untended heath/bog. As such, I do not consider that it is exempt under Schedule 2 Part 1 Class 33.
8.3. As such, I do not consider that the development come within these, or any other exemption class and so is not exempted development.”

The APB Inspector was even more forthright and scathing of the antics of the CCDG and its blatant disregard for the environmental sanctity of this once beautiful and protected area:

8.4.1. Notwithstanding the issue of my assessment above of the works not being exempted development, works are not exempt if they would require an EIS or NIS.
8.4.2. The structure is in excess of 2 km, so would, under Schedule 5, Part 2, Class 10(dd) (private roads in excess of 2000 metres) require screening, and while I acknowledge some ambiguity about the nature of the structure, I would consider, having regard also to the provisions of Schedule 7 of the Regulations, that there is a reasonable likelihood that it would require an EIS, especially having regard to the likely environmental impact of the works and the cumulative impact with the hydroelectric scheme (which was granted permission in 2005 with an EIS).
8.4.3. The issue of Appropriate Assessment is much more straightforward. I would refer the Board to the document ‘Assessment of Impacts on Comeragh Mountains SAC’ dated Dec. 2015, competed by Wetland Surveys Ireland on behalf of the Council.
On the basis of my site visit, I can confirm that the survey details of the impacts are consistent with my observations. The upper levels of the works run directly through part of the designated SAC. There is no question but that the works have caused significant direct effect on heathland (Annex I habitat) within the designated SAC by way of direct excavation and coverage by spoil – the report estimates that around 0.4 ha. of Annex 1 habitat has been destroyed – I would consider this an accurate assessment. There is also visible evidence of run-off to the stream, which includes another Annex 1 habitat ‘’floating river vegetation’. As such, as there is the significant disruption/destruction of habitat identified as ‘Dry Heath’ [4030] and ‘Wet Heath’ [4010], there is a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site in view of the sites conservation objectives. An NIS would therefore have been required. As such, the works cannot be considered to be exempted development by virtue of Article 9(i)(viiB) as it would have required an NIS.

Despite these conclusive and damning findings by the ABP, the Comeragh Community Development Group still had the audacity to recently respond to this Report by stating in a local newspaper that this monstrosity that is carved into protected land was a “woodland walk”.

CCDG newspaper

Does this sound like a “woodland walk”?:

“It is around 3-5 metres in width, very unevenly surfaced, with open cross-drains. It is approximately 2,700 metres in length.”

(The ABP Inspector’s Report).

Does this look like a “woodland walk”? (The only woodland on this road is the smashed woodland caused by the digger when digging the road). This “woodland walk” is wider than the existing road used for vehicles!

Shame on you CCDG. It surely must be the end of the road.

Posted in Comeragh Mountains; Declan McGrath, EirGrid; Insurance; Law; Cancer; EMF | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scandal! EirGrid in the Crosshairs.


eirgrid crosshairs

Ratheniska residents are claiming that they have exposed Eirgrid’s litany of failures and systematic corporate sharp practice. 

The Ratheniska, Timahoe, Spink (RTS) Action Group, when briefing Minister Denis Naughten, made a number of extremely serious allegations, which they backed up with a dossier of painstakingly accumulated evidence: 20170118 – Presentation to Ministers-For Issue

Aside from the long standing issues of site unsuitability, water source destruction and planning process corruption, the RTS Action Group claimed to have unearthed very serious transgressions by Eirgrid’s board of the code of practice for semi state bodies.

The evidence indicated that EirGrid had created “a short cut on the board“.  RTS Action Group explained that four members on the EirGrid Board had formed a “sub-board” and were “filtering information going to the board where they are now rubber stamping projects and funding on the basis of recommendation by this four member sub – board.”

If these allegations prove to be true, and the RTS Action Group are adamant that they are, then this constitutes an extremely serious breach of the code of practice, which should lead to a mass resignation of the EirGrid Board of Directors.

In a statement released after the meeting with the Minister, the RTS Group said:

“The RTS Group believe that Minister Naughten, who was accompanied to meet the delegation by his Cabinet colleague and local TD, Charlie Flanagan, had his eyes opened and was astonished by the import, nature, scope, scale and seriousness of the information being placed before him, for the first time.

This meeting arose from a promise made last June in the Dáil by Minister Naughten to visit the site of Eirgrid’s “unauthorised development” and the community who alerted the authorities to Eirgrid’s illegal building activities.

Our greatest concern is that the construction of Eirgrid’s unnecessary energy hub project will destroy and pollute the very necessary and only source of clean water for not just this community but for 8,000 Laois people. All of the evidence of how Eirgrid have conducted themselves up to now points to this eventuality, and we just can’t allow that to happen.
The political fallout from this semi-state operating with such a cavalier attitude to planning law, sustainable development, professional best practice, and corporate responsibility was that all three local TD’s and all Laois County Councillors were unanimous in calling for Eirgrid to cease the development.

We set out some of the evidence for the Ministers as to how Eirgrid have been deliberately deceiving us, the planning authorities, the other arms of state, and even the Dáil from the very outset of this ill-conceived project. This is not due to a few mistakes, or a few individuals making errors, but systematic deception through every phase of this development from its inception to illegal commencement. This evidence has been collected through in depth research and forensic examination. The community could not rely on what Eirgrid were telling us in the public domain throughout their sham consultation process. This damning dossier has been given to Minister Naughten, who as line Minister is ultimately responsible for Eirgrid, their conduct and corporate transparency and accountability.

The buck stops with him. He is now in full knowledge of the scale and scope of Eirgrid’s deception and disgraceful behaviour, we expect the Minister to reel Eirgrid in, to finally make them accountable for their actions on site and in their boardroom. He must move to scrap the project. On foot of today’s new revelations it is incumbent on the Minster to act, act promptly and decisively”.


The last word goes to the current Minister of Justice, who made the following statement after being briefed by the RTS Group:

“There has been a clear breach of law. The breach is sufficiently serious to abandon the project. I don’t believe there is any way back for EirGrid. They should pack up their machinery and should not come back.”

Posted in EirGrid; Insurance; Law; Cancer; EMF, RTS Action Group; Ratheniska; Timahoe; Spink | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

‘Windfarm has ruined my family’s life’



Yet another distressed family has come forward to describe how a wind farm in Co. Wicklow has ‘ruined’ their lives.


Richard Hobson and his partner have two special needs children who are sensitive to noise and light. The family moved to County Wicklow for the ‘space and tranquility’ it offered and so that the children could be play outside in peaceful surroundings, as is a child’s right.


Due to the noise of the newly constructed wind turbines at Ballycumber Wind Farm the children can no longer play outside.

Elaine says:

“But after being out there for a while and being exposed to the noise, between 30 and 45 decibels, they get very stressed and upset. A lot of the time now I bring them elsewhere to play. It breaks my heart as we moved here to have space. We used to live in a housing estate in the city but it was too busy and dangerous. We thought we would have the space and tranquillity of the countryside here.”

See the full story: Wicklow Times and National Wind Watch.


Governments are elected by the People to serve the People, but the scale and extent of wind farm development in this country exposes our rulers as self-serving autocrats. One of the most fundamental constitutional and human rights is for a citizen and his/her family to be allowed “undisturbed possession” of their home. How is it then that wind farm developments are allowed to drive citizens and their families from their homes with the endorsement and financial assistance from those in power?


The continuous inaction on planning guidelines is another indicator of who actually rules this country. We should have statutory Regulations in place to control wind farm development, but instead we are still waiting for mere guidelines!

This crime against the People cannot be laid at the feet of one political party or one government. At the moment all political parties support the development of wind energy in Ireland despite the overwhelming evidence that they do not work, and cause more environmental harm than good. The exception to this might be Renua, but even they need to be more forthright in their denouncement of the subsidy scam .

We are still waiting for a cost-benefit analysis of the massive €1.2 billion spend per annum  that is paid by the taxpayer to achieve a CO2 emissions saving that is so negligible it barely raises a blip on the scale. And that is the official figure that they admit to spending. God knows what monies are passing hands under the table.


The bank crash and subsequent bailout proved who actually ruled this country, and with the wind farms and subsidy scam, it is simply a matter of “here we go again”.

Wake up Ireland. Somebody’s arse needs to be soundly kicked.


Posted in Wind Farm Guidelines, turbines, flicker, noise, distance, Denis Naughten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lots of hot air, but still no cost-benefit analysis


Wind Aware Ireland Press Release

Minister Naughten has been accused of talking  ‘gobbledygook’ on wind energy by a top economist.

Minister Naughten’s take on wind energy in Ireland has been described as “gobbledygook verging on baby talk.” by top economist Cormac Lucey in the Sunday Independent.

Our energy policy has been promulgated by anonymous civil servants, and unchallenged by successive ministers afraid of not being seen to take climate change seriously. Almost all political parties have followed this Green Party zealotry without understanding the context, technical limitations of wind energy or asking any hard questions.

The Department and SEAI have been led a merry dance by the wind developers while we, the citizens, pay €1.2billion a year, to support this industry. A largely complicit and unquestioning media have gone along for the ride, choosing to believe the SEAI and Irish Wind Energy Association spin. Meanwhile emissions continue to rise.

Two of Ireland’s leading economists, Cormac Lucey and Colm Mc Carthy, as well as the Irish Academy of Engineering are now asking serious questions about wind energy. When will Minister Naughten stand up his department and the SEAI, and act on evidence instead of “gobbledegook” wishful thinking?









Posted in EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target, Green Party; Ireland; Eamonn Ryan; Cormac Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

An interesting commentary from Pat Swords on the North-South Interconnector:

“Some thoughts and facts about the Ireland of today with further confirmation that we don’t live in anything that even remotely approaches a Democracy. Still one gives it a ‘poke’ and it interesting to see what comes out.

The background to this is the North South Interconnector which is a 400 kV pylon route of 140 km in length from the South of Meath some 34 km into Tyrone, with a cost of some €250 million. The reason for it? It is part of the €4 billion high voltage grid expansion for the Island of Ireland to facilitate a target of some 40% wind energy (42% in N. Ireland target). Let’s face it for years the Irish grid functioned perfectly well without this project. Pretty picture of typical 400 kV pylon below, plus this project directly facilitates the roll out of more than 600 MW (> 300 turbines) in Donegal and West N. Ireland.

Naturally, it is contentious. As a Strategic Infrastructure Development it went straight into An Bord Pleanala, with the only right of review being into the Courts. Under the UNECE Convention and the European Law which implements it, such a legal appeal is meant to address the substantive and procedural acts and omissions. In practice, an Irish Court will not look at a substantive issues, i.e. related to the merit of the decision making, unless you can first prove that the Government official acted so irrationally that it defied common sense. So your only chance is on procedures.

At the Bord Pleanala stage an unprecedented 871 submissions costing €50 each were made by individuals and groups of individuals working together. Plus people put a lot of time and effort in to present at the oral hearing. An Bord Peanala file: http://www.pleanala.ie/casenum/VA0017.htm

You will notice that a repeated theme of the public from the summary of their submissions, was why do we need this project and there are huge illegalities in the manner this renewable programme has been adopted:  http://www.pleanala.ie/documents/reports/VA0/RVA0017A.pdf

However, An Bord Pleanala ruled all matters connected with the need for the project and anything related to overarching plans and programmes as out of the scope of its decision making. Instead this decision-making was limited as to whether it went overground or underground and the final routing, i.e. left or right. The Convention and the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which transpose it, require “effective public participation when all options are open”. The UNECE’s Recommendations and International ‘case law’ on public participation are clear: Participation means that there must be a possibility to influence the decision. Note: Consultation is when you tell them what you are doing, participation is when it can be influenced. Secondly, decision making often occurs in tiers; for example some overarching decisions being taken at a plan / programme level and then others at the subsequent project level, for which as the Recommendations explain:


• F. Early public participation when all options are open (article 6, paragraph 4) 78. In the case of tiered decision-making (see para. 17 above), in order to ensure early and effective public participation when all options are open: a. There should be at least one stage in the decision-making process when the public has the opportunity to participate effectively on whether the proposed activity should go ahead at all (the zero option) (see also para 16 above); b. In addition, at each stage of a tiered decision-making process, the public should have the opportunity to participate in an early and effective manner on all options being considered at that stage; c. Information about the decision-making in the earlier tiers should be available in order for the public to understand the justification of those earlier decisions — including the rejection of the zero option and other alternatives; d. When in a tiered decision-making process new information subsequently sheds doubt on decisions made in the earlier tiers or stages or severely undermines their justification it should be possible to reopen these decisions.

Needless to say the public were never involved with the decision-making on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans for 40% renewable electricity, which included this grid programme, neither does any environmental assessment exist for any aspect of that.

So what did we learn today? Well essentially An Bord Pleanala is a ‘clearing house’ or ‘rubber stamp’ for Government policy and we have absolutely nothing to do with their function other than they just collect public submissions at €50 a go from us, record them and ignore them.

It gets deeper though, not only did the EU do the complete dirt on the public by adopting these National Renewable Energy Action Plans without any environmental assessment or public participation, but it went out and repeated this exercise in 2013, by adopting a Regulation on Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) to provide fast track planning and billions of funding to some 150 transboundary electricity projects. At the moment there is a UNECE Aarhus Compliance Case (C-96) on-going on this which is very near completion. But in summary that compliance case proves as to how no environmental information was available, as it simply did not exist. The public in the Member States were never informed. Instead an obscure EU consultation website was used, which only ‘insiders’ would know about and everything was in English only, which is ‘bugger all use’ to the majority of the EU’s 470 million citizens, who don’t speak English. The below is the sum total of environmental information relating to the North South Interconnector which the EU had, when it adopted the below on its 2013 PCI list. :

First of all even if we wanted to legally challenge the EU on this PCI Regulation, we can’t as EU Citizens have no access to the European Court of Justice to do so, a position in which the EU is in contempt of a ruling at UNECE against it. Therefore, one has to try and take an indirect challenge through a project, such as the North South Interconnector. However, it is position the judge adopted on this Article 7 of the Regulation above, which is very interesting (despite what we had argued / presented):

•  http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32013R0347

• Article 7
‘Priority status’ of projects of common interest
1.   The adoption of the Union list shall establish, for the purposes of any decisions issued in the permit granting process, the necessity of these projects from an energy policy perspective, without prejudice to the exact location, routing or technology of the project. [Emphasis in bold]

So once the EU put it on the list, it was all a done deal! The public participation was only there for ‘candy floss’. An Bord Pleanala is a clearing house to rubber stamp the project and the Irish High Court is a clearing house to rubber stamp An Bord Pleanala.

So it’s just like Animal Farm, where the pigs (especially Napoleon) decide and the animals have to toil building windmills, as Squealer the pig explains it:

• “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

Plus ca change!



Posted in An Bord Pleanala; appeal; interested parties, Democracy; Ireland; Fine Gael; Labour; Sinn Fein; Workers; Constitution, EIA Directive 2014/52/EU, EirGrid; Insurance; Law; Cancer; EMF, EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Solar Roof?

I found this on Bloomberg.


I would be interested to read peoples’ comments.


“Tesla Inc. has kicked off production of its long-awaited electricity-producing shingles that Elon Musk says will transform the rooftop solar industry.

Manufacturing of the photovoltaic glass tiles began last month at a factory in Buffalo built with backing from New York State, the company said in an email Tuesday. It comes more than a year after Tesla unveiled the shingles to a mix of fanfare and skepticism.

The appeal: a sleek, clean solar product, especially for homeowners seeking to replace aging roofs. The tiles — from most angles — look like ordinary shingles. They allow light to pass from above and onto a standard flat solar cell.

Tesla, the biggest U.S. installer of rooftop-solar systems, piloted the product on the homes of several employees. The company expects to begin installing roofs for customers within the next few months.


Solar shingles will cost more than a conventional roof along with photovoltaic panels — but not “wickedly so,” said Hugh Bromley, a New York-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst. He estimates a Tesla roof would cost about $57,000 for a 2,000-square-foot house, compared to about $41,000 for terracotta tiles along with a 5-kilowatt solar-panel system. A plain-old asphalt roof with panels would run about $22,000, Bromley said.

“It may actually do well in overseas markets where solar-photovoltaic is cheap and homeowners are used to paying a premium for building materials and cars — such as Australia,” Bromley said in an email.

Tesla started production of solar cells and panels about four months ago at its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo. New York committed $750 million to help build the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, which currently employs about 500 people. The plant will eventually create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and nearly 5,000 statewide, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in 2015.”

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Corporate Energy Control is the big problem

If each household was an energy neutral entity, would that not be far more desirable than ramping up the grid and building massive wind farms all over the country? It seems logical, but of course that would mean an end to the subsidy scam and the corporate control of the energy market.

A very interesting article by Claire McCormack:

Big energy players wield ‘too much control’ on future renewable vision

Claire McCormack

Dec 29, 2017, 2:52pm

The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) has today warned against the “significant influence” major energy companies have over the country’s future renewable strategy.

Pat Smith, joint chairman of MREF, has claimed that major utilities want to retain “total control” over the generation, distribution and supply of electricity – a move which he says “dismisses” the potential growth of a micro renewable energy sector in Ireland.

Micro generation is the small-scale generation (less than 11kW) of heat and electricity power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs.

This type generation from small-scale wind, solar and hydro energy, could be used as a viable alternative to traditional centralised grid-connected power.

“Recently released consultation documents on a new renewable energy support scheme bore all the hallmarks of big energy influence. The micro generation sector is almost totally dismissed as a viable alternative to big energy players,” said Smith.

Nothing could be further from the truth as roof top solar PV (photo voltaic) and battery storage are viable and sustainable solutions to help Ireland achieve its challenging climate change targets.

The MREF estimates that there are at least 500,000 homes, 50,000 businesses, and 100,000 farms whose roof space could collectively accommodate at least 5,000MW of electricity generation.

“With the use of battery and other storage options – such as water heating and electric vehicle charging – most if not all of this energy could be consumed within the very homes and businesses where the renewable power is generated. This would also have a positive impact on grid capacity.

“The incentives needed to support businesses and homes switching to solar and battery storage technologies are less than what the government is currently paying big wind developers in guaranteed feed-in tariffs. Most of these financial supports are leaving the country,” he said.

Redirecting PSO levy

The MREF contends that redirecting 20% of the existing PSO levy towards micro generation would provide grant support; a generation tariff; and facilitate the viable roll-out of up to 250MW per year of roof top and ground mounted solar – that could be used for energy consumption in homes and businesses countrywide.

It is time that the government moved to break the stranglehold of the major energy utilities by supporting micro generation and encouraging households and businesses to generate some, if not all, of their own electricity requirements.

Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe yet to support micro renewable technologies including roof top solar and battery storage, according to the MREF.

“Farmers also need to be incentivised to adopt renewable technologies with a credit offsetting carbon reductions achieved through micro generation,” Smith concluded.

The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation is a members’ organisation representing the majority of companies and stakeholders engaged in developing, installing and manufacturing micro PV solar and battery storage in Ireland.

MREF also represents thousands of households and businesses waiting for the “long overdue” delivery of the government’s commitment to support micro energy generation.

Posted in EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Germany’s ‘Green’ Energy Myth Busted: Landscapes Trashed, Countless Birds & Bats Slaughtered


Wind and sun worshipping eco-zealots don’t hold a monopoly on hypocrisy, but come very close. As nasty as they are sanctimonious, the more active and vociferous members of the wind cult have no difficulty in justifying the destruction of pristine landscapes; the dismemberment of once cohesive, rural communities; the creation of toxic waste lands in China (where the rare earths essential to wind turbines are processed); power prices that punish the poorest and most vulnerable in society; and barely bat an eyelid at the slaughter of millions upon millions of birds and bats, across the globe.

Germany has been held up as the renewable energy poster child. However, with its landscapes being trashed and wildlife perpetually walloped out of existence, the wind industry is fast becoming environmentalists’ public enemy number one.

Truly Green? How Germany’s ‘Energy Transition’ is Destroying Nature
Global Warming Policy Foundation
Michael Miersch

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Autism: how do you explain …

My amazing wife and one of our handsome sons!

From the Inside

Today I came across some notes I had written a couple of years ago, when Ian was due to spend two weeks with some people who didn’t know him.  Perhaps this would be a suitable adult centre for him to attend;  perhaps not.  How could I possibly sum up our complicated young adult in a way that would make sense?

I had no choice but to limit my notes to the few things I considered most important.  It was, after all, only a two week stint.

When I read them today, I laughed.  How terse I sound!  How anxious to impress upon them the rules we had instilled so many years ago!  And how impossible it was to encapsulate all that is Ian in less than two pages!

But I felt it was worth sharing.  It entertained me;  perhaps it will entertain you.  This is what I wrote —


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Unjustified spending and rampant price increases in costs of electricity

The Report is now available to read.

The Law is my Oyster


Wind Aware Ireland have launched their new report “The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland”. This report may precipitate the latest scandal in public spending.

REPORT: The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland

The report shows that the Irish State and consumer are spending approximately €1.2 billion per year on wind energy and no one has done the sums to justify this spend.

The Irish Academy of Engineering found that focusing mainly on wind to reduce emissions would create the highest technical risk, would generate the lowest amount of reliable electricity and had lowest public acceptability compared to using biomass or carbon capture and storage. They said “A detailed analysis needs to be carried out of the costs and socio-economic implications of reducing emissions”.

Economist Colm McCarthy noted “It is time for Government to acknowledge that Ireland has enough wind farms, that they cost too much in subsidies and that promising…

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Unjustified spending and rampant price increases in costs of electricity



Wind Aware Ireland have launched their new report “The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland”. This report may precipitate the latest scandal in public spending.

REPORT: The Costs of Wind Energy in Ireland

The report shows that the Irish State and consumer are spending approximately €1.2 billion per year on wind energy and no one has done the sums to justify this spend.

The Irish Academy of Engineering found that focusing mainly on wind to reduce emissions would create the highest technical risk, would generate the lowest amount of reliable electricity and had lowest public acceptability compared to using biomass or carbon capture and storage. They said “A detailed analysis needs to be carried out of the costs and socio-economic implications of reducing emissions”.

Economist Colm McCarthy noted “It is time for Government to acknowledge that Ireland has enough wind farms, that they cost too much in subsidies and that promising routes to cut emissions lie elsewhere.”

All legally mandated checks and balances for wind energy have been bypassed; no costs benefit analysis, no strategic environmental assessment and no regulatory impact analysis has ever been undertaken to justify this spend.

This sheer lack of accountability and the capture of policy by wind developers should be grounds for a national scandal.

Paula Byrne (PRO)

Wind Aware Ireland


Phone:  057 86 27048

Mobile: 086 8241523

Email:  paula@windawareireland.com

Posted in Democracy; Ireland; Fine Gael; Labour; Sinn Fein; Workers; Constitution, EirGrid; Insurance; Law; Cancer; EMF, EU Renewable Energy 2020 Target, Green Party; Ireland; Eamonn Ryan; Cormac Manning, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA); Grid 25; North-South Interconnector, Wind Farm Contract, Wind Farm Guidelines, turbines, flicker, noise, distance, Denis Naughten, Wind Turbine Syndrome; Professor Alun Evans, Wind Turbines: Esen Fatma Kabadayi Whiting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Think, dammit, THINK!

'I know figures don't lie. Your job is to make them.'


“If we are uncritical, we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations; and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories.”

(Karl Popper)

in this Information Age, we are being bombarded with huge amounts of information all the time. The obvious result is that we stop looking too closely – this is almost a self-defence mechanism by our brain, as it stops us from going mad at the sheer volume of STUFF.

This is also extremely dangerous, as we are reading, digesting, and passing on a lot of information that is likely to be downright dodgy, we just don’t have the time or energy to check its provenance.

It is essential that we continue to disagree, debate and question as much as possible. In doing so we must understand what it is we don’t agree with, so that we are able to clearly articulate what it is that we don’t agree with when somebody challenges us or our views. It is not enough to just say you disagree, you must be able to come up with a better alternative or explanation.

“We engage in critical thinking, or benefit from the lessons of previous critical thought, all the time without being aware of it. If we took everything at face value, we wouldn’t get very far in life: we would be deceived, bewildered, manipulated, confused. Imagine if you believed everything you were told by everyone, everything that you saw and heard and read in every advert, in every politician’s claim.”

“When we are thinking critically, we are setting out actively to understand what is going on by using reasoning, evaluating evidence and thinking carefully about the process of thinking itself.”

(Tom Chatfield  #TalkCriticalThinking)

This blog has not been shy in voicing certain strong opinions, but that is all they are – opinions. I have always encouraged people to comment, whether for or against, and engage in spirited debate. Work pressure is preventing me from blogging as much as I used to, but I would welcome peoples’ comments and views on the energy debate, climate change, global warming, planning, and of course the law!

All I ask is that we stop uncritically accepting the massive amounts of nonsense that seem to constantly pour out of the websites of various government departments, and the plethora of sycophantic media outlets that disseminate their sh*t, forever polluting the minds of the uncritical reader.


“The trouble with having an open mind of course is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

(Terry Pratchett)

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Ireland faces data centre challenge to power demand


By Paul Homewood

h/t Tallbloke


Data centres will consume 20 per cent of Ireland’s power generation capacity by 2025, according to the country’s main grid operator, Eirgrid.
Eirgrid added that the huge increase in data centre activity in the country would eat up to 75 per cent of growth in Irish power demand.
The Irish Independent reports that the amount of power needed to store emails, texts and other online data could rise seven-fold as Ireland chases inward investment from tech giants including Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft.


Facebook data center Ireland

“Large industrial connections normally do not dominate a country’s energy demand forecast but this is the case for Ireland at the moment,” the All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2017-2026 says.
The situation has been further complicated by a fall in older conventional power plants, due to close over the same time frame. While more renewables are being added to the…

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Access to Justice?

Access to Justice pic for blog

The Aarhus Compliance Committee has interpreted Article 9 (3) of the Convention to mean that the public must have access to adequate judicial mechanisms in the event of acts and omissions in contravention of environmental law and, secondly, to provide means for the enforcement of environmental law to ensure its effectiveness. In other words there must be a quick and effective way to stop people wrecking the environment and ignoring the law. Neither the ABP nor the High Court can be described as quick and effective. We need something new that has the trust of the public – something like an Environmental Rights Commissioner and thereafter an Environmental Court – which is quick and easy and does not require a law degree to understand what is going on and is open to all, either the single citizen or the community group. Quick and effective justice is what is needed.

With this in mind I ask you to consider the plight of two groups who are currently in litigation concerning matters of profound public importance. Instead of funding the exploration of these important questions itself, the State is putting all and every obstacle in their way. It’s the old tactic of “can’t beat ’em? Then starve them!”

The legal fees necessary to take these matters further will be enormous. Between five and seven thousand people read this blog. If you could all see it in yourselves to donate a tenner to each family or group involved in this litigation, that would be an enormous help.



Sinead and Allan judicially reviewed the decision of ABP to confirm the grant of planning permission to Apple for a massive data centre right in the heart of the fields of Athenry. They lost and now need to appeal that decision.

Sinéad and Allan have to be back in court today at and decide by then if they are going to apply for a certificate to appeal.

They have been under considerable stress in taking the Judicial Review and now they will have there own costs to pay. They need help, fast.

I know it would take off some of the pressure and perhaps help them to make the decision to seek leave to appeal if the financial side could be sorted out for them.

There is a very real danger that Judge McDermott’s judgment will open the floodgates for data centres and in turn give the Wind Industry the excuse to develop further, given the massive electricity consumption of these data centres. Even if the likes of Apple can be stalled a bit longer they may take their data centre business elsewhere and hopefully other data centre developers would follow suit.



The second case before the courts is Kathleen Connolly versus An Bord Pleanala (ABP).

The core issue of this case is how An Bord Pleanála carries out and records its assessments of developments, particularly where Appropriate Assessments (AA) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are involved.

To date a number of cases has been taken against the Bord challenging how the Bord records those assessments. The particular concern is with how it records its methods of examining, analysing and evaluating the likely effects of developments on the environment. As a result it is alleged that the Bord cannot communicate clearly its decision-making process in a way that all interested parties can understand. It is left up to those wishing to appeal the decisions of the Bord to trawl through all of the documentation and to employ specialists in assisting them to interpret the rationale behind these decisions. The time-frame of the appeals process is often too short for individuals or groups to achieve this analysis in a thorough and cost effective way.

The High Court Judgement of Mr. Justice Barrett in the case of Kathleen Connelly vs An Bord Pleanála on the 14th June 2016, ruled that it was the obligation of the Bord to record its determinations under EIA and AA legislation. In addition, it is required to give the main reasons and considerations on which its decision was based in such a way that Ms Connelly (and others) are given a proper understanding of why the decision to approve the development of a wind farm in Coore/Shanaway has been reached. In the absence of such a record in this case, Mr Barrett issued an order of certiorari, quashing An Bord Pleanála’s decision to allow the wind farm to be built. This is a very important judgement in planning and environmental litigation and will have far reaching effects beyond this case.

The Bord, on the basis that this ruling will have a very significant impact on how it operates and that this is of general public importance, petitioned the Supreme Court for clarification and the Supreme Court agreed that the issues raised in this case warrants clarification by a higher court. The Supreme Court will either uphold, overturn or refer the High Court decision to the European Court of Justice.

The current lack of a transparent and accessible decision-making process in An Bord Pleanála is a situation that needs to be addressed, and is long overdue. An Bord Pleanála is a public decision-making body, funded by tax payers’ money, and every interested party should understand clearly how and why the Bord makes the decisions it does. If this case is upheld, it will make it easier and more cost-effective for individuals and communities to decide on the merits of appealing a decision by An Bord Pleanála in the High Court.

‘It never suffices, and it has never sufficed, for a public decision making body to issue a decision that refers in a largely uninformative manner to an ocean of material consulted or relied upon, and to leave an affected party thereafter to fish in that ocean for what she might catch there of relevance within the ever diminishing time frame for bringing a related judicial review application – and one will search long and hard in the law reports to find a judge of the High Court, or any court, who has suggested the contrary.’
(Judgement of Mr. Justice Max Barrett, 14th June 2016, Kathleen Connelly vs An Bord Pleanála, para 27)

The ABP are now taking this decision on appeal and Kathleen and her community are severely depleted of funds, having fought (and won) the high Court case.

They would be grateful for any support. Please check out their website with ways to support them.

In support of this cause there will be a showing of the gorgeous documentary on the Burren, nature and the battle over Mullaghmore, ‘The Silver Branch‘ on the 19th of November at the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point, at 7pm as a fundraiser.  If anyone wishes to attend, contact Wind Aware Clare via their website regarding tickets. Risteard O’Domhnaill, the Director of ‘The Pipe’ and ‘Atlantic’ will be there on the night and has generously volunteered to do the projection.


It is a disgrace that appeals of this nature should be necessary in the first place; but these people are fighting for you and me and need our help.



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Infrasound and other things that go bump in the night



The Scottish organisation “Winds of Change” held an excellent seminar on infrasound. Details can be found by clicking on this link:




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Wake in Fright: Wind Turbine Infrasound Causes Panic, Fear & Nightmares

The scientific research and verified evidence is now overwhelming. Wind farms are a dangerous hazard.


The evidence proving the unnecessary damage done to wind farm neighbours by the noise generated by giant industrial wind turbines is mounting by the day: Germany’s Max Planck Institute has identified sub-audible infrasound as the cause of stress, sleep disruption and more (see our post here); and a Swedish group have shown that it’s the pulsing nature of low-frequency wind turbine noise  (‘amplitude modulation’) that is responsible for sleep problems in those forced to live with it (see our post here).

The Max Planck Institute’s research exposed subjects to sub-audible infrasound (IS) while subject’s responses were identified using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), establishing a direct connection between IS exposure and responses in the amygdala, indicative of a stress response in that subject. The study led to a postulate that:

stimulation over longer periods of time could exert a profound effect on autonomic functions and may eventually…

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