Landowner avoids jail after allowing ESB effect urgent repairs
Posted on 10th August 2021 at 20:32
Court told that initial refusal threatened power supply to more than 1,000 customers
A Co Donegal landowner has avoided the prospect of being jailed for contempt after allowing the ESB on to his land to carry out urgent repairs to power lines.
The High Court heard on Tuesday that Patrick Gallagher had allowed the ESB access to his property and that the necessary works had been carried out.
Late last month, the ESB secured a High Court injunction requiring Mr Gallagher to allow its workers on his land at Galdonagh Glebe, Manorcunningham, Co Donegal. The injunction restrained Mr Gallagher, a lorry driver, from obstructing or preventing the ESB from entering his lands to do the repair work.
The ESB sought the order because it needed to urgently replace a rotten wooden transformer pole on its existing Cullion/Newtown 10kv distribution line. It claims that the pole was at risk of collapse and posed a serious risk to members of the public.
If the pole should break, and lines fell to the ground, the ESB also claimed that the electricity supply to more than 1,000 customers would be at risk.
The company sued Mr Gallagher after he refused on several occasions to facilitate access on to his land, and had allegedly frustrated and threatened the ESB’s staff. The company claimed it had been in contact with Mr Gallagher since late March in an attempt to secure access.
However, due to Mr Gallagher’s continued refusal it was unable to carry out the works and has had to schedule power cuts to customers in the vicinity.
The ESB claimed that it has a statutory right, under the 1927 ESB Act to access land to carry out safety works and it does not require it to pay any compensation to the land owner.
Despite securing the injunction in late July, the ESB claimed that Mr Gallagher continued to deny the it access on to his land over the August bank holiday weekend so it could do the repairs.
As a result, the ESB sought to have Mr Gallagher brought before the court to answer his alleged contempt. Last week it secured permission from the court to serve short notice of contempt proceedings against Mr Gallagher.
When the matter returned before Ms Justice Nuala Butler on Tuesday, the court was told by Stephen Dodd SC for the ESB that Mr Gallagher had allowed the company on the land and the works had been carried out.
Counsel said that all that was left was for the court the make an order requiring Mr Gallagher to pay the ESB’s legal costs. The judge agreed to make a costs order against Mr Gallagher and struck out the proceedings.
Mr Gallagher was not present, neither was he legally represented, when the matter came before the court.
The court previously heard that in 2014 the ESB and EirGrid had to bring High Court proceedings against Mr Gallagher in order to secure access to his land at Listack, Do Donegal, to carry out works on other power lines. In that action, the ESB said, Mr Gallagher ultimately gave an undertaking to the court to allow the works be done.
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