Ireland: Woman jailed over land access
A judge has ordered that an Offaly woman be sent to prison for refusing to comply with orders allowing ESB and Eirgrid access to her land to complete the construction of a power line.
At the High Court today, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert ordered that Teresa Treacy (65) of Woodfield House, Clonmore, Tullamore be committed to prison for contempt of court after she said she “would not obey” orders allowing access to her land.
She said she would not let workers on the land for health and safety reasons and because of her fears that her property, which has many beautiful trees, would be destroyed. She wants the powerline put underground.
Mr Justice Herbert told Ms Treacy, who was not legally represented, that he “admired her principles” but did not admire what she was doing.
The judge said this was a citizen setting herself against the Constitution of Ireland and against the courts. If this was allowed, he said, “we may as well sink into anarchy”.
The judge said he had no choice other than commit her to prison over her refusal to comply with the orders and that his “hand had been forced.”
He directed that as soon as the order committing her to prison was issued and executed by gardai, Ms Treacy should remain in custody until she had purged her contempt.
The ESB and Eirgrid brought proceedings against Ms Treacy because she refused them access to her land by locking gates to her property and by standing in front of the locks when workers tried to cut them.
Michael Conlon BL for ESB/Eirgrid said Teresa Treacy was “emotionally attached to her forestry” but the ESB Eirgrid had a job to do. It was counsel added “with great reluctance” that his clients brought a motion committing Ms Treacy to prison.
While his client’s were initially allowed onto the land, gates on the property were subsequently locked preventing any work from being carried out, and Ms Treacy blocked machinery from coming on her land.
Last week, Teresa Treacy stood in front of the locks when workers tried to cut them open and refused to let themonto the lands.
Worker were unable to carry out work due to concerns that Ms Treacy might get injured. Such a situation was unacceptable, counsel added.
Counsel said that the ESB/Eirgrid offered to compensate Ms Treacy, and had offered to plant new trees to replace any that might be damaged by their work. Counsel added that it was not possible to put the wires underground.
When the matter was before the court in August, Ms Treacy was warned by Ms Justice Laffoy of the serious consequences she faced if she continued to act in breach of the orders. The Judge expressed her hope that “common sense would prevail”.
On that occasion, Ms Treacy said she has “no intention” of granting the ESB/Eirgrid access because of the effects its work is having on what she said is a place of natural beauty. She also told the court that would “gladly go to jail,” and that she did not want compensation.