Woman faces jail for preventing ESB access to her property

An Offaly woman could be jailed over her continued refusal to comply with High Court orders allowing the ESB and Eirgrid access to her land to complete the construction of a power line.

Today at the High Court the ESB and Eirgrid lodged contempt proceedings against Ms Teresa Treacy of Woodfield House, Clonmore, Tullamore.

They claim that earlier this week Ms Treacy, in breach of a number of previous court orders, prevented them from gaining access to her land by locking gates to her property and by standing in front of the lock when ESB workers tried to cut it.

Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, who granted the ESB/Eirgrid permission to bring the contempt proceedings, made the matter returnable before the court next Monday.

The application was made on an ex-parte (one side only) basis.

The High Court heard that Ms Treacy, who was not present in court today, has denied the ESB/Eirgrid access because of fears she has that trees on her property will be damaged.

Michael Conlon BL for ESB/Eirgrid said Teresa Treacy was "emotionally attached to her forestry".

Counsel said in July Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted ESB/Eirgrid orders against Teresa and her sister Mary allowing them to carry out works on the Treacys' land.

The defendants were further ordered to unlock gates and remove any barriers blocking the ESB/Eirgrid from accessing the elderly sister's property.

While his client's were initially allowed onto the land, gates on the property were subsequently locked preventing any work from being carried out.

Counsel said his clients, who do not want to see anyone jailed, returned to the High Court in August and secured an order allowing it to open the locks on the gates and enter the lands.

Earlier this week when workers tried to cut open the locks Teresa Treacy stood in front of the locks and refused to let the workers onto the lands.

Counsel said that Teresa Treacy has also informed local gardaí she is prepared to go to jail rather than allow the ESB and Eirgrid access top her lands.

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" and the ESB would be allowed on the land.

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 from the ESB.

She has previously claimed before the court that the 100-acre property where she and her sister Mary reside is a place of natural beauty and wants the power line to be put underground. The ESB said it was unable to do that.

She said the land contains oak, ash, sycamore, birch and pines trees and is mainly surrounded by hedgegrows. She said the ESB/Eirgrids’s actions are “wrong,” and they should “stop what they are doing.”

The ESB says it must place five wooden structures and one steel mast on their land, which involves tree cutting, excavations and installation works over a 30-day period.

Out of 84 landowners on the route only the defendants failed to grant access to their properties. Permission to enter onto land on the route to facilitate the construction of the line was obtained in 2008.

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