The president of ICMSA, John Comer, has sharply criticised elements of the ESB (Electronic Communications Bill) 2014 which expressly permits the ESB to provide access to its electricity infrastructure to other companies without any reference to the farmer or landowner on whose land the ESB’s infrastructure may be erected.
Mr Comer pointed out that the inclusion of such a section effectively made the ESB a “Trojan Horse”, where farmers or landowners with ESB installations on their land could see private, profit-making, commercial concerns gaining compulsory access to their land.
Mr Comer said that people would be naturally very cautious about any scenario that has the ESB providing access to private commercial concerns that could then exercise a right to come onto or through private property – not on the basis of agreement with the property owner – but on the basis of their subcontract with the ESB.
“Is this not effectively giving CPO powers to private companies – multinational, in many instances – by a back door provided by the ESB? Who, in turn, will be able to provide access to their infrastructure through our members’ lands, 24/7, without so much as a ‘by your leave’ to the people who own that land? How many companies do the ESB envisage throwing open our land to? This will strike most people – certainly most farmers – as a very dubious notion whereby the ESB becomes a type of Trojan Horse that could contain companies, or energy-communications infrastructure, that the farmers or landowners might very well have rejected out-of-hand if they had approached the farmer or landowner in their own right.”, said Mr Comer.
“Put as bluntly as this proposal warrants: the ESB might be very happy to make a deal that provides access to my land with a company – and involving a specific item of equipment - that I might completely oppose and yet, through their exercise of CPO, my right to refuse access to my private property will effectively disappear. We’re particularly concerned about the involvement of private commercial concerns which will now be able to conclude possibly very lucrative agreements with the ESB involving the ability of the latter to provide access to their infrastructure but through our lands. This seems to us to be completely extraordinary and desperately unfair in explicit acceptance of the ESB’s right to gain commercially by giving any amount of third parties the right to come onto other people’s private property. ICMSA will be seeking clarification on this but on the face of the provisions published and the setting aside of the ordinary rights of landowners we expect our members to demand that we energetically resist this bill”, concluded the ICMSA President