In These New Times

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Phone mast sparks fears in Killybegs

Posted by seumasach on April 22, 2012

Donegal Democrat

22nd April, 2012

Residents, an elected representative and a doctor are worried that an O2 mobile phone mast in Killybegs is affecting the health of locals.

They’re so concerned that they arranged a meeting with a representative from the company on Tuesday night. However, the meeting ended without agreement and the mast is still atop the Bay View Hotel.

At the meeting, the residents’ claim that many people in the area are suffering ill effects from being so close to the roof-top installations was dismissed by O2 Area Manager, Tom Heffernan. He was adamant, however, that nearly half a century of research in many parts of the world had found that there were no adverse health effects from mobile phone transmissions.

He did not accept submissions by Dr Lisa Staunton MD that she had found a significant number of people in the vicinity of the hotel who suffered from electromagnetic sensitivity. He did not accept that there was such a condition.

He also rejected the objectors’ contention that any agreement which may have existed with previous owners of the Bay View was no longer valid as the operating company had gone out of business.

Mr Heffernan said that matter was the business of the receiver. O2, he added, had been in touch with the receiver who had informed them that he hoped to find a buyer.

“We know that the hotel will find a purchaser in the short or medium term”, Mr Heffernan said, “and, when that happens, we will look to negotiate. We will make an effort to talk to the new owners and put an agreement in place.”

Patricia Faherty, main spokesperson for the objectors, said they have letters, not only from most of the residents in the vicinity, but also signatures and letters of support many residents and business people in the wider area who wanted mobile phone service but did not want anyone to suffer because of that.

She asked whether O2 would o2 be prepared to move their installation if the new owner of the hotel did not want them there. That was a hypothetical question, he said. He agreed that such a move would cost money.

“It is costing us our health”, Ms Faherty insisted.

The group, which included Niamh Kennedy, chairperson of Killybegs Community Council, made it clear to Mr Heffernan that they wanted it known to any potential purchaser of the hotel that people did have objections to the roof-top installations and that the objections would continue.

The objectors contended also that the situation at the Bay View was unusual in that many houses were at a level with the roof and, therefore, in direct line with the telecoms equipment.

Mr Heffernan said this was not unusual at all and existed in many towns and cities.

During the discussion of possible health implications, he said that there was a similar installation on the roof of Cork Regional Hospital. “Surely,” he commented, “the doctors and consultants there would have objected if there had been any risk”.

When Mr Heffernan quoted findings by the World Health Organisation, Dr Staunton pointed out that the the electromagnetic emissions permitted in Salzburg, where the WHO office was, were 400 times lower that those permitted in Ireland. Electromagnetic radiation, she said, caused huge problems, especially in children.

Mr Heffernan accepted that the roof-top installations had been put on the roof of the Bay View Hotel before planning permission had been sought. He said that was because the guidelines at the time had not been clear. When they had applied for retention, An Bord Pleanála had granted it.

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