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Clew Bay fibre-optic cable plans hit by setback


ROUTE The proposed route for the transatlantic fibre optic cable due to come ashore at Old Head, near Louisburgh.

Plans for a transatlantic fibre optic cable coming ashore in Clew Bay have hit a huge setback after it was revealed in court last Friday that a decision granting a licence for the works is to be quashed.
A Clare Island fisherman has taken a High Court case against the proposed plans for the laying of the cable off the Mayo coast, which was to come ashore at Old Head, near Louisburgh.
The High Court was informed on Friday last of a ‘dramatic development’ in the case.
James O’Toole, from Clare Island, had earlier this month initiated a court challenge over the granting of the licence.
A licence had been granted earlier this year by the Department of Planning and Local Goverment for the Irish spur of the multi-million-euro project, involving a transatlantic cable connecting Europe with the US. Among the companies involved in the consortium behind the Irish spur are internet giants Google and Facebook. The consortium is America Europe Connect 2 Limited (AECL).
However, that spur is now on hold while the issue of whether to grant another foreshore licence is further considered.
Teams had been on standby and in isolation in Mayo waiting to start work on the Irish section of the subsea cable system. The consortium was a notice party to Mr O’Toole’s proceedings against the Minister of State at the Department of Planning and Local Government.
On Friday, Mr Justice Denis McDonald was told there had been a ‘dramatic development’ in the case.
James Devlin SC, for Mr O’Toole, said a letter on Thursday evening from the Chief State Solicitor indicated the Minister was consenting to an order quashing the decision of February 6, 2020 to grant a licence to install the cable on the foreshore off Old Head, Louisburgh.
While his side did not object to the matter being remitted to the Minister for reconsideration, any further consideration would require public participation and an environmental impact study, counsel said.
David Holland SC, for AECL, asked that the case be adjourned for two weeks.
“We understand that this licence has a death sentence and a sentence of remittal,” he said.
Mr Justice McDonald, who had been due to hear an application for a stay on the works off the Mayo coast, said the sides should agree the terms of the order quashing the licence decision. He also said an undertaking by AECL that no works be carried out should continue until the matter is next back in court on June 5. This was not a reflection on the good character of AECL, he added.
The court previously heard the international project is for construction of a transatlantic fibre optic cable extending from the US to Denmark with spurs to Ireland and Norway. The proposed route for the Irish spur includes a landfall at Old Head on the southern side of Clew Bay, over 3km from Louisburgh, and AECL had secured the foreshore licence to lay the cable coming ashore at Old Head.
In his action, Mr O‘Toole claims the shortest possible route to Ireland’s shore was selected even though it is through areas of very rocky seabed where the cable cannot be buried. He said the route is also through sensitive fishing grounds in Clew Bay and the narrow channel between Achill and Clare islands, containing habitats of protected endangered species, including the bottle nosed dolphin and the Brent goose.