A JUDGE has ordered that a woman be sent to prison due to her refusal to comply with High Court orders allowing ESB and Eirgrid access to her land to complete the construction of a power line.
Yesterday at the High Court, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert ordered that Teresa Treacy (65), Woodfield House, Clonmore, Tullamore, Co Offaly, be committed to prison for contempt of court after she said she would not obey orders allowing ESB and Eirgrid workers access to her land. She said she would not allow workers on the land for health and safety reasons and because of her fears that her property, which she said had many beautiful trees, would be destroyed. She wants the power line placed 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.
He said this was a citizen setting herself against the Constitution and against the courts. If this was allowed, “we may as well sink into anarchy”, adding he would not allow that.
He said he had no choice other than to commit her to prison over her refusal to comply. His “hand had been forced”.
Mr Justice Herbert directed that 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 and by standing in front of the locks when workers tried to cut them.
Michael Conlon, for ESB/Eirgrid, said Ms Treacy was “emotionally attached to her forestry”, but ESB and Eirgrid had a job to do. Mr Conlon added that his clients had brought a motion committing Ms Treacy to prison “with great reluctance”.
Last July Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted the ESB and Eirgrid orders against Ms Treacy 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 sisters’ property.
While his clients were initially allowed on to the land, gates were subsequently locked, preventing any work from being carried out, while Ms Treacy blocked machinery from coming on her land.
Mr Conlon said his clients returned to the High Court in August and secured an order allowing them to open the locks on the gates and enter the lands.
Last week when workers tried to cut open the locks, Ms Treacy stood in front of the locks and refused access to the workers. They were unable to proceed due to concerns that Ms Treacy might be injured, and such a situation was unacceptable, Mr Conlon added.
He said that ESB/Eirgrid had offered to compensate Ms Treacy and to plant new trees to replace any that might get damaged. He said it was not possible to place 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 the hope “common sense would prevail”.
On that occasion, Ms Treacy said she had “no intention” of granting the ESB/Eirgrid access because of the effects its work was having on what she said was a place of natural beauty. She told the court she would “gladly go to jail” and did not want compensation.
She said the land contained oak, ash, sycamore, birch and pine trees and was mainly surrounded by hedgerows. She said the ESB and Eirgrid’s actions were “wrong” and they should “stop what they are doing”.