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  An Intruiging new Controversy about Cape Clear Wind Energy System

Residents and others knowledgeable about Cape Clear Island were intrigued by last Mondays' article in the Irish Times by Ann Marine Hourihan regarding a recently published memoir by Betty Purcell of RTE. Read Here Apparently as can be seen from the link above the book may include the quite preposterous  claim that the former wind generating system on the Island was removed to Inishvickillane (former Taoiseach Charles Haughey's holiday island )  leaving Cape Clear with "with a generator that local people said gave only sporadic service ". One must admit, the item has all the ingredients of a great story, apart from the truth, of course. This assertion, beyond being untrue, however, paints a patronizing picture of the Island and is unfair to all involved in the provision of the electricity network on the Island since it was taken over by the ESB back in the early 80's. All involved can attest to the highest of engineering and professional standards emanating from the ESB head quarters in Dunmanway with many of those responsible for this exceptional service continuing to live in West Cork and on Cape Clear today. Cailín Óir Manager Séamus, also the former manager of the Co Op seeks to put the record straight with the letter below letter to the Times.

Photo shows wind turbines on Cape Clear taken long after 1991.

To The Editor, Irish Times

From Séamus Ó Drisceoil, Cape Clear Island, Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Tel 028-41923/39159


A Chara,

I have been asked by a number of people to correct the highly misleading piece in Monday’s article by Ann Marine Hourihan, Betty Purcell: war stories form the heart of RTE regarding Charlie Haughey and the wind generators on Cape Clear Island.

I recall the relevant events very clearly indeed since they occurred shortly after my arrival as the new Manager of the Co Op on the Island in 1987.

It seems that the former Taoiseach was highly impressed with the integrated wind/diesel/battery system on Cape Clear Island which had been installed by SMA Regelsystem Gmbh and which he launched together with the German Ambassador in that year. So impressed indeed that he announced his intention in having a similar system installed in  Inishvickillane, a project that was subsequently carried out.

Most certainly no wind turbines were removed from Cape Clear Island and the integrated wind/diesel/battery system continued to provide an outstanding service for more than 10 years after that. Sadly by the time the 33w wind turbines needed replacing due to normal wear and tear, the wind turbine industry had moved on and such small turbines were no longer available.

Similar systems were installed subsequently in various parts of the world and the Cape Clear Wind Energy system is credited with providing the first concrete evidence for the viability of wind energy in Ireland.

In deference to the good names of all concerned, including the ESB who were responsible for operating the island electricity grid I can confirm that at no time was the Island left with a ‘a generator that gave only sporadic service’.

The story therefor, as presented would seem to be a myth and has no place in what is supposed to be a factual account.

I should be grateful for you to put this particular record straight.


Is mise le meas,


Séamus Ó Drisceoil

Oileán Chléire.

Intriguingly the Times have seem to have decided to ignore this matter completely as can be judged by a second letter forwarded by another former Manager of Comharchumann Chleire Teo, Fergal Mac Amhlaoibh. Feargal MacAmhlaiobh <>

Subject: Cape Clear Windmills
Date: 10 April 2014 10:31:26 IST

A Chara,
Ann Marie Hourihan, in her review of Betty Purcell: war stories from the heart of RTÉ (LifePeople, 7th April) states:
"In 1991, Purcell was making a programme on how Haughey had somehow persuaded the ESB to take the wind generator from Cape Clear and install it at his holiday island of Inishvickillane. When she announced her intention to hire a helicopter to take aerial shots of both islands – Cape Clear now with a generator that local people said gave only sporadic service – the programme was cancelled."
As one familiar with both islands, I see this as totally inaccurate and should be corrected, if not in the book, at least in the paper of record.
Charlie Haughey was a shareholder in Cape Clear CoOp and had a great interest in that island’s development and its people. He launched the windmill-diesel project on Cape Clear in 1987 and later, as a result of this, had a smaller wind generator installed on Inishvickillane, while the Cape Clear project continued to run successfully for another 10 years. The wind generators ultimately contributed to the national grid with the installation of a marine cable link in 1997. I should also point out that the diesel-powered system, installed in 1969, was the first electricity system to be established on any Irish coastal island and, far from “sporadic", was operated successfully and efficiently by Cape Clear CoOp until then.
Is mise,
Feargal Mac Amhlaoibh

Dún Chaoin, Co. Chiarraí.

email:   telephone: 028 41923