Church mast protesters defend actions

ANTI-MOBILE phone mast protesters who sparked controversy by targeting a Church of Ireland service defended their tactics yesterday.

Residents of Church Hill in Glanmire, Co Cork, picketed outside St Mary’s and All Saints Church of Ireland in Glanmire, on the outskirts of Cork city, before an 11.30am service last Sunday against plans by Vodafone to locate a mobile phone mast on the church grounds.

The protest was condemned by local public representatives.

It prompted an appeal from Church of Ireland Bishop Paul Colton for the picketing at the church to cease. He said the protest had caused “great distress to the small, but committed, group of parishioners, which includes children and the elderly”.

“The proper forum for objections is the current planning process,” he said.

“I appeal, therefore, for an end to picketing.”

But residents’ spokes-woman Mary O’Callaghan said yesterday that they felt they had no option but to target the service.

“We know it was a form of intimidation and that it probably was not the right thing to do,” she said.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel right doing it but felt we had no other option.”

Those who worship in the church do not live in the immediate area and will not have to live in the shadow of a mobile phone mast, she said.

The picket was designed to highlight local peoples’ health fears if the mast receives the go-ahead, she added.

Vodafone applied to Cork Co Council earlier this month for permission to erect a large free-standing telecommunications antennae, understood to be 20 metres high, and equipment cabinets on the grounds of the church.

It will be within 20 metres of the nearest homes, about 100 metres from Coláiste an Phiarsaigh secondary school and, also, about 500 metres from a primary school.

Planners are due to make a decision by the end of the month.

Up to 44 objections have been lodged against the project.

Ms O’Callaghan called on Vodafone to withdraw their application and on church authorities to withdraw their co-operation.

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