'Dangerous condition’ of telephone poles highlighted

Photo: A telephone pole covered in ivy in Walderstown photographed by Cllr Tom Farrell.

eir tests and replaces its poles across the country on an ongoing basis to ensure the network remains safe, the utility company told the Westmeath Independent recently - on foot of calls for a safety audit to be carried out with a number in a “dangerous condition” following recent storms.

Fine Gael Cllr Tom Farrell, who raised the issue in a motion at the September meeting of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, said he has photos of poles that would frighten people, with some poles bent over and others covered in ivy or broken.

In a statement to the Westmeath Independent, eir said as part of its “rural fibre rollout to more than 340,000 rural premises, it recently upgraded and replaced the poles along 20,000 kilometres of routes, which is a distance equal to half the circumference of the earth."

“The remaining pole network across the country will be used to deliver the National Broadband Plan as well as eir's IFN fibre network and poles will be tested and replaced in the coming years as part of the continued rollout of fibre broadband across the country.”

Calling for a safety audit to be carried out due to number in a “dangerous condition”, Cllr Farrell added that on one stretch of a local road covering over two miles he could show ten poles that need to be replaced.

Supporting his stance, Cllr Vinny McCormack (FF) criticised what he termed eir's “disregard for infrastructure around the district,” saying that the issue should also be raised with the Minister.

Cllr John Dolan described the poles as “accidents waiting to happen all over the country” and it is just “not good enough” that they are not maintained.

In addition, he commented that it is impossible to get through to anyone in eir or speak to anyone about issues that arise.

Athlone's Mayor, Cllr Aengus O'Rourke agreed, saying the condition of their infrastructure is very poor. He too raised the issue of their customer support, telling the meeting he is waiting for a callback on a broadband issue since March.

Normally, he would never get representations on a private utility but in recent months there has been a lot in relation to eir because they are “just not contactable.”

He asked that the council invite someone from eir to come before Athlone-Moate Municipal District in the near future to address the issues.

Cllr Frankie Keena, a former employee of Eircom, welcomed the idea of bringing the utility to an upcoming meeting.

He said from his time a regular survey of poles was undertaken, with a list made for repairs. All poles are stamped with the date they were produced and erected.

Despite being a former employee, the Fianna Fáil representative also raised concerns about the firm's accessibility where they are problems and he said a lot of local staff are no longer there.

He stressed that health and safety must be highlighted in the letter in relation to faulty or dangerous poles.

Kilbeggan-based Cllr Liam McDaniel queried whether the council can recoup the cost if it has to clear an eir pole that comes down on a road.

District Engineer Pat Nally replied that it could not, if the pole had fallen due to storm damage.

Summing up, Cllr Farrell described the issue of pole replacement as “urgent” given the number of people on bikes and in cars on the roads, the Mayor said any letter sent should call for immediate action on dangerous poles, and the company should be asked to give a presentation on other matters relating to eir.

eir said any member of the public can report dangerous eir infrastructure, such as poles, to a dedicated service line at 1850 245424.