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Telecommunication companies were equated as the 2019 version of groups behind the sale of cigarettes at Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council.

During their canvass during the local elections, councillors interacted with individuals concerned of the health impacts that would arise following the planned roll-out of 5G across the country and relayed such views at the adjourned June gathering.

As the latest in mobile technology 5G is the successor to 4G which is currently on phone networks across Ireland and the older 3G system. Speeds of between 10 and 20 Mbps are possible with 4G while 5G is capable of connections up to 100 times faster, the latest tests reaching over 1,000Mbps.

5G networks are expected to begin arriving in Ireland as a commercial concern later this year. Vodafone has already begun testing its network in a limited capacity, and says it plans to launch a commercial 5G network in 2019 while Imagine has said it will offer 5G services to rural customers. The new networks will not only require new infrastructure but also new phones to avail of the service.

Though if offers many possibilities, safety and health concerns have been raised prior to the planned roll-out of 5G. The matter has been brought to the attention of Tánaiste Simon Coveney by US Senators and diplomats from the US Embassy have raised the matter with Minister for Communications, Richard Bruton.

On a more local level, elected representatives in Clare have relayed their concerns to the same Minister. Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy tabled a motion this week “in light of a recent appeal to the EU from 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries warning about the danger of 5G, which will lead to a massive increase in involuntary exposure to electromagnetic radiation, that Clare County Council in exercising its responsibility to protect the environment and the public from harm opposes the roll-out of 5G in the County; and calls on CommReg to deny licensing for its roll-out; and calls on the Minister for Communication, Climate Change and the Environment, to establish a working group to establish the facts about the radiation impact of 5G on the environment & human health due to the current questionable scientific knowledge.”

Colleran Molloy called on Clare to ensure Ireland follows the example set by Russia, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands who delayed the introduction of 5G along with France and Israel who have restricted wifi in schools. She referred to a full-page advertisement from one company which featured in The Clare Echo coupled with the “grave and paramount concern” she heard at the doorsteps as how it has become an important issue in the county.

She claimed the country would be “bathed in a swath of radiation” if it went ahead. The Fianna Fáil representative added, “The Minister has relied on reports from 2015 claiming there is no effect yet we have 100s of doctors warning of the dangers. This is a very important issue, I’m not sure what we can do as a local authority except raise awareness”. The Quin native concluded, “These companies are making use of the media just as cigarette companies did in the past”.

Her party colleague, Cllr Pat Hayes seconded the motion. “Everyone of us should be aware of what is going in here and how technology is being pushed around our country. 5G cropped up on a lot of doors, people are extremely worried”. He added, “A country like Belgium doesn’t just ban 5G. Then we have a company like Eir who won’t respond to this Chamber on three occasions since last Jan, our local media are pushing out 5G but at what cost”.

Ennis councillor, Johnny Flynn said he had received concerns regarding it’s “environmental impact”. Fellow Fine Gael representative, Cllr Mary Howard confessed, “I’m not tech savvy, I thought it was just a case of going from 3G to 4G. I’m not sure of how it works but it sounds quite scary. Something like 5G frightens me, we don’t have the information, make Clare a 5G free area until we have the information available”.

Cllr Cillian Murphy queried if the wireless companies would make contributions for health costs if illness is caused from 5G. “You’re going to have for and against, how you distinguish between that and break it down is something we are going to have to,” Cllr Pat McMahon commented.

“We don’t have the licensing role in terms of the regulatory process. The planning process is with the infrastructure involved,” Director of Services, Liam Conneally confirmed. When asked if there was a specific planning process within Clare County Council for 5G, Conneally advised the meeting he would need to check before making a comment.

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