An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, and Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, today attended an event at Ardnacrusha Power Station to mark the 85th anniversary of the establishment of ESB in 1927.
Special guest at the event was former Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave, who, as a young boy, was present at the official opening of the station on 29th July 1929 by his father W.T Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council. Mr Cosgrave returned to Ardnacrusha as Taoiseach in 1977 for ESB’s 50th anniversary.
The event, hosted by ESB’s Chairman Lochlann Quinn, was also attended by the Minister of State, Jan O’Sullivan TD; local public representatives, the German Ambassador, His Excellency Dr Eckhard Lubkemeier and the Chief Executive of Siemens Ireland, Paul Lynam and ESB’s Chief Executive, Pat O’Doherty.
Ardnacrusha, which forms part of the Shannon (hydroelectric) Scheme, was the first national electricity system in the world and provided the basis of Ireland’s future social, economic and industrial development. The Scheme also provided the basis for the establishment of ESB, the first of Ireland’s semi-state bodies.
Work on the massive hydro electric project began in 1925 by Siemens of Germany and was completed in 1929. Approximately 5,000 people – 1,000 German and 4,000 Irish – worked on the construction of the Scheme. The waters of the River Shannon were harnessed at the Ardnacrusha Dam and a network was constructed to transmit electricity across the country from the new power station.
It was one of the largest engineering projects of its day and was considered at the time to be a revolutionary infrastructural development.
In addition to the generating station, the build involved the construction of head-and tail-race canals constructed along the River Shannon, spanned by four new bridges, and the extensive system of culverts and sluices enhancing the fall in water levels between Lough Derg and the Shannon.
At a cost of over £5 million, it was almost one-fifth of the entire annual budget available to the Irish Free State government led by W.T.Cosgrave.
Today, the Ardnacrusha Power Station continues to play an important role in the provision of electricity for the country and is a source of environmentally friendly “green power”. It provides a rapidly available source of electricity during hours of peak demand and is a source of back up in cases of emergency or sudden breakdown of other plant.
To mark the occasion today, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, made a presentation to the former Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave of a copy of a portrait of W.T.Cosgrave painted by the artist Sean Keating.
An Taoiseach said; “As we face unprecedented times it is only right that we look back and celebrate the courage and conviction involved in the early years of the Irish State and the development of its fledgling economy. Ardnacrusha remains a powerful symbol of bold thinking and the possibilities of change as we introduce new reforms to the State owned energy sector. As we work to rebuild the Irish economy I’ve no doubt that the ESB and the wider energy sector will continue to play a vital role in our recovery.”
ESB Chairman, Lochlann Quinn said; “This station and the Shannon Scheme have a special place in the history of ESB and of Ireland. A project of this scale was a massive challenge for the newly independent country and its successful completion was a remarkable achievement. It is a particular pleasure to welcome to Ardnacrusha, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and to welcome back former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and to honour the role of his father in the establishment of ESB.”
“ESB continues to make a significant contribution to the economy. Since 2002, the Company has made dividend payments of close to €1 billion to the Exchequer and has invested €1 billion a year in the country’s electricity infrastructure. Ireland has now one of the leading electricity systems worldwide in terms of safety and reliability. As ESB and the country meet new challenges the Ardnacrusha achievement will remain an inspiration for all of us”, he said.