Campaigners oppose 5G plans with council to examine risks

Campaigners oppose 5G plans with council to examine risks

6 November 2019

NEWRY, Mourne and Down Council is to analyse the potential risks associated with new 5G technology before formally deciding if it will be rolled out across the district.

The decision was taken at the local authority’s monthly meeting on Monday night when campaigners opposed to the new technology called for independent research to be commissioned.

They insist that the local authority does not examine research funded by the mobile technology industry, but instead focuses the spotlight on independent studies.

A number of campaigners packed into the public gallery during Monday night’s meeting which agreed to press ahead with researching the impact of 5G technology on human health and the environment.

Campaigners are also encouraging the council to set down a marker and take the bold step of not allowing the roll-out of 5G across the district.

On Monday night, the council agreed to commit £10,000 to allow it to carry out research to determine the health risks the new technology may pose and to make a detailed bid for potential funding for the future roll-out of 5G, if the local authority agrees to go down this particular route.

As with previous cellular technologies, 5G networks rely on signals carried by radio waves transmitted between an antenna or mast and mobile phones. 5G also uses higher frequency waves than earlier mobile networks, allowing more devices to have access to the internet at the same time and at faster speeds. 

Downpatrick councillor Oonagh Hanlon, who recently met with parents concerned about the impact 5G will have on children’s health in particular, said the local authority “needs to look at all the options” moving forward and act responsibly. 

She also highlighted the need for politicians to be provided with comprehensive and detailed reports analysing both the risks and benefits of 5G.

Cllr Patrick Brown said nothing should happen or no finance committed until a full risk assessment is carried out. He said councillors can only make a decision when they are in possession of all the evidence on both sides of the argument.

“There is a lack of strong evidence on both sides at the moment and we should not rush into anything. It is a fact that the 5G frequency is more intense than 4G and other technologies and this has given cause for concern,” he said.

“Different agencies will say that 5G is a potential carcinogen, not necessarily on the highest scale. I feel that the issue is that we are subjecting people to this against their will. If there is any chance of harm to ratepayers I think that we need to adopt the precautionary principle with 5G and invest more in fibre optic broadband instead which poses no health risk.”

Cllr Billy Walker argued that before the council lent any support to 5G technology, it needed to carry out a full risk assessment.

“A number of people are concerned about this particular issue on medical grounds and before we take any decision we need to have all the available information in front of us,” he added.

Cllr Alan Lewis said while it is important that the council takes advice on the 5G issue, he said there were areas of the district which do not have any mobile signal at all, including parts of the Spa and Dundrum.

He added: “While I agree that we need to look at the health concerns which have been raised, we also need to take on board the needs of those who currently cannot get a signal. People have expressed concerns about the health impact of 5G and it is right and proper that the council fully investigates these.”

Cllr Willie Clarke agreed that there needed to be health and environmental health impact assessments carried out in relation to 5G technology.

“We need to have all accurate information in front of us so we can make a decision on the way forward. We will then decide on what course of action we will take and it is as simple as that,” he continued. “People are confused about what they are talking about in terms of how this council is going to move forward.”

Cllr Declan McAteer said that the council was mindful of the public’s view on this issue and had built this into how it plans to deal with the issue. He also said that the district cannot fall back in terms of new development opportunities that come its way “on the notions of rumour”.

He added: “There is sufficient government research being carried out on all these new technologies and if we reject everything new that comes into society, nothing would ever move forward. You can never say anything is absolutely totally an utterly unsafe until you prove otherwise.”