In September 2013, leading members of the Irish thoroughbred industry approached Wilson Hartnell seeking counsel. Planning was underway by three major energy companies to construct large scale wind farm projects consisting of hundreds of wind turbines across the Midlands of Ireland. The thoroughbred industry is a major employer in rural Ireland, directly employing 14,000 full time equivalents and many more in ancillary services, making a direct economic contribution of nearly €1.1 billion to the Irish economy in 2012. The client’s ultimate objective was to oppose the development of wind farms near to thoroughbred establishments and to find viable solutions to allow both sectors to work together in a complementary manner.
To best inform our strategy, Wilson Hartnell analysed the relevant stakeholders, identified the major arguments surrounding the debate and developed a comprehensive communications plan. We conducted polling of members of the thoroughbred industry, the findings of which were used in press materials and infographics. The polling data also acted as a useful tool of engagement for media and stakeholder engagement. These materials were disseminated across social media channels and through the campaign’s purpose built website. We also facilitated briefings for the industry with key political actors, civil servants and policy makers to educate, brief and raise awareness amongst this key audience about the incompatibility of the proposed wind farm development with the continued health of the thoroughbred industry.
The work undertaken by Wilson Hartnell ensured that the issue of wind farm development and the concerns of the thoroughbred industry grew considerably in stakeholders’, media and the general public consciousness. Support for the industry position was also cultivated through social media engagement with concerned industry bodies, media outlets and community groups. The campaign achieved comprehensive print, broadcast and online media coverage in international, national, regional and industry media. In April 2014, the planned wind turbine developments were effectively deferred indefinitely when the Irish government failed to conclude the required inter-governmental agreement with the UK. Subsequently at least one of the companies is reported to have fully abandoned the project.