Rabbitte confirms EirGrid appointment
Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has confirmed his appointment of John O’Connor as chairman of EirGrid
Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has confirmed his appointment of John O’Connor as chairman of EirGrid despite objections from members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications.
In a letter to committee chairman John O’Mahony TD (Fine Gael), the Minister said he was satisfied that Mr O’Connor – who served as chairman of An Bord Pleanála for 11 years — was “exceptionally well qualified” to be EirGrid’s chairman.
“I regret that a small number of colleagues felt unable to strongly express their views without being personally offensive to Mr O’Connor.
“That is especially so since Mr O’Connor didn’t seek the job. Rather I sought him out,” he said.
He had done so “having recently experienced how effectively in a short time he dealt with the pyrite issue” – as chairman of the Pyrite Resolution Board, set up to deal with defects in housing caused by the use of pyrite-infected gravel.
Grid 25 project
He said Mr O’Connor would now work with the EirGrid board to ensure that the company plans its controversial €2.5 billion Grid 25 project in a way that “minimises the effects on the visual environment and the natural and built heritage” of Ireland.
Mr Rabbitte said his “over-riding impression” from the committee’s recent hearings were that members had “for some reason decided that Mr O’Connor was the appropriate person against whom to vent their manifest frustration with EirGrid”.
Although members appeared to agree that Mr O’Connor “is a public servant of the highest integrity . . . the suggestion persists that as chairperson he would be likely to use his past knowledge and contacts to disadvantage citizens and community groups”.
The Minister also rejected allegations that there was a “conflict of interest” in Mr O’Connor taking up the chairmanship of EirGrid, having previously headed An Bord Pleanála, or that the appeals board would be inhibited in adjudicating on EirGrid’s plans.
Referring to Mr O’Connor’s frank admission that he “would not like to live close to a pylon”, Mr Rabbitte said some members of the committee saw this as a “clincher”, even though it coincided with their own views. “So why feign such shock?” he asked.
“I regret that anyone should be ‘a bit aghast’ that the stipend attached to being chairperson of EirGrid was unknown to Mr O’Connor.
“Responsibility for that omission rests with me, as I did not – nor did he – raise the issue.
“The former chairperson of EirGrid received €21,600 and I presume that will continue.”