Doherty: I did not encourage civil disobedience over interconnector

Government Chief Whip says she is 100% behind the Government’s plans

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has rejected reports that had encouraged civil disobedience by farmers opposed to the project. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has rejected reports that had encouraged civil disobedience by farmers opposed to the project. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty said she is 100 per cent behind the Government’s plans for a north-south interconnector.

She also rejected reports that she had encouraged civil disobedience by farmers opposed to the project.

The North-South interconnector will run on 299 pylons about 50m high from a substation in Woodland, Co Meath, to Clontibret in Co Monaghan, linking the electricity networks in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

“What I actually said is that I fully support the farmers in the action they’re going to take now, which is plans to make way for a judicial review,” she told RTÉ Radio’s News at One on Tuesday.

On the morning of December 21st, the date An Bord Pleanála granted approval for the project, Ms Doherty provided a statement to an RTÉ radio reporter in which she said: “I am bitterly disappointed but not surprised by the An Bord Pleanála decision. I am particularly disappointed with the treatment by Eirgrid of the people of Cavan, Meath and Monaghan.

“We are about to enter into a phase of civil disobedience to hamper the decision made by An Bord Pleanála and I fully support the farmers and landowners in that action. In terms of my position in Government, I have one last chance to work to get this decision overturned and I am going to remain in Government to make use that chance.”

“But more importantly, from their perspective, is to put plans together to make an oral presentation to the planning application for the second part of this interconnector which is going ahead in northern Ireland.

On Tuesday Ms Doherty said: “The suggestion that I would support, or as has been claimed by your station a number of times, that I would actually encourage civil disobedience is something so far removed from number one my personality and number two from the position I hold as Chief Whip.

The Chief Whip said she had supported landowners and residents in her county in relation to this project since it was first mooted 14 years ago buy was also “fully supportive of Government policy.”

“It was Fianna Fáil’s government policy back then. It is now our policy that we need a second interconnector to provide security of supply but also to reduce our costs. I am 100 per cent behind that.

“Where I am disheartened and disappointed is the treatment of the people for whom this service is going to be worked for, over the last number of years.

Ms Doherty said her position now was to continue to work to champion the underground option.

The Chief Whip said she supported a decision by farmers in the area to seek a judicial review

“But let’s be clear, this particular application has been given planning permission with less than 20 per cent of access along the route, it’s going to be difficult for Eirgrid, that’s why I was constantly encouraging them to work with the people and to support the people they’re here to serve.”

Ms Doherty also rejected criticism of the slow pace of “new politics”.

She said the Government was prioritizing 31 Bills for the next session.

“This shows that we’re very committed as a minority government to pass the legislation that is needed to make people’s loves better.”