Government widens pylon inquiry, denies climbdown

Rabbitte agrees to investigation into interconnector after Kenny’s intervention

The Government has denied that the late intervention by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to widen the remit of a commission looking at two high-voltage transmission lines amounts to a climbdown.

The Government has denied that the late intervention by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to widen the remit of a commission looking at two high-voltage transmission lines amounts to a climbdown.

Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 06:14


The Government has denied that the late intervention by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to widen the remit of a commission looking at two high-voltage transmission lines amounts to a climbdown.

On Tuesday, Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte announced he was setting up a commission chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness to oversee new studies examining underground alternatives to two proposed overhead high-voltage networks.

Each requires hundreds of massive pylons – one running from Kildare to Cork, the other through north Connacht.

The decision, which was approved by Cabinet, made no reference to another controversial proposed transmission line, the North-South interconnector, running between Meath and Tyrone.

However, Cavan-Monaghan TD Seán Conlan yesterday said the Taoiseach had told him and other Fine Gael TDs that the interconnector would be included in the remit of the commission.

Later yesterday, Mr Kenny told the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions that he would like to see the commission have its remit extended to cover that line.


“Assessment and fairness”
He justified its inclusion on grounds of “equality of assessment and fairness for all the people all over the country”.

Mr Rabbitte said yesterday that Mr Kenny had raised the matter with him before the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

He dismissed suggestions of a row between the Government parties over the matter, or that the hand of Labour had been forced by Fine Gael, saying he had “no difficulty”with the Taoiseach’s request.

“The Taoiseach could not have been more supportive because it [the issue] is not an easy one for him or for the Government,” he said.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin said the Government had been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on the issue.

Dara Calleary of Fianna Fáil said that only three weeks ago both Mr Kenny and Mr Rabbitte were dismissing all concerns. The review was a “last-ditch effort” to salvage losses in the local elections.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams portrayed it as a “political stunt”.

The high-voltage lines are part of Grid25, a major EirGrid project to upgrade the electricity network.

However, its plans to run overhead lines using pylons up to 43 metres tall has led to dozens of local opposition groups being formed, raising concerns about possible health implications, property prices, and impact on visual amenities, woodlands and tourism.

A large number of backbench TDs and Senators from Fine Gael and Labour have also expressed concern.


Public submissions
More than 30,000 submissions were received from the public during the consultation period of GridLink, the 250km line that will run from Kildare to south Cork.

One problematic issue for the commission is that the North-South interconnector is at a much more advanced stage than the other two lines.

EirGrid chief executive Fintan Slye said yesterday a planning application for the project would be submitted to An Bord Pleanála within weeks.

It means that Mrs Justice McGuinness and her colleagues will have only three weeks to review the integrity of the process .