Suspicion of EirGrid pylon plans is deep and pervasive across country
Locals are angry at what they see as contempt for their concerns
Anti-pylon campaigner Paddy Massey in front of the local information centre in Lismore, Co Waterford. Photograph: David Sleator
It takes only a few minutes listening to opponents of Grid Link to come across to a key aspect, perhaps the key aspect, of what rankles with local people and is galvanising them against the huge pylon project in Ireland’s southeast.
It is the deep and pervasive lack of trust ordinary people have in their government, their elected representatives, people employed by the State on their behalf and those charged with delivering a vital service, in this instance a reliable source of electricity capable of meeting future needs.
No 7 Main Street in Lismore, the pretty town in Co Waterford, is a long-standing retail premises lately fallen into disuse but now reborn as a campaign information centre for a growing local group, Bride and Blackwater Against Pylons (rethinkpylons.org). Today, the entire front of the three-storey terraced building is covered with a giant image – an aerial photograph shows the town, the two rivers, the Bride and Blackwater, and the surrounding countryside, a patchwork of fields and hedgerows.
Superimposed on the image are three lines of pylons, each 50m to 60m tall, corresponding to three possible routes crossing the landscape here, one of which EirGrid, the commercial semi-State company responsible for the grid system on which the country’s electricity is carried, will select in the middle of this year as its preferred route.
The visual impact of the pylons is clear and immediate.
The pylons, assuming they are eventually erected, will transmit 400,000 volt electricity from Knockraha just north of Cork city, east to Great Island near Waterford city, and from there north to Dunstown in Co Kildare. Eirgrid has identified six main corridor routes for the estimated 750 pylons that will be necessary, and 10 mostly minor deviations from those six (eirgridprojects.com/projects/gridlink).
The project, known as Grid Link, will cost an estimated €500 million and is seen by the Government as vital infrastructure linking Munster and Leinster. The third phase of what EirGrid regards as a consultation process ended last week; there will be further consulting after the company announces its preferred route in the middle of this year and eventually An Bord Pleanála will almost certainly hear lengthy arguments for and against the chosen route.
I’m standing inside No 7, known to campaigners as the Blue House. The walls are covered with maps showing three possible pylon routes closest to Lismore. They are named K11, a long line of pylons passing east-west just south of the town, and K21 and K16, two variation routes further to the south crossing the Blackwater close to its confluence with the Bride.
Have you any faith in the consultation process, the planning process? I ask my hosts, Albert Wassenaar, a retired Dutch IT expert with a home near Lismore, and Paddy Massey, who manages an estate nearby on the Blackwater.