Bruton says pylons crucial to regional job creation
Minister says areas linked to a modern power network will attract investment
The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton: It “goes without saying” that regions linked to a modern power network would find it easier to attract investment from big companies.
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton has intervened in the contentious debate on electricity pylons, saying the development of a modern power network in the regions is crucial for job creation outside Dublin and other urban centres.
Interviewed by The Irish Times, he said it “goes without saying” that regions linked to a modern power network would find it easier to attract investment from big companies.
A €3.2 billion plan by network operator EirGrid to upgrade the regional grid has run into a storm of protest from farm, tourism and environmental groups. A march against pylons and wind farms yesterday at Vinegar Hill, Wexford, was described by its organisers as the first act in the year-long campaign.
As the Opposition targets the Coalition over the initiative, there is concern within the Government parties that sustained public resistance in pylon sites could lead to the loss of seats in the local election next May.
However, Mr Bruton argued that the significantly higher cost of underground cabling would inevitably feed through to increased electricity prices for both business and domestic users.
“If we want to have regional development, we have to build out the regional infrastructure,” the Minister said, in the interview prior to his visit to Saudi Arabia.
“The criticism I would get from colleagues in the political system is that there isn’t a spread on employment growth, that it’s becoming too urban-centric and Dublin-centric. Clearly, if we want to have the regional spread we have to be able to offer the infrastructures – robust infrastructure – across the country.”
The agencies in Mr Bruton’s purview include IDA Ireland, which last week said it would build regional manufacturing centres to boost capacity for new projects.
With reliable access to high-volume electricity a key demand for many major investors, the Minister said it was for regions to grab the attention of companies and demonstrate they could meet such requirements.
“So, companies come with ready-made needs and they will typically employ someone who isn’t us – it’s not the Government – to say: ‘Okay, where can I fulfil these needs?’ So it’s a question of regions needing to impose themselves on the radar of companies and show that they can deliver across the range of needs.”
Under the EirGrid plan, a North-South interconnector is to link Co Meath with Co Tyrone and a second line would link Co Kildare to Co Cork via Co Wexford. A third line would link Co Mayo with Co Roscommon.
“I certainly see that it’s an issue of: if we are to match our employment ambitions and we want to see balanced regional growth, you have to have the capacity to stitch in the infrastructures to deliver that balanced regional growth,” Mr Bruton said.
Asked whether he was saying pylons were simply the price to be paid for job creation in the regions, the Minister said the planning process would make assessments in each individual case.
While he would not dictate to An Bord Pleanála, he said there was a need for cost-effective infrastructure and you could not divorce the two from one another.