Incoming Eirgrid chairman denies conflict of interest

John O’Connor rejects suggestion of ‘overlap’ with former job at An Bord Pleanála

John O’Connor, pictured during his time as chairman of An Bord Pleanála.

John O’Connor, pictured during his time as chairman of An Bord Pleanála.

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 07:02


The newly appointed chairman of Eirgrid, John O’Connor, has rejected claims that he has a conflict of interest due to his previous role as chairman of An Bord Pleanála.

Fianna Fáil and a Labour Senator have criticised Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte for making the appointment. Mr O’Connor told The Irish Times last night that he would not regard himself as having any conflict of interest in his new position.

“I am out of An Bord Pleanála for two years and have no involvement with the board at this stage,” he said. He added that he was looking forward to his new role with Eirgrid.

Mr O’Connor was chairman of An Bord Pleanala for 11 years during which a number of controversial decisions to approve wind farms were made.

Labour Senator John Whelan accused Mr Rabbitte of displaying “an appalling level of arrogance” in choosing Mr O’Connor as the chair of Eirgrid. Mr Whelan said “he had no doubt whatsoever” that Mr John O’Connor is “a man of the utmost integrity with the requisite skills and qualifications” for the position.

However, the Senator said the appointment created “an unnecessary overlap and direct connection between the roles and functions of Eirgrid and An Bord Pleanála”. Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Byrne called on Mr Rabbitte to explain the process of selecting Mr O’Connor, and said the it was seeking an assurance that it would not pose a conflict of interest.

Mr O’Connor has held a number of senior positions in the Department of the Environment and is chairman of the Pyrite Resolution Board. He will be invited to appear at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications before his appointment is formalised.

Separately yesterday, Mr Rabbitte said engagement between Eirgrid and community objectors to the expansion of its electricity network must be “reasonable”, adding the Government should not have to bear costs to allay concerns that are not well founded”.