Court to hear Irish Sea cable dispute


A challenge to the ministerial go-ahead for an under-sea fibre optic telecommunications cable between Portmarnock, Co Dublin and Wales is to be fast-tracked by the Commercial Court.

Sea Fibre Networks Ltd (SFN), with registered offices at Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, has brought proceedings against the Minister for the Environment granting Emerald Bridge Fibres (EBF) Ltd a licence for the subsea telecommunications cable extending to Port Dafarach in Wales.

EBF is a joint venture company formed by ESB Telecoms Ltd and Geo Networks Ltd while SFN owns and operates a separate subsea fibre optic cable extending from Bull Island in Dublin to Port Dafarach under a foreshore licence issued in September 2011.

SFN says its 131km cable, branded CeltixConnect, is a state-of-the-art network providing high-speed secure connectivity between Ireland and Britain. The company leases part of the cable to businesses in Ireland and the UK.

The central issue in the judicial review action initiated last month by SFN is that the route of the EBFL cable will cross that of SFN’s, allegedly putting the SFN cable at risk. SFN has also alleged a number of defects in the process leading to the licence being issued to EBF.

EBF contends the licence was issued in full accordance with the Minister’s statutory powers and the risk to the SFN cable is nil or “very remote”.