Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said putting electricity cables underground was "probably feasible" if consumers were "prepared to take the hit for the next fifty years on their bill".
Mr Rabbitte was speaking as the deadline falls today for the extended period of consultation from the public on the Eirgrid Grid Link Project, has attracted much local opposition to the pylons.
Mr Rabbitte said people are “entitled” to get a response from Eirgrid and the Government which is “sensitive to arguments they are making”. However some arguments “don’t hold water” he said. Eirgrid has to show it has taken the submissions on board and responded to them point by point, he said.
The project was “a huge infrastructural investment programme” which “you can not change at the whim of a passing fashion,” he told RTÉ Radio. He was later challenged on the statement which he said was referring to the impact of the issue on local elections.
Asked on Newstalk Radio if there could be legitimate health concerns in relation to pylons he said: “None that I can find”.
Eirgrid have an “awful lot of hoops” to jump through before lodging a planning application which would not be until 2016, he said.
He backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny's statement yesterday that the infrastructure was necessary for jobs and investment. "If we are going to have social progress and economic development in the regions of Ireland you must have a power system capable of delivering energy to the regions," he told RTÉ Radio.
Yesterday Mr Kenny said it was “ironic in many ways that people say to me ‘well my children have to go away, have to emigrate,’ and in many cases they emigrate to countries where these things are matter of course as providing infrastructure for development.”
Recent comments by Mr Rabbitte and Mr Kenny on the issue shows that the Government ” absolutely no intention of taking on board the genuine concerns of communities and intends to just press ahead with the large scale construction of overhead lines regardless of any objections,” Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary said in a statement today.
He described the Taoiseach’s linking of emigration to the debate as “outrageous” and “nothing more than scaremongering”.
Meanwhile John Lowry, project manager at Gridlink, said people were asking in their submissions why this could not be undergrounded. The transmission system used AC electricity and it was “not technically feasible”to move it underground. This would use DC electricity which will not do what is needed, he told Newstalk Radio.
The scheme is a € 500m scheme to upgrade the transmission network linking Leinster and Munster. It is one of a number of major network upgrades and
As envisaged it provides for the erection of hundreds of pylons throughout the country. But that aspect has met with huge opposition at local level, with opposition groups being formed to argue that the pylons should be put underground.