Kenny wants North-South interconnector included in pylon review

Taoiseach denies timing influenced by May’s local elections

Dara Calleary: “When the elections are over, nothing will change in the subsequent period.” Photograph: Frank Miller

Dara Calleary: “When the elections are over, nothing will change in the subsequent period.” Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he would like to see the proposed North-South electricity connector included in the review of EirGrid’s plans to erect a network of pylons.

Mr Kenny was responding to a claim yesterday on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme by the Cavan-Monaghan TD Sean Conlan he had been told by the Taoiseach that the expert panel would have the power to commission a new report on the interconnector if deficiencies were found in a 2012 report on the project.

“What I have said to deputies I have met, as the Minister has agreed, that the public would be very reassured if they knew that the overhead and the underground options have both been fully investigated and the already published studies in the case of North-South are sufficient to enable a similar comparison to be made by An Bord Pleanála when they come to decide on the merits of the planning application,’’ said Mr Kenny.

The Taoiseach said Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte would meet with the chairwoman of the expert panel, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, tomorrow to discuss the programme of work.

“That programme of work by EirGrid includes the two – Grid Link and Grid West – and the already advanced work done on the North-South connector,’’ he added.

“And I would like to see the commission have its remit extended to cover that so that there is equality of assessment and fairness for all the people all over the country . . . so that whatever the decision, at the end of the day is, based on cost and all those other factors, that people will clearly understand the nature of the decision to be made.’’

Mr Kenny said the interconnector was needed as a critical piece of infrastructure.

Dara Calleary (FF) claimed there was major confusion regarding the expert panel’s status, with EirGrid chief executive Fintan Slye indicating he intended applying for planning permission so that the North-South interconnector could proceed.

Mr Calleary criticised the absence of a health expert on the panel, adding that the Government was engaged in an exercise to ensure that Fine Gael and Labour got through the local elections on May 23rd.

“When the elections are over, nothing will change in the subsequent period,’’ Mr Calleary added.

Mr Kenny said he did not accept the political assertion. “The response of the Minister for Energy to the 30,000 submissions received has been to establish the commission which is chaired by an eminent retired Supreme Court judge.’’

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party’s position from the outset had been that EirGrid should only proceed the proposed project on the basis that the lines would be put underground.

“We learned from the media that yesterday’s announcement is clearly timed to coincide with the upcoming local and European elections and to push this issue beyond May.’’

Mr Adams said they all wanted to see infrastructural improvements. “The North-South interconnector is very important infrastructure. However, the issue is whether the power should be carried by huge pylons or underground, as is the practice in other states.’’