Permission granted for North-South electricity interconnector

Northern Ireland inquiry finds ‘urgent and compelling need’ for £200 million project

The creation of a 138km North-South electricity interconnector moved a step closeron Tuesday when the North’s Department of Infrastructure granted full planning permission for the project.

Planning permission had already been granted in the State and it is expected that work will begin later this year on the connector, which is expected to cost about £200 million (€228 million) and will run from Meath to Tyrone.

The cross-Border interconnector is a joint project between the system operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and EirGrid, which said the development would deliver “very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers across the country”.


The decision to grant permission had to be taken by senior civil servants in the absence of a Northern Executive and a minister in the department due to the collapse of powersharing last year.


The project has been delayed for several years due to opposition to scores of pylons being erected to carry the overhead cables along the 138km route the 400kv electricity line will take. The project is expected to take about three years to complete.

Those opposing the development wanted the cables to be laid underground but this was rejected as authorities believed it would be too expensive.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, who has supported groups in her Meath East constituency opposing the construction of pylons as part of the interconnector, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” at the decision.

She said she was awaiting the results of two reports commissioned by Minister for Energy Denis Naughten into the project.

One is examining the the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector. The second is to examine the level of compensation offered to farmers on whose land the pylons may be constructed.

Meath-based Fianna Fáil councillor Damien O’Reilly described yesterday’s news as a “devastating blow”.

Northern section

“The hope was that the Northern section of the line might fail in its application and then the whole project would collapse,” he said.“The campaign will only start when EirGrid tries to build on the farmers’ lands.”

A four-day public inquiry into the proposal was held in the North last February. The department on Tuesday published an independent report prepared by the Planning Appeals Commission sanctioning the project.

The department in a statement said “importantly the report endorses the significant strategic importance of the development for Northern Ireland at an international, national and regional level and its compliance with planning policy.

“The department considered that it is in the public interest to take this decision, without further delay, given the strategic importance of the project for the region.”

Business lobby group Ibec said the project receiving permission was “a major milestone in what is arguably the single most urgent infrastructure project on the island”.

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the decision.

"Businesses and employers need access to electricity in the most cost-efficient manner possible, and the interconnector is key to achieving this," said chamber president Ellvena Graham.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times