COMMUNITY AND POLITICIANS CALL FOR EIRGRID INTERCONNECTOR TO BE PUT UNDERGROUND
EIGHT TDs from the three main parties expressed unanimous opposition to EirGrid’s plan for a North/South high voltage electricity transmission line when stage two of the Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the planning application began in Carrickmacross on Monday (11th April). All pointed out that local communities and landowners were strongly opposed to the overhead line and the 300 pylons that would be erected across Monaghan, Cavan and Meath.
EirGrid again defended its choice not to put the cables underground for reasons of cost and security. But they were told by a Cavan farmer their plans to put a pylon near his house and the remains of a fort were a total disgrace. Paul Reilly from Gallonboy near Kingscourt said he did not know what EirGrid were up to. It was as though EirGrid were taking a bulldozer and pushing everything away in this big tourism area near the site of the Muff Fair. They were going backwards (in technology).
He explained to the planning inspectors that as a farmer he bought an up to date tractor; he did not buy a donkey. He had worked on the underground gas pipeline in County Meath and there was no problem about it at all. Mr Reilly was applauded by other land owners as he stated bluntly: either EirGrid put the cables underground or the project won’t go at all.
A number of other landowners, mainly farmers repeated the same message during yesterday’s proceedings. On Monday 18th April, individual land owners along the line from County Monaghan will make their submissions, starting with where the proposed overhead line crosses the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, close to the Monaghan Way. The hearing is expected to last until the middle of next month.
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the vehement opposition to EirGrid’s plans he had witnessed and had experienced at successive public meetings knew no political or religious boundaries or borders. That opposition from Meath through Cavan and Monaghan to Armagh and Tyrone equated with a mighty roar and one that must be heard, heeded and respected. His party was not opposed to the development of a North/ South interconnector, a point that was also raised by former Stormont Agriculture Minister and former MP Michelle Gildernew. What they were against was the plan to put the power lines overhead, suspended on steel pylons. He also called for the project to proceed by putting the cables underground.
Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth expressed her total objection to the proposed development in its current form and said it could not go ahead without public acceptance. Her constituency colleague Brendan Smith TD claimed people in the North East were being treated as second class citizens compared to other parts of the country.
As well as the TDs, evidence was also given to the inspectors by a former Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan and by eleven of the eighteen Monaghan Councillors. Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council, Cllr Noel Keelan, said he wanted to put on record the total opposition by the people of the county to the project in its current form. There was a sense of déjà vu: nothing had changed in the past six years since the previous application, he claimed.
Cllr Keelan later asked the presiding inspector what would be the response from An Bord Pleanála when a new government was formed and the new Dáil would have representatives from three main parties opposed to an overhead line, as had been made clear on Monday. He was informed that the Board would have to have regard to current government policy when it made its decision.
Following the submissions by public representatives EirGrid project manager Aidan Geoghegan again explained why the company had opted for the cross-country overhead route. He also denied that they had not consulted about an underground option and referred to a booklet that had been produced for stakeholders in 2009 containing a summary of a report by consultants. Mr Geoghegan also dismissed claims that the interconnector would bring no benefit to the three counties in the Republic that the proposed line would cross.