The members of Cavan County Council are to seek a special meeting with locally elected TDs and Senators to discuss the fallout of An Bord Pleanála's decision to green light plans for the Irish section of Eirgrid's North-South Interconnector project.
Following a suspension of standing orders at their monthly meeting earlier this week, Monday, January 9, the Council approved a proposal to host an emergency meeting to which all elected members, including Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys, will be invited.
Set to take place on Monday, February 13 next, Fianna Fáil's Clifford Kelly described the Bord's decision to grant permission to Eirgrid's multi-million cross-border energy investment plan as "beyond belief" given the wealth of objections to it in its current state.
The 400 kilovolt line will run through counties Cavan, Monaghan, and Meath in Ireland, and Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The development will comprise a new single-circuit overhead transmission line 100 kilometres long, and entail the construction of 299 pylons ranging in height from 26 metres to 51 metres.
The Bord acknowledged in summation, and following assessment of all documents and testimony submitted at public hearings, that the scheme would have some adverse effects on the landscape and negative effects on some property prices. However, they concluded that the scheme was justified on technical and environmental grounds, and did not side with claims from concerned local groups that the proposed development would have a significant visual impact on the landscape.
The Northern Ireland section of the project, meanwhile, is dependent on the outcome of a public inquiry that is scheduled to start in February.
Cavan County Council's move to hold a special meeting follows that of their counterparts in Monaghan who unanimously agreed to pursue the undergrounding of the North-South Interconnector at a meeting, also held on Monday last.
Council members will now ask all Cavan-Monaghan and Meath Oireachtas members, local council members and political parties in the North in their demand for undergrounding as a matter of Government policy.
Criticising the significant number of material changes may by Eirgrid to the plan during the Oral Hearings, some of which were held in Carrickmacross, Cllr Kelly also said the decision to grant furthermore showed that local elected members were not listened to their submissions on the matter.
"It flies in the face of proper democracy," Cllr Kelly told the meeting, adding that he had serious concerns for the legitimacy of future Bord decisions.
Along with seeking a meeting, Cllr Kelly sought to find out also how much Eirgird has spent on the interconnector project.
His proposals were supported by fellow chamber members.
Sinn Fein's Paddy McDonald noted how in earlier proposals Eirgird had stated that the cost of undergrounding was up to 40 times that of providing an overhead line, but this had been downgraded in more recent submissions to just 1.5% more.
"98% of all landowners are opposed to this and we are calling on all TDs on the floor of Leinster House to oppose it," Cllr McDonald said, noting how there was an alternative solution whereby the interconnector line would be undergrounded via the existing road network.
Fine Gael's Val Smith also supported the proposal, as did Cathaoirleach Fergal Curtin who said the impact of the interconnector project in its current guise could be "very serious for East Cavan and our neighbouring counties".
Notice was sent to elected members yesterday (Tuesday, January 10), with Cllr Kelly concluding: "This is the seriousness of the situation we now find ourselves in."