Sinn Féin Cavan Monaghan Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has stated that Sinn Féin’s record on tackling issues surrounding Eirgrid's proposed north south interconnector was “unmatched by any other party north or south”, Fianna Fáil included. He made the comment railing against those by fellow constituency colleague, Fianna Fáil's Niamh Smyth last week who described it as a “travesty” that Sinn Féin “did not flex its muscles” on the issue when she feels they had ample opportunity to do so.
“It is unfortunate that a Cavan Monaghan Deputy has in an ill-informed attempt sought to open up inter-party strife on this issue. It has been the long standing approach of all elected representatives in Cavan and Monaghan to maintain cross–party cohesion on the matter,” Deputy Ó Caoláin said responding to the developing war of words on the matter.
He added: “I have at all times endeavoured to address the north south interconnector on an all–party basis knowing that this strength, this unity, offered the embattled communities the best prospect of succeeding in their campaign to force the interconnector cabling underground. I, at least, intend to continue this approach.”
Last week in the Dail Deputy Smyth and fellow party TD Brendan Smith raked into Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten over what they feel is how the people of counties Cavan, Meath and Monaghan have felt “let down” and “unfairly treated” throughout the interconnector planning process
“They are asking why the cables should not be put underground and the cabling proposal will not be considered when it is in the case of Grid West,” Deputy Smyth said. “While the Minister or his Department may consider land valuation, the heritage and history of the area and people's health not to be priorities to be dealt with in reports, I implore [Minister Naughten] to ensure they will be and that access will not be granted at a later stage in order to allow EirGrid to plough through people's land,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, Deputy Smith said that there had been a “complete abuse” of the planning system in Ireland in regard to the interconnector project. “All Members and many councillors from counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath made presentations at the hearing. But An Bord Pleanála did not even refer to our participation in the process, which is a disgrace. An Bord Pleanála allowed EirGrid to bring forward additional material during the course of the hearing, which was utterly wrong.”
He remained critical too of the fact that there had been “no political or ministerial input” into the interconnector planning process north of the border.
In his response to queries on the interconnector by Deputies Smyth and Smith, as well as several other elected representatives from the region, Minister Naughten voiced his intention to publish the reports “without delay”.
To be brought to Cabinet first, the Minister said once “that has been done”, it is his intention to publish them. “I have already instructed my officials in that regard. I am anxious to have them placed in the public domain as quickly as possible to let people go through them and have all of the information available to them.
The oral hearing at An Bord Pleanála started before I was appointed. I know of the frustration which has been expressed by colleagues, not just on the floor of the House but also by others, at the manner in which information has been disclosed. I have made my views known on that issue.