Taoiseach gives commitment on NS interconnector
Fianna Fail made pre-election 2020 General Election commitments regarding halting all Eirgrid/ESB activities on the NSI until an independent analysis was undertaken.
An Taoiseach Michael Martin has given the clearest commitment yet that the government will sanction an independent review of how the North South Interconnector (NSI) project will be delivered.
The leader of the country gave the commitment when speaking to members at a virtually-held meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party earlier this evening.
Deputy Martin was responding to a direct question tabled by local Senator Robbie Gallagher on the subject.
He was supported in his line of questioning by Chair of Fianna Fail parliamentary party, Cavan-Monaghan TD, Brendan Smith.
Fianna Fail made pre-election 2020 General Election commitments regarding halting all Eirgrid/ESB activities on the NSI until an independent analysis was undertaken. This included statements made at several public meetings on the matter.
Fine Gael representatives made similar commitments.
In 2017 Fianna Fáil tabled a motion in the Dáil calling for an independent review of the Eirgrid managed project.
At the time the party claimed the Government of the day was attempting to push through the interconnected proposal without taking on board some the serious concerns that local communities regarding the route the project would take.
They also argued that greater consideration needs to be given to the idea of undergrounding the NSI which has been a point of contention for the people of Cavan, Monaghan, and Meath for almost a decade now.
Last December the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting said it would request that Transport Minister Eamon Ryan would “consider undertaking one final review” of undergrounding the NSI before EirGrid commences any further tendering process or works.
In June 2019 ESB Networks awarded a framework contract for the design, test and supply of steelwork (400 pylons) in relation to the NSI. However, under this framework it was stated there would be no supply of materials until the planning process in Northern Ireland was complete.
The NSI, which most recently had been given a completion date circa 2023, is to be constructed by ESB Networks while Eirgrid carries out the long-term planning of the energy transmission system.
Speaking following the conclusion of the Fianna Fail parliamentary meeting, Deputy Smith welcomed the commitment given by Deputy Martin.
“Senator [Robbie] Gallagher asked that there would be a review and the Taoiseach has committed to delivering that. I support that,” said the local TD, who paid tribute to the pressure maintained at local level in demanding that undergrounding of the project be reconsidered.
“We have always listened to the people and what has been asked. Clifford Kelly has done a lot of work on this at council level, and it is important that we follow through on what promised pre-election.”
In November, Monaghan County Council passed a motion calling for an immediate government directive to be issued to Eirgrid to stop all works on the North-South interconnector. The motion, brought forward by Cllr Seamus Coyle, called for an independent report into the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector before signing of contracts.
In December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the project in Ireland, while in January 2018 full planning permission was granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland.
Both planning decisions were subject to legal proceedings in each jurisdiction.
In Ireland a Supreme Court appeal of the planning permission was dismissed in February 2019.
The same month in Northern Ireland the Department for Infrastructure asked the High Court to quash the planning permission given so the planning application can be re-determined under new legislation introduced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018.