EirGrid committed to Interconnector pylon plan despite review pledge

Campaigners say they welcome any serious efforts to have a proper review of controversial project

Another review of the North South Interconnector (NSI) is on the cards, Taoiseach, Micheál Martin told last week's Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party meeting.

Minister Thomas Byrne welcomed the Taoiseach's commitment to a review of the project – a high capacity power link between Dublin and Tyrone - which would see 299 pylons running through the Meath, Cavan and Monaghan countryside.

“We will have to see what comes out of the review,” he said.

“This fulfils the commitment by Fianna Fail in the run up to the general election that we would hold a review.”

David Martin, a spokesperson for EirGrid, the company behind the proposal said the interconnector has already been comprehensively assessed on several occasions.

“The most recent review in October 2018 examined the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector. The findings supported EirGrid’s approach to the project, confirming that an overhead line is the best technical solution and the most cost efficient for consumers.”

A spokesperson for the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign said it welcomed any serious efforts to have a proper review of the NSI. He acknowledged the efforts of the Fianna Fáil grassroots members in all three counties over the last number of months in contributing to this decision.

“We also issue a note of caution. There have been previous reviews that had terms of reference that were used and abused to reach a specific conclusion.

“This review will only be of value if it is genuine and objective and addresses the issues and challenges that actually matter.” He said there have been major advances in underground technology since the project was first initiated in 2005, that are being ignored by EirGrid for the NSI.

“There is zero progress with the project in its current form. Almost five years on from planning approval, not one of the nine planning conditions has been addressed and not one of the 584 required access routes has been submitted to the local authorities or communicated to landowners.

“The recent decisions by EirGrid in relation to undergrounding Grid West and its position on undergrounding the Kildare-Meath line, undermine many of the arguments it is using for the NSI position it has taken.

“NEPPC look forward to the formal establishment of the review and expects to be a core contributor to the terms of reference criteria, which needs to consider undergrounding as a priority solution.

“NEPPC requests that EirGrid or ESB makes a public statement clarifying if it has yet signed off on the procurement contract for the production of the 400 pylons.”

Deputies Darren O'Rourke and Johnny Guirke have cautiously welcomed the review but warned that “the devil will be in the detail.”

Deputy O'Rourke said; “Confirmation of the mooted review is required from the Minister with responsibility, Eamon Ryan, who ruled out any such review when questioned in the Dáil by myself and Deputies Guirke and Matt Carthy on 10th March.” He said the review must have adequate terms of reference that avoids the scope for fudge.

“The North-South Interconnector can and should be undergrounded. In fact, it is the only way that the project will receive the necessary public acceptance from the communities affected.

“Previous reviews have confirmed that it is a feasible option for this development.” Deputy Johnny Guirke said the terms of reference of any such review and the make-up on any panel will be crucially important.

“The terms must allow for a comprehensive analysis of the underground option in terms of feasibility, cost, public acceptance and impact on the environment, land-use and visual amenities.

“The first test as to whether this is a serious review will be if the government now instruct EirGrid to cease purchase of materials related to pylon-supporting powerlines, pending the result of the review.