New interconnector review could be complete by early Summer

Parameters for scope set to be concluded imminently, says Minister

“There is a review”.

That was the definitive and concluding line given by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin during Leader's Questions this week, Wednesday, April 21.

The Taoiseach was responding to a series of questions and statements made on the matter by deputies ranging from Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan) and Darren O'Rourke (Meath East) to Aontú's Peadar Tobín (Meath West).

Deputy Carthy asked if the decision by EirGrid to underground the Kildare and Meath high voltage power lines means that the North-South interconnector is the only project in EirGrid's GRID25 plans that it intends to pursue using overhead, pylon supported power lines.

“The Taoiseach knows, because I am sure his representatives have told him, that there is huge community anger and frustration with the lack of engagement from and the arrogance of EirGrid.”

He asked if the review promised by the Taoiseach would merely be a review of previous reviews and that otherwise “it is full steam ahead as far as this project is concerned. Will the Taoiseach commit to adhering to his pre-election commitment to carry out a full feasibility analysis to underground this project,” asked Deputy Carthy.

Aontú leader Deputy Tobin noted how his party had prepared a Bill seeking a “proper analysis of the true cost of overgrounding” which they believed would lead to the undergrounding of the project. “We have done something strange. We invited all Deputies in the Dáil to sign our Bill. So far, only one Deputy in any of those constituencies has signed. No Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael Deputies have signed the Bill even though they stood in campaign meetings across those constituencies saying they would go to the barricades in support of the communities. Will the Taoiseach help us get this Bill through the Dáil?”

Deputy O'Rourke, who had addressed Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan regarding the NS Interconnector project only the day before, continued piling there pressure on An Taoiseach, telling him that the review he promised represents an opportunity to “get this right once and for all”.

He further stated that a short desktop review of the existing reviews simply “will not do”.

Minister Ryan said had described the Interconnector, which will see the construction of 409 51 metre high 400kw pylons through Cavan, Monaghan and Meath, then on into Armagh and Tyrone, in some cases only 13 metres from people's homes, as the “one of the most critical projects” for the whole island. “Without it, we lose North-South connectivity and, to my mind, that threatens the whole co-operation on energy that has helped to transform both sides of this island and all parts of the island,” said Minister Ryan. “The North-South interconnector is the right and critical project.”

Of the review, the Green's leader stated he had held discussions with Northern colleagues and met with officials at Eirgrid recently where he was brought up to speed regarding the ongoing judicial review case which is due to be concluded early this summer.

“We need our review process, to which I have committed with my Government colleagues, to be done within that timeframe. The final draft terms are not concluded yet, but they will be very shortly, within the coming days. Very quickly, we will commission someone to complete that review, which is focusing on the range of independent international studies that we have done on this issue, and to look again at all of the analysis presented to get confirmation that the analysis and thinking behind it are still absolutely appropriate and correct.”

The Minister added he is “very keen” the review gets done in a “proper and quick manner”, and completed in a similar timeframe to judicial proceedings being finalised in the North.

“That will allow the Government to make final decisions on the project and allow Eirgrid to proceed,” said Minister Ryan.

EirGrid recently announced the new 400 kV Kildare to Meath line will be put underground. Undergrounding the Kildare-Meath line Eirgrid concluded after years of stating otherwise was that the process would be more cost-effective than overhead lines.

Commenting the day after during Leader's Questions, the Taoiseach said: “The Deputies' know the position of EirGrid. It believes it cannot be undergrounded. I have pointed to areas around the country where certain initiatives have been undergrounded. The context is the all-island single energy market and so on. There is a review.”