'We are stronger as one voice'

Story by Seamus Enright

Thursday, 16th February, 2017 2:18pm

'We are stronger as one voice'

Local farmers and members of The North East Pylon Pressure group pictured at Muff Cross last May. Back (from left): Eugene Reilly, Noel Reilly, Jim Baird and Martin Fitzsimons, North East Pylon Pressure Committee (NEPPC); front, Michael Jackson, Michael Farrelly, Paul Reilly and Pat Farrelly, commit

Signed by party members, including Cavan-Monaghan TDs Brendan Smith and Niamh Smyth, the motion also addresses the potentially negative impact that over-grounding may have on the local economy and tourism, and new information regarding the feasibility of under-grounding.
Those same apprehensions formed the crux of a specially arranged debate between Oireachtas members and members of Cavan Council at their monthly meeting last Monday.
“The refusal by Eirgird and the Bord to ever objectively examine under-grounding is a big mistake,” Fianna Fáil's Clifford Kelly told the meeting, highlighting that more than 95% of local landowners affected oppose the project in its current guise.
He also quoted a number figures, for example, that Eirgird spent €600,000 on advertising in the run up to the oral hearing in 2010, as well as funding hundreds of sponsorships across the North-East, including a current affairs programme and local festivals in recent years.
“The smugness portrayed by both Eirgrid and An Bord Pleanála that, because this project is vital, it has to be given approval, no matter what issues arise, is a direct challenge to democracy and natural justice,” the Kingscourt local representative riled.
Highlighting under-grounding cases involving developments on mainland Europe, Cllr Kelly stated that the arguments put forward by Eirgrid no longer stand up to scrutiny.
His comments were supported by fellow chamber members, Fine Gael's Carmel Brady, who said locals feel like they're “not being listened to”, and Sinn Féin's Paddy McDonald who commented that the money spent to date could have been better served on under-grounding the project.
Each Oireachtas member had time to respond to the councillors’ concerns.

'Legal or otherwise'

“It is a very important and emotive issue,” Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys said, divulging that the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten will now seek a detailed independent analysis of the interconnector project costs based on representations made.
Hoping fellow Dáil members would support the motion, Deputy Smith meanwhile described as “utterly unacceptable” the manner in which he felt the Bord had treated the submissions of local representatives. He too supported the call for a full review of costs.
Paying tribute to the efforts of protest groups, members of North-East Pylon Pressure Committee (NEPPC) and the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee, Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said he believed that all measures “legal or otherwise” would be used to prevent Eirgird's plan from being proceeded with.
While displeased that the Dáil motion was not a cross-party one, he did offer it support.
“It is only through collective action that we can succeed,” he told the meeting, adding: “I do believe in bringing issues together, and there are none bigger than this, we are stronger together as one voice.”
Deputy Smyth also voiced her displeasure at the Bord's consideration of elected members’ submissions, while Fine Gael Senator Joe O'Reilly said simply “foisting” the project on people affected “is not the way”, noting the impact on a variety of sectors “will have to be factored in”.
Fellow upper house members Diarmuid Wilson (FF) and Robbie Gallagher (FF) also commented, the latter stating that in the decade since the first application, a lot had changed, particularly with regard to cost effectiveness.
“Over the course of 10 years, Eirgrid have, with a spectacular amount of arrogance, inflicted great financial, psychological and emotional anguish onto 25,000 people who will be primarily affected by the North-South Interconnector,” Cllr Sarah O'Reilly joined in.
“These people are not unreasonable people, most of them accept that projects of this kind are needed but not at such a high cost. They should not and will not accept the draconian way that Eirgrid are doing business.”
Her comments were supported by Val Smith (FG) and by John Paul Feeley (FF) who lampooned Eirgrid's recent receipt of a National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) award for 'Plain English'.
“Clearly whoever decided to award them with it had never read their submission to the Bord,” he quipped.

“It was certainly not a good example of good English or otherwise.”

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