SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon has asked Armagh City and District Council to formally write to Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD expressing concerns at the decision by the Irish Government to investigate undergrounding some hi-voltage power lines and not part of the North-South Interconnector.
Councillor O’Hanlon was speaking at Monday night’s Public Services Scrutiny Committee.
He explained: “We are all very aware of the proposed North-South Interconnector and the very real concerns we have about the project. In recent weeks there have been mutterings from the Dublin Government that a new application by Eirgrid is imminent. In fact, Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, says he expects the application to be submitted within the next three weeks.
“Many of those living along the route of the proposed North-South Interconnector, and indeed all of us on Armagh City and District Council, have been calling for the project to be undergrounded. The Energy Companies and indeed the Energy departments in Stormont and Dublin have been resisting that call.
“However in recent months Minister Rabbitte and his Government colleagues have been coming under strong pressure from local communities in the vicinity of other Interconnector / Pylon projects to underground these high-voltage power lines.
“In addition to the NIE/ Eirgrid North–South Interconnector Eirgrd have published proposals for a ‘Grid West’ and ‘Grid Link’ Project. The ‘Grid West’ project is to run from Mayo to Roscommon and the ‘Grid Link’ project is to run from Kildare to Cork and, under significant pressure from political colleagues, Minister Rabbitte has agreed to establish an ‘Independent Expert Panel’, under the leadership of retired Judge Justice Catherine McGuinness, to investigate and make recommendations on the undergrounding of power lines.
“However the Minister has so far refused to have the scope of the independent panel extended to include the North-South Interconnector. This is an astonishing response and I have asked that the Council’s Chief Executive write to An Taoiseach and seek assurances that the entire North-South project be considered by the panel.
“To put it quite simply, if it’s good enough for the people of Mayo, in the Taoiseach’s own constituency, then it should be good enough for the people of Armagh, Tyrone, Monaghan and Meath. It is a pure insult to the people of this region to treat them any different than those in the vicinity of the other projects and I hope that the Taoiseach will insist that the North-South Interconnector is included in the panels remit.”