Sinn Féin have reiterated their call on the government to direct EirGrid to proceed with the North-South Inter-connector by undergrounding the infrastructure. Speaking following the party’s internal discussion on the review of the International Expert Commission into the project Dáil Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin stated that the government, and Fine Gael in particular, are “running out of places to hide from their pre-election promises”. The Sinn Féin TD claimed that the report shows that undergrounding is “a realistic option” and rubbishes many of the assertions made by EirGrid since this process began.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said: “The report, commissioned by the government, is a detailed piece of work that should be read in full by those with an interest in this subject. The key finding must be that the expert commission found that undergrounding the Inter-connector is a ‘realistic solution’. This endorses what we in Sinn Féin and the campaigning communities have consistently stated and it flies in the face of EirGrid assertions.
The commission notes that undergrounding the project will be slightly more expensive but it does not take into account the additional costs associated with over-head power-lines and associated pylons. For example the commission makes no note of the fall in property and land valuations that would inevitably follow the erection of pylons through local communities. It also made no consideration of the costs that could derive from the project if any of the health concerns were to be realised. Likewise there is also no mention of the financial impact on agriculture related business or the fledgling tourism industry in counties such as Monaghan and Cavan.
Despite these omissions many people will be surprised to learn that the Expert Report found that not only is undergrounding a realistic option but that the estimated bill of €286million compares favourably with EirGrid’s stated costs of €280m for their over-ground option.”
Fine Gael must deliver
Deputy Ó Caoláin continued: “When consideration is given to the huge opposition to the over-head option and the likely additional costs associated with the planning and legal process that will present, then it is clear that if the North South Inter-connector is a priority then undergrounding is the only viable method that can be employed.
I acknowledge that Fine Gael representatives in Cavan and Monaghan have been actively engaged in the campaign to have this project undergrounded and have been genuine in their work in this regard. However, the truth is that their party made clear, unambiguous commitments prior to last February’s General Election which have yet to be delivered upon. Following the publication of the report of the expert commission there is no place for the government to hide on this issue.”
“As a first step Fine Gael must live up to their commitment to reimburse all costs associated with the first An Bord Pleanála public hearing to the campaigning groups and individuals who presented.
And, as a matter of urgency and in the interest of public finances, it must direct EirGrid to proceed with this project on the basis that it will be undergrounded. No ifs, buts or maybes – it is time for Fine Gael to do as they promised!
The Report from the expert commission shows that within the EU over 2,470km of overhead lines are presently substantially delayed (while only 450km are under construction), whilst some 700km of underground cables are currently under construction. That nearly twice the length of high voltage power lines are going underground as opposed to pylon supported shows that this is where technology is heading. To proceed with the overhead option would be akin to a family purchasing an analogue television set now knowing that it will be obsolete within a matter of months.”
Deputy Ó Caoláin concluded by again commending those campaigning communities who have been central to placing the necessary pressure on government thus far. He confirmed that Sinn Féin, through its working group on this issue, will continue to liaise with the campaigning groups and with EirGrid and the governments, north and south.