EirGrid’s control of department approach to North South Interconnector raises massive questions
Matt Carthy response to Northern Standard FOI documentation relating to North South Interconnector
“It is impossible now for anyone to have faith in the government or the department relating to the North-South Interconnector. Indeed it is obvious that the independent study commissioned by Minister Denis Naughtan, ostensibly to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the project, is irrelevant as the department and government are clearly happy to take their instruction and direction from EirGrid without any due consideration for the views of the local communities that stand to be negatively affected by the development”. So said Matt Carthy in response to the FOI documentation released by the Northern Standard containing details of communication between EirGrid and the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment.
The Sinn Féin MEP (and Cavan Monaghan General Election candidate) has commended the Northern Standard and Michael Fisher for an excellent piece of journalism in seeking, acquiring and disseminating the FOI material.
Matt Carthy said:
“This is a massive and important public interest story that should send shock waves through the political system and provoke concern among anyone who cares about the planning and political processes. We essentially now have indisputable proof that government policy in the strategically essential area of energy provision is been directed – not by elected politicians, or even civil servants – but by a company that has shown itself incapable of understanding the concept of public acceptability or consultation.
“That EirGrid have been monitoring the public statements and social media comments of elected representatives from this region (and kindly passing on details to the department) yet have refused to actually listen to the views that those representatives have conveyed is symptomatic of their entire approach.
“What is much more worrying is that the department have gladly received these types of updates and have been willing to be directed at each and every turn by EirGrid. This creates huge questions of credibility as to both the planning and political processes. EirGrid are supposed to be answerable to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Instead they’re writing his answers for him!
“Every aspect of the department’s interaction on the North-South Interconnector is done in collaboration with EirGrid. The papers show that they even liaised as to who would represent each body during the hearing I held between campaigning organisations from the region and the European Commission in Brussels last year.
“Many of us suspected that the department was not an honest broker on this issue. This is no longer a suspicion – it is an absolute fact. How can anybody discuss this issue with the Minister or his officials in good faith knowing that they will consider as gospel all information provided by EirGrid.
“EirGrid itself is in conflict with the communities of this region. The department’s actions have clearly placed the government on the side opposite those communities. Many will already be asking questions as to whether there is a pre-determined outcome to the study commissioned by the Minister into the feasibility of undergrounding the interconnector. That is extremely concerning but understandable as the papers secured by the Northern Standard show that at no point has the department or Minister questioned a single action of EirGrid.
“For the sake of the integrity of the political process it is now vital that every elected representative in this region make a stand on this issue. Bland statements calling for reviews are not good enough. The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil representatives from this region that are keeping this government in power must pledge to withdraw that support unless and until EirGrid is treated as the vested interest it is and the voices of our communities are inserted into the heart of the decision making process.
“The department, as well as being led by EirGrid, is also being misled. While receiving EirGrid’s weekly messages they have not yet understood the central message that has been conveyed by communities and their political representatives – that is that the North South Interconnector will only be completed on the basis that it is developed using the underground technology that is available”.