Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that the proposed North- South Interconnector must be routed underground and that any other option would face fierce opposition from rural communities.
Addressing delegates and visitors at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Carthy said:
“In September, I hosted a delegation to Brussels of stakeholders and community representatives living along the proposed route of the North-South Interconnector.
“The delegation visited the headquarters of Elia, the Belgian electricity transmission operator, which is responsible for developing the ALEGrO Interconnector between Belgium and Germany. The ALEGrO project has many similarities with the North South Interconnector but with one fundamental difference – it will be entirely undergrounded.
“At the National Control Centre of Elia, the delegation learned of the criteria that Elia uses to determine the methods of providing infrastructure. These criteria are similar to what all transmission operators have in place but, at the forefront, is the principal of public acceptance.
“Public acceptance doesn’t feature on the EirGrid or SONI criteria whatsoever. It is clear that consideration of the views of local communities is an important factor that has resulted in the ALEGrO project being undergrounded while the North South Interconnector is not.
“As it is respecting the wishes of the public, Elia’s undergrounded project will be delivered at least seven years faster than EirGrid’s overhead project.
“EirGrid has ignored the public acceptance criteria and dismissed the concerns and wishes of local citizens. The company is engaged in a campaign of dismissal and demonisation against those who express an alternative view to them.
“Disgracefully they are using public funds to pay for this campaign with a lavish PR strategy that includes countless hundreds of thousands of euro in sponsorship and advertising of their misleading messages.
“EirGrid and SONI clearly have might on their side.
“On the other side they face local, proud, rural communities. Those communities need political support.
“When in opposition Fine Gael claimed to support the campaign to develop the interconnector using underground technology. In government they have abandoned their pledges and supported EirGrid’s agenda.
“In opposition Fianna Fáil argue for undergrounding the interconnector but when in government they too blindly followed the direction of EirGrid.
“Only one party, Sinn Féin, in opposition in this state, in government in the north, has stood steadfast in support of citizens concerns. From the outset our policy has been clear and unambiguous and endorsed by several Ard Fheisanna.
“We support the development of the north south interconnector.
“But we have recognised from day one that it can only happen if it developed using underground technology. The evidence is there – undergrounding is the safest, most effective, most cost-efficient and speediest way to develop this infrastructure. In fact it is the only way that it will happen at all.
“Rural communities across Ireland are under attack. EirGrid’s actions have formed part of that attack. If we are serious about supporting rural Ireland then we need to remain steadfast in upholding policies that protect them.”