“Pressure must be exerted on Cabinet Ministers to ensure communities concerns on North South Interconnector are heeded” – Matt Carthy TD
Cavan Monaghan Dáil Deputy, Matt Carthy, has said that the last chance for community concerns on the North South Interconnector to be heeded is for Cabinet Ministers from Cavan/ Monaghan and Meath to bring them to the heart of government.
This week, Deputy Carthy said that Ministers Heather Humphreys and Helen McEntee must demand that government deliver a full independent examination of undergrounding the Interconnector. Those Ministers, he said, cannot remain silent on this matter considering that the issue is heading to a protracted conflict between landowners and communities with EirGrid.
The Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson also accused Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members of ‘going into hiding’ since their fanfare announcement last March that there would be a review of the project. It has since been evident that the review does not have the capacity to amend or alter existing proposals to deliver the Interconnector via pylon-supported overhead powerlines.
Carthy reiterated this week that his party remains committed to ensuring that the North South Interconnector is undergrounded. He said that this was the only mechanism by which the project could be finalised in a cost-effective and timely manner.
“The only way that the North South Interconnector can be delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner is by ensuring that it is undergrounded. The previous report commissioned by the then government in 2018 confirmed that undergrounding is a ‘credible option’.
“For our part, we in Sinn Féin are committed to securing the Interconnector through that means. In every year since 2007 our Ard Fheis has passed motions in that vein. In the Dáil myself and the Sinn Féin Energy Spokesperson, Darren O’Rourke, raise the matter at every opportunity. Personally, in the last year alone, I have challenged the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister responsible, Eamon Ryan, Department Officials and EirGrid directly in the Dáil chamber and in Oireachtas committees. I have pursued every development on this issue as doggedly, as promised, as my predecessor Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Previously, as MEP I facilitated a delegation of campaigners to Brussels to raise the lack of ‘public acceptance’ for the current proposals with the European Commission and to visit the headquarters for the AllegRo project, an Interconnector very similar to this but which is being undergrounded.
“I will continue to challenge those who believe that the communities affected by the proposed pylon-supported overhead Interconnector can be ignored. So too will my Sinn Féin colleagues on Monaghan County Council, in the Dáil and in the Assembly. Our mood has certainly not mellowed and there is zero basis for the question to be even asked. There may be some in the party that hold a view that the ends are as important as the means, but their position has been rejected by our party membership and leadership at every turn.
“There is no question regarding Sinn Féin’s bone-fides on this issue.
“It is time that pressure be applied where it can make a difference – at those in government in this state who can direct EirGrid to deliver the North South Interconnector in line with the wishes of the communities who live alongside the proposed route.
“I can understand the embarrassed silence of Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members since the ‘review’ they announced last March turned into a sham with a predetermined outcome. But, just as they were happy to grab the headlines they should have the integrity to acknowledge that they were duped. Instead, they have essentially gone into hiding.
“The so-called ‘review’ will not be what was promised, it is just an appraisal of previous ‘reviews’. The Minister responsible has accepted this and EirGrid have said that they are proceeding as planned regardless that the ‘review’ hasn’t even started.
“Has the mood of our local Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members mellowed? Between them they have hardly uttered a word in either the Dáil or the Seanad since last March’s announcement. Under the current government arrangements, Fianna Fáil will hold the office of Taoiseach for just twelve more months. If they fail in the interim to secure an adequate examination of the undergrounding option for the interconnector, as they previously promised, then they will have failed in representing the people of this region.
FG Government Ministers
“The communities affected by the current North South Interconnector plans are represented by two senior government Ministers, Heather Humphreys and Helen McEntee.
“As far back as 2013, Minister Humphreys told an Oireachtas committee that ‘It has been established that the North-South interconnector can go underground’. When did her mood mellow?
“The truth is that those with a voice at the cabinet table have a unique position to ensure that the concerns of those they represent are heeded. There is no evidence that Ministers Humphreys or McEntee have done so. They must answer the question, ‘why not’?
“Sinn Féin have never considered this a party political issue. We have worked with representatives of every hue to secure the just outcome sought by landowners and communities along the route of the Interconnector. I firmly believe that an earlier political intervention would have resulted in the commenced construction of the interconnector via underground technology.
“Even now, such an intervention will result in the development in a much more cost-effective and timely manner. If government and EirGrid persist with the pig-headed determination to ignore the voices and concerns of our local communities then there will be a protracted confrontation that could lead to several years of delay and substantial over-runs in costs.
“Those with political power today who remain silent today will be responsible for such a scenario, a scenario that can be avoided by the acceptance of the principle of ‘public acceptance’.
“Pressure must be exerted on those who are best placed to ensure that the voices of our communities are heard – namely those cabinet Ministers and the representatives that keep them in power”.