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'Gaffe in the Gulf': Backbenchers criticise Taoiseach over linking pylons and emigration

One of Enda Kenny’s own backbenchers has said the Taoiseach’s comments, linking construction of overhead pylons to emigration of young people, are “unfortunate”.

Enda Kenny is coming under pressure for comments he made on a trade mission to the Gulf.
Enda Kenny is coming under pressure for comments he made on a trade mission to the Gulf.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has been accused of using “scare tactics” and making “unwarranted and unfair” claims after he linked the erection of controversial electricity pylons to the emigration of young people.

Kenny was speaking in Saudi Arabia yesterday amid ongoing controversy over Eirgrid’s plans to erect new electricity pylons carrying overhead power cables in many rural parts of the country.

The consultation process for the project closes today and Kenny told reporters: “It’s ironic in many ways that some people say to me: ‘Well, my children have to go away, they have to emigrate’. And in many cases they emigrate to countries where these things are a matter of course as providing infrastructure for development.”

He also said that it is not the right of any government to “deny the next generation of young people in our country the right to have a job and to live and work in their own area if that be so”.

Labour senator John Whelan, who has been strongly critical of the government’s handling of the consultation process, described it as a “gaffe in the Gulf”.

“I can only imagine that the sun in Saudi must have got to Mr Kenny for him to resort to using emigration as a way of influencing the consultation process as it enters its final phase,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Pat Deering said that Eirgrid’s consultation process has been “farcical” and described Kenny’s comments, linking pylon construction and emigration, as “unfortunate”.

‘Not justified’

He also said that comments earlier this week by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who said that the pylons are crucial to regional job creation, are “not factually correct”.

Deering told TheJournal.ie: “There is hope in Carlow for the sugar industry to be reinvigorated and in the event of the sugar factory being re-established it will require a connection to the new power line. But there are no plans for the substation that would be needed.”

Under Eirgrid’s plans, a North-South interconnector would link lines between Meath with Tyrone with a second line linking Kildare to Cork and a third line linking-up Mayo with Roscommon. Ministers argue that the pylons – to be built as part of three projects – are needed to service the grid and for the creation of jobs and infrastructure.

Labour senator Denis Landy warned that industries such as tourism and agriculture will be affected by the construction of large pylons in idyllic parts of the country and warned of possible job losses in these industries.

“In order for us to build out our economy we obviously have to have power… as the country grows we can’t have a deficit of power. But there has to be a balance between provision, people’s needs, and the respecting existing communities that we live in,” he said.

He reiterated calls for a cost-benefit analysis of placing the cables underground to be done, with Deering saying there needs to be a “totally independent set of experts” to assess the implications and costs of underground versus overhead.

Landy also said that linking pylon construction and emigration is “unfair, unwarranted and not justified”.

‘PR exercise’

Opposition parties and TDs have also criticised the Taoiseach.

Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary, a constituency colleague of Kenny, said his comments were “nothing more than scaremongering”.

“It is an insult to democracy and to the intelligence of the Irish people,” he said. “And in this case, it’s a shameful insult to job seekers.”

Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane said the comments are part of a “PR exercise” and said that they “marginalised the concerns of the affected communities”.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said Kenny’s remarks were “patronising in the extreme”.

Column: Ireland’s rural community is being ignored over wind energy concerns

Read: Underground pylons will add 3% to electricity bills over the next 50 years, says Rabbitte

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Hugh O'Connell

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