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"Unacceptable" not to include North East in power lines study

Minister Pat Rabbitte said that there are factors unique to the north and south of the country that would prevent this.

Image: Electricity pylon via Shutterstock

AN IRISH MEP has called for the government’s commission into underground power lines to also include the North East.

Ireland North West – Midlands MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher welcomed the decision of the Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte to establish an expert panel – chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness – to look at the options for undergrounding the Grid Link from Cork to Kildare and Grid West from Mayo to Roscommon.

But Gallagher described the decision not to include the North East in the study as “extremely difficult to understand”.

Gallagher said he believes that local communities can have full confidence in McGuinness “as an independent voice”.

But he stated:

However, any investigation which omits the North East is totally unacceptable and deeply unfair to the communities involved. I call on the Minister to immediately reconsider and include the North South Link interconnector.

Speaking about this on Prime Time on RTÉ One tonight, Minister Rabbitte said that “all of this work has been done over and over again” regarding the North East.

He said that a commission was brought in in 2011, and that Eirgrid has also done separate studies.

“The revision they did in 2013 showed that the cost associated with undergrounding in that route specific case was €810milllion, as compared to €140m for overhead solution,” he said.

He said that there are factors unique to north and south of the country, and that one factor regarding Northern Ireland is that this area is “under more pressure” in terms of energy supply than the Republic.

“If there was never a question of finance there would be technical questions,” he added. “Those technical questions do not apply in the case of Munster.”

Rabbitte also said that it is “correct the question of compensation should come into play” for certain people.

The independent commission will investigate the possibility of placing electricity power lines underground as opposed to on large pylons across parts of the countryside in the west, south and east of the country.

However, the plans have been met with strong resistance in recent months by local opposition groups.

The process is likely to take around 18 months. Eirgrid said that it will conduct its own “comprehensive underground analysis” of the Grid Link and Grid West projects.

Read: Could controversial power lines go underground? The government wants to find out>

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