Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has announced that a commission will be set up to investigate the viability of underground cabling.
The decision follows widespread protests about EirGrid’s plans for two new interconnectors in the southeast. A number of routes proposed for the project included two located in some of the most scenic parts of South Tipperary and Waterford.
The announcement has been welcomed by MEP for Ireland South, Phil Prendergast.
“I think this proposal validates what we have been saying all along and shows that the people are being listened to, and that the voices of the 35,000 businesses and individuals who made submissions to EirGrid are being heard. This is direct democracy in action.
“This represents a significant victory for those of us who have been campaigning against the erection of these structures which will have a negative impact on health, business and the environmental landscape throughout the South and South-East.
“I think it is of the utmost importance that the mistakes in relation to lack of public consultation by EirGrid with the original proposals are not repeated in the independent investigation, and that community groups, families and businesses have the opportunity to give their opinions.
But independent TD Mattie McGrath said the pylon u-turn has plunged the debate around the issue into absolute farce.
“It may well be argued that those of us who have campaigned tirelessly for the establishment of such a review should be happy at the decision of the Minister and congratulate him on finally coming round to a common sense view. No such thing can be done however because although Minister Rabbitte has given begrudgingly with one hand he has taken back with the other, given his vigorous defence last night on RTE’s Prime Time of the position he has maintained until now.
“We know that this Minister and Eirgrid remain rigidly opposed to the possibility of under grounding the pylons and he as much as confirmed that last night by spelling out how wrong the views of those who oppose the current plans are. Minister Rabbitte has picked the wrong fight and he will find to his cost that this move will be seen for what it is; a means to shut down debate until the May local elections are complete.”
There has been fury however in the North East given that Eirgrid’s plans for that region have been deliberately excluded from the review. It has emerged however that both the Taoiseach and Minister Rabbitte may move to include that region in the independent review being established:
“This Government’s default position seems to be that the people of this country are incapable of critically analysing its decisions. With regard to this review at least it has discovered that they understand the blatantly obvious intention is simply to make this bothersome issue go away for the time being before they recommence with it at a later point. The people of South Tipperary will continue to seek absolute assurances that this Government will take seriously the recommendations of the review if they come out in favour of under grounding and not veto them if they are contrary to the Government’s stance,” said Deputy McGrath.