Three Irish MEPs have added their voices to a growing chorus of condemnation of EirGrid’s controversial plan to erect 750 high-rise pylons across nine counties.
Noting the passing of the deadline for public submissions to EirGrid on the plan, Labour MEP Phil Prendergast went on air this week to slam the government’s approach to getting people to accept the proposals. Speaking on RTÉ News at One, Ms Prendergast accused the Taoiseach of using the unemployed as “bait” by suggesting more young people would have to emigrate if the project didn’t go ahead. The former midwife said she is “extremely concerned” about the potential health risks posed by the pylons, as well as by the inadequate level of public consultation. “Constituents are particularly annoyed that EirGrid does not have to follow the usual local planning permission rules,” she said. Ms Prendergast has organised a high-level conference on the EirGrid Pylon Plan to take place in the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny on February 14th. It will feature EU experts from the public and private sector and will debate the costs and benefits for local communities of high voltage underground networks. It will also discuss the potential health impact of electro-magnetic fields, as well as the economic consequences.
Meanwhile, Independent MEP Marian Harkin has also organised an expert meeting to take place in Trim, County Meath on February 10th. A panel will speak on health issues arising from overhead cables and the possibility of undergrounding them. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Ms Harkin repeated her call for the EirGrid plans to be independently assessed on a cost benefit basis before they begin.
Ms Harkin also queried the integrity of the claim by Enterprise Minister Richard’s Bruton claim that the cost of putting the cables underground would “prevent balanced regional development.” “His words ring hollow – this push has a lot more to do with exporting wind energy than with balanced regional development,” said Ms Harkin. She pointed out that regarding the cost of undergrounding cables, no independent assessment has yet been made to take account of the adverse effects of overground cables on farming and tourism.
Elsewhere, Independent MEP Nessa Childers also slammed the inadequate public consultation and said the Taoiseach’s remarks linking pylon expansion to job creation were “outrageous”. “Looking at the pilot route in Lismore, it appears to me that much like Greece, we are selling Ireland off to the highest bidder,” she said.
Regional campaigns by anti-pylon groups are gathering strength along the proposed 1km-wide route through Kildare, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Laois, Tipperary, Carlow and Cork. They have raised strong concerns about the effects of the 43m-high pylons on the landscape, the environment and on human and animal health.