Interconnector review expected ‘shortly’

An independent review of the proposed North-South Interconnector project is expected to be “completed shortly”.

The option of undergrounding the North-South Interconnector has been comprehensively assessed on several occasions. Most recently, the key finding from the International Expert Commission’s report of October 2018 was that overhead lines remain the “most appropriate” option for this critical electricity infrastructure.

However, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, commissioned a further short review to assess if the overall findings from the 2018 report were still valid.

The terms of reference for that study were published back in April 2021, with a team of international consultants appointed.

Responding to questions put by Fianna Fail’s Brendan Smith, the Minister stated that the work being conducted by the team of experts is “well advanced” at this stage.

He added, addressing concerns raised by the Cavan-Monaghan TD, that the system operators overseeing the controversial North-South Interconnector project - EirGrid and ESB Networks - are looking to work in close collaboration with landowners and stakeholders in the delivery of the project.

“Both companies are engaging with those living closest to the route of the interconnector. EirGrid has already activated a variety of engagements locally, including the appointment of community liaison officers and a mobile information unit active in the area.

“I expect such engagements will assist in ensuring that communities are fully engaged in the delivery of the project as consented,” the Minister said.

However, it has been stated that almost all members of the local farming community across counties Cavan, Monaghan, and Meath have rejected the latest proposals by Eirgrid.

Padraig O’Reilly of North East Pressure Pylon Campaign (NEPPC) says there remains “massive resistance” against plans to construct the network of 400kv pylons.

He says that the local campaign group surveyed local landowners this year, with the results showing that 95% of respondents stated they were “completely opposed” to construction of the North-South Interconnector in its current form.

“We have the signatures on that,” Mr O’Reilly confirmed. “There’s better technology is what everybody believes.”

Cathaoirleach Clifford Kelly, who has a repeating motion tabled at Cavan County Council monthly meetings seeking updates on any interactions between the local authority and Eirgrid, states that many people may be forced to leave if pylons are built near their homes.

“It should not be overground because of the health dangers and what it is going to do in communities as well,” he said.

He also said that members of the farming community right along the proposed route have “rejected” the prospect of Eirgrid or ESB Network officials coming onto their property.

“Eirgrid are trying to force their way through but the farming community in the three counties are saying they’re not having it.”

The North-South Interconnector project is deemed a critical piece of infrastructure for the future energy needs for the Ireland of Ireland.

But for more than a decade it was bogged down in planning matters.

Plans for the project were resubmitted in 2015, and approved in 2016.

An Bord Pleanála later affirmed the planning permission, and subsequent judicial reviews in the High Court and Supreme Court were both dismissed.

A decision from the High Court in Belfast in relation to the section of the North-South Interconnector north of the border is also due shortly.

Eirgrid hopes work on the project can begin in this year.