IMG_20160128_223901A Bord Pleanála oral hearing begins on Monday 7th March into EirGrid’s latest proposal for a North/South electricity interconnector, one of the largest ever infrastructure projects in the history of the state. Two inspectors from the Planning Board began hearing submissions at the Nuremore Hotel in Carrickmacross.

The plan proposes building 299 pylons in the Republic to carry a high voltage (400kV) power line from Woodland in Co. Meath where there is an existing substation to Turleenan near the Moy on County Tyrone. It would pass through Meath, a small part of Co. Cavan near Kingsport and then through 42 town lands in Co. Monaghan. The line is due to cross the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, beside Derrynoose in Co. Armagh. eirgridLogo

The line is a total of 135km long. The Northern Ireland section is subject to a separate planning application by EirGrid’s subsidiary SONI. It is under review by the Planning Appeals Commission, which will hold a preliminary public hearing in Armagh on June 21st to examine legal aspects of the application.

The Commission was requested by the NI Department of the Environment to conduct a public inquiry under Article 31(2) of the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 for the purpose of considering representations made in respect of the 2009 application. The inquiry opened on 6th March 2012 but was adjourned on 20th March 2012 when it came to light that the application and the environmental statement and its addenda had not been properly advertised in the press. The Commissioners recommended that before it was re-advertised, the environmental statement should be consolidated and updated to take account of changes put forward by the applicants in their evidence to the inquiry.

On 9th October 2014, the NI Environment Department renewed its request for a public inquiry into the 2009 application for the electricity interconnector proposal and asked that it be conjoined with an inquiry into the 2013 application for associated works. Copies of a consolidated environmental statement relating to both applications had previously been forwarded to the Commission. However, in a further letter dated 18th November 2014, the Department informed the Commission of the applicant’s intention to submit additional environmental information relating to the trans-boundary landscape and visual effects of the proposed development.

The Commission said it would take no further action in relation to the inquiry until:-       the additional environmental information had been submitted and the public consultation period had elapsed;
the Commission was provided with copies of all documents relevant to and arising from the additional information; and
the Department confirmed that it had in its possession all the environmental information it considered necessary to meet the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and Regulations.

System Operator for Northern Ireland welcomed the news that the PAC public enquiry would recommence in June. It said the North South Interconnector was required urgently for security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland. It said the proposed project would reduce electricity prices and provide Northern Ireland with a secure electricity supply by linking the grids in NI and the Republic.

After being referred to the PAC, the Public Inquiry hearing originally began in March 2012 and was subsequently adjourned to allow the submission of further information relating to the planning application. Having received all relevant information, the PAC has notified SONI that proceedings can now continue, a major milestone for the project as SONI’s General Manager Robin McCormick explained:

“We are pleased to have been notified by the PAC about the recommencement of the public inquiry into the North South Interconnector. It is a critical piece of infrastructure, essential for a secure supply of electricity for Northern Ireland. It will also significantly reduce the cost of electricity for consumers across the entire island and will allow us to increase our use of renewable energy, reducing Northern Ireland’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. SONI has worked tirelessly to progress the planning application to make these benefits a reality.

“The project is fundamental to the Northern Irish economy and is supported by DETI, the Utility Regulator and all of the main business organisations including CBI, Northern Ireland Chamber and Manufacturing NI, but, in order to keep the lights on and to avoid increasing consumer costs, the interconnector must be built by 2019 and to that end, we would hope for a speedy resolution from the inquiry.”

“We understand that some people have concerns, especially when it comes to large infrastructure projects of this nature. We have teams on the ground, listening and responding to those concerns and would like anyone with questions to know that we are available for discussions, up until the inquiry begins.”

SONI’s specially appointed Agricultural Liaison Officer Fergal Keenan, is available to provide information about the project and can be contacted directly at 07966-930844 or via email


Tin Church, Laragh, Co. Monaghan  Photo: European Heritage Days

Tin Church, Laragh, Co. Monaghan Photo: European Heritage Days

Summer School Explores Historic Buildings of Monaghan and Armagh  Northern Standard Thursday 25th June

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Irish Georgian Society came together in an exciting new initiative to provide a cross border summer school in Monaghan and Armagh from Thursday until Saturday. Conservation without Frontiers explored and discussed built heritage in the context of both counties, showcasing the best they have to offer in terms of their history and historic buildings, such as Castle Leslie in Glaslough and the Tin Church in Laragh.

St Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan

St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan

The first section of the summer school was opened on Thursday in Armagh by a representative of the Northern Ireland Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan. It then moved to Monaghan, where Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht opened day two. The Summer School concluded on Saturday at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig near Newbliss with a celebratory picnic lunch.

In Armagh, the school undertook visits to both Cathedrals, the former Primate’s Chapel and Palace, the Mall and the Market Square. In Monaghan the participants visited Castle Leslie, Glaslough, and community-led projects such the Dawson Mausoleum, Dartrey and St Peter’s Church, Laragh. Tours and visits were guided by experts in the field including well known academics, architectural historians, architects, planners, conservation and heritage officers. A walking tour of Monaghan on Friday will be led by Kevin V. Mulligan from Carrickmacross. Speakers included Dawson Stelfox, Dr Andrew McClelland, Professor Alistair Rowan, and Bishop Emeritus Dr Joseph Duffy. The event brought together local people, enthusiasts, students and practitioners to learn from the unique buildings of both counties.

Twenty students from the the island of Ireland, Britain and Europe benefited from funded places to complement their ongoing studies and help develop their knowledge of conservation issues. They also took part in a heritage based competition proposing new ideas for  the restoration of Hope Castle, Castleblayney and an empty site on Upper English Street in Armagh. The event was supported by Monaghan County Council, Armagh City and District Council, the Heritage Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Minister Durkan said: ‘I am particularly supportive of this initiative as it brings together heritage expertise from both sides of the border to help develop and realise our mutual  interest in conservation and regeneration for community benefit.  Our built heritage is a catalyst for so many things that are vital to the lifeblood of our villages, towns and cities.  It is therefore important that we work together to realise its full potential. My  department  continues to work in partnership with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and I commend both it  and the Irish Georgian Society for their vision in arranging this summer school.’


Interesting that Armagh was the venue chosen to launch the IRFU’s intention to submit a bid for staging the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Ireland. The Royal School where the photocall was held is the alma mater of Ulster and Ireland winger Tommy Bowe from Emyvale, County Monaghan. But he was with the Ulster squad preparing for tomorrow’s European Cup match against Scarlets.

The announcement was made in conjunction with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland Executive, both of which pledged their support for the bid. The process will involve the development of a detailed programme, covering match schedules and venues, accommodation, international access, internal transport, communications infrastructure and community involvement. It is anticipated that the delivery of a world class bid will cost €1.5 million.

The GAA has previously agreed that it would make its stadia available for the staging of matches. It will now be up to the bid team to put together a specific match schedule in line with the requirements of World Rugby. It’s expected the decision on Rugby World Cup 2023 will be taken in mid 2017. Over 350,000 visitors could be expected in Ireland if it is granted the tournament. irfuendaSpeaking at the event the Taoiseach said he was delighted formally to announce the Irish government’s support, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive, to back the IRFU’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Enda Kenny said Ireland would put together a winning bid that would be impossible to resist.
“We want to share the Irish sporting experience with the world by inviting the world to Ireland. I’m absolutely confident that Ireland will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The government will provide its full support to make it happen”, he added.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he fully supported this bid by the IRFU to bring an elite international sporting event to the home of one of the powerhouses of world rugby. It would be a tremendous achievement to see the IRFU host the Rugby World Cup 2023.

“This bid shows the ambition of the Northern Ireland Executive and our determination to bring world class international sporting events to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has demonstrated that whatever the event, whatever the occasion, we deliver. Regardless of whether it is cycling, golf, the World Police and Fire Games and now rugby, I have no doubt that this will be a resounding success both on and off the field”, Mr Robinson said.

“Infrastructure is key to this bid and the Northern Ireland Executive has already invested £14.7 million in the redevelopment of the home of Ulster Rugby to redevelop and expand the capacity of the stadium. World class players require world class facilities and we have that at Kingspan (Stadium).”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “I fully endorse the IRFU bid to bring the Rugby World Cup to Ireland in 2023. Rest assured we will put together a robust and compelling bid to bring this sporting spectacle to Ireland. This would involve teams coming to Ireland weeks in advance for training camps, providing a major boost to the tourism industry and that’s before the supporters from across the world descend. In 2007 the Rugby World Cup broadcast in over 200 countries and attracted a television audience of 4.2 billion so the potential audience is huge”.

IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said the organisation believed that Ireland, and its people, would make the perfect hosts for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. “The Rugby World Cup is one of the world’s major sporting events and the IRFU has been a central supporter of the tournament since its inauguration in 1987”, he said.

“In addition, Ireland has played a major part in the development of rugby football internationally. Stretching back to the Union’s formation in 1879, and right throughout the modern era, Irish rugby has supplied a series of inspirational players and administrators to the international game. We believe it is opportune for us now to put forward Ireland’s undoubted credentials to host world rugby’s showpiece.


Entrance to Tynan Abbey estate  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Entrance to Tynan Abbey estate Photo: © Michael Fisher

Ulster Unionist MLA from East Belfast Michael Copeland has reminded the public that today is the anniversary of the gun and bomb attack by an IRA gang on Tynan Abbey in County Armagh.

The IRA shot dead Sir Norman Stronge, aged 86, a former Unionist MP and Speaker of the Stormont Parliament. They also killed his son James. He was a merchant banker who had also been an Ulster Unionist MP at Stormont. He had served as an officer in the Grenadier Guards and was an RUC Reservist.

Sir Norman Stronge

Sir Norman Stronge

On Wednesday 21st January 1981, a group of men dressed in military-style uniforms forced their way into the Tudor-Gothic mansion where Sir Norman and son James lived with their family, close to the border with County Monaghan. Both father and son were alone in the library when they were sought out by the attackers and shot dead. After the men were killed, the IRA placed incendiary devices in the mansion and set it on fire destroying the mansion. They are buried at Tynan parish church.

Sir Norman was one of the oldest people killed during the troubles in the North. A local minister stated that he thought members of the Stronge family were in danger but he never suggested they move. The IRA said the Stronges had been chosen as what they called “the symbols of hated unionism”. Neither Sir Norman nor James Stronge had been prominent in unionist politics for some time.

Tynan Cross & Parish Church  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Tynan Cross & Parish Church Photo: © Michael Fisher

The IRA said the attack was a “direct reprisal for a whole series of loyalist assassinations and murder attacks on nationalist people and nationalist activists”.


mckennacuppowerni images

Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition

Driving back to Belfast tonight along the M1 I saw a strong white light emanating from the direction of the Castleblayney Road near Dundalk. It was the floodlights from  Pairc Grattan at Inniskeen, County Monaghan, a ground which has been developed in recent years to accommodate county team matches. Monaghan were playing neighbours Fermanagh in their third Dr McKenna Cup match in Section A. Victory by 1-12 to 0-07 meant that the home side has qualified for the knock-out stages. Their next opponents will be Down, at the Athletic Grounds Armagh at 2pm on Sunday. I passed Newry as they were seeing off the challenge from their neighbours Armagh by 2-11 to 1-10 in Section B. In other matches, a weakened Donegal side narrowly beat St Mary’s 1-14 to 2-10 and in Section C, Tyrone easily beat UUJ 1-18 to 0-09 and Derry drew 1-13 apiece with Antrim. So the other semi-final on Sunday will see Tyrone meet Fermanagh, the best runner-up.


Ulster Council GAA

This year there has been controversy over the decision by some county managers to include QUB students in their squads. It has led to the withdrawal of Queen’s University from the competition, as they believed they were being put at a disadvantage. The competition has a very interesting history. The cup is called after a fomer Bishop of Clogher Dr Patrick McKenna from Truagh parish in County Monaghan, who presented it to the Ulster Council of the GAA in 1925. The first competition was in 1927. Monaghan are the most successful side in the tournament with thirteen wins, the last being 2003. Maybe they can make it fourteen this year! For two years, 2001 and 2002, the competition was not held but it was resurrected in 2003. Since 2007 it has been sponsored and the latest company to do so is Power NI, formerly NI Electricity, appropriate now that (as I observed at the start) many of the matches like tonight’s are played under floodlights!


Monaghan GAA Crest


Monaghan v Down

MONAGHAN 1-13 DOWN 1-14. A last minute victory for Down by a single point against Monaghan. Benny Coulter came on as a sub in the closing stages and scored a vital point. But Tommy Freeman scored a great opportunist goal for Monaghan in the second half after a pass by Conor McManus from a quickly-taken free. Monaghan dominated the first 35 minutes in all departments until they gave away a penalty in added time just before the break. Aidan Carr scored from the spot to make it at half time Monaghan 0-11 Down 1-02. At one stage Monaghan were rampant and led by nine points. But it was a different story in the second half and Down manager James McCartan must have given his team a spirited talk in the dressing room at the break.

Down: A Carr 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), D O’Hare 0-5 (5f), C Laverty 0-2, K Duffin, L Doyle (f), B Coulter, D O’Hagan, A Rogers (f) 0-1 each. Monaghan: T Freeman 1-0, C McManus (3f) 0-5, P Finlay (3f) 0-5, D Hughes 0-2 (1f, 1 ’45), D Clerkin 0-1.

Monaghan huddle

Monaghan huddle


Workout by Monaghan
Pre-match parade
All over