This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

At the start of the hearing on Wednesday, presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she understood the concerns and difficulties expressed the previous day about the new information on temporary access routes that had been presented by EirGrid. She said she had decided to continue the hearing, the purpose of which was to act as an information gathering exercise to explore complex matters. She repeated her comments on the opening day, that the ultimate decision on the application rested with An Bord Pleanála, which would consider all matters raised and would have a number of options open to it. Her role was not to make a ruling on an item by item basis, she said. She invited observers and EirGrid to continue discussion on the construction module.

A lawyer for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL said he had to accept the ruling but asked the inspector if she would agree to adjourn proceedings to allow an application to be made in court. This was rejected. The inspector said the NEPPC could continue to participate at any stage.

Robert Arthur of ESB International gave more details of the type of towers along the line, including a number of angle towers. Another ESBI consultant Jarlath Doyle explained details of the construction process, including the types of vehicles that would be used to bring concrete into fields where the steel pylons would be erected. It was also explained that ‘durabase’ matting was to be laid where necessary to provide access for vehicles in fields. These could be left in place for the duration of the construction process.

As an affected landowner with a pedigree Charolais herd on the family’s farm, Mary Marron of the CMAPC wanted to know if that meant the matting would be there for a span of three years. She called on EirGrid to be more specific about the fences that would be used to keep livestock away from the construction sites. Who was going to be responsible for the livestock and to whom could they address any queries relating to construction issues. It seemed that EirGrid was expecting each landowner to take responsibility for their animals and that was unacceptable.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC pointed out that the type of fencing proposed along access routes was unsuitable for an agricultural setting. The pictures provided by EirGrid showed individual units of steel fencing joined together and anchored in blocks. He said such fencing was designed to keep people out, not animals and it would not stop a bull knocking it down. There was no proposal by the company to put up staked fencing with barbed wire, which is what farmers would use on their land.

Regarding the methodology used by the EirGrid consultants to investigate proposed access routes, Mr Hillis asked one of them if he had put on wellingtons and walked the dotted line shown on one of the maps leading to a proposed pylon site. He declined to answer the question. Some of his colleagues gave details later of how aerial photography combined with more recent Google mapping had allowed them to examine the possible routes, without having to contact landowners and access individual holdings.

Mr Hillis observed that the methodology of getting access to pylon sites was totally wrong. He explained that their committee had met on Tuesday evening and had decided they would not be returning as a group to the first part of the oral hearing.

Before departing Mary Marron said landowners should have been made aware of proposed changes. She asked EirGrid to provide proper photos of the type of machinery that would be used to access the pylon sites and asked for maps to show where matting would be laid. She requested the company to provide specific information on these issues.

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley raised a number of questions with EirGrid about the details shown in some of the maps they had provided about the route of the line. He said the company had made an insufficient response to the concerns the Council had raised in their response to the planning application last August. Mr Gourley claimed a number of photomontages had limited legibility, such as one showing the point where the interconnector would cross the main N2 road at Annyalla.

A consultant landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid explained how he had drawn up the proposed route for the line, taking into account the relevant constraints such as avoiding residential areas where possible, sites of archaeological importance and loughs. In the drumlin landscape of County Monaghan it was not possible to avoid all drumlins but he believed he had found the best routing possible.

Mr Gourley said he was not convinced that putting pylons along the top of drumlins such as near Lough Egish was the ultimate choice. The planner also pointed out that Monaghan County Council had received no drawings showing the height and colour of the temporary buildings (portakabins) which EirGrid proposed to erect at a construction material storage yard beside the N2 at Monaltyduff/Monatybane outside Carrickmacross.


Checking the details of the EirGrid N/S Interconnector plan at the information meeting in Aughnamullen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Checking the details of the EirGrid N/S Interconnector plan at the information meeting in Aughnamullen Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher Northern Standard  Thursday 25th June

Landowners in South Monaghan whose farms and property are along the route of the proposed EirGrid North/South electricity interconnector say it would ruin their livelihoods for generations to come and would cause the biggest destruction ever seen in Ireland. Many of them came to Aughnamullen social centre on Monday night to see for themselves the full extend of the EirGrid plans which were submitted earlier this month to An Bord Pleanála. The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee had obtained a hard copy of the application and large folders were spread out over a long table with maps showing the route of the proposed overground line, including the section close to Lough Egish.

EirGrid and its northern counterpart plan to construct 401 new pylons carrying an overhead 400kV supply line across five counties including Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. 109 of the towers would be erected in Monaghan. The power line from Woodland near Batterstown in County Meath to Turleenan near Dungannon in County Tyrone and passing across the border at Lemgare near Clontibret into County Armagh would be one of the biggest infrastructure developments on the island and so it was designated a Project of Common Interest by the European Commission

There is now a ten weeks period of statutory public consultation, running until Monday August 24th.

The Secretary of the Anti-Pylon Committee Mary Marron said they had organised three meetings in Aughnamullen, Cremartin and Corduff during the week to enable landowners to see exactly how their properties would be affected. They were also able to advise them about making submissions to An Bord Pleanála and what they needed to concentrate on. The committee will be taking its own legal advice on the application, she said.

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo:  © Michael Fisher

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo: © Michael Fisher

The maps on the table set out how pylons would be erected in townlands such as Cornasassonagh and Corrinenty. Landowners continued to question why they were being treated as second-class citizens, because the underground option was being considered for two other major electricity supply projects. They claimed the project would devalue their land. They felt that the plans to erect pylons would turn their land into construction sites and questioned the methods EirGrid would use for accessing their property.


Monaghan County Council has set up a sub-committee to discuss the interconnector application. It will meet in Castleblayney on July 13th and draw up a response. The Ballybay Clones Municipal District will also be making a submission objecting to EirGrid’s North/South Interconnector project.


Fianna Fáil Councillor Seamus Coyle, a farmer from Latton, said the EirGrid proposals were totally unacceptable to local landowners. He claimed that the company had not gone out onto the ground and looked at the situation for individual farmers regarding access to their property for the construction work on the pylons. He said the project was contrary to the Monaghan County Council development plan 2013-19 and the sustainable development of the county. He told the Northern Standard it was important that councillors supported the concerns of local people in relation to this project. He claimed the local access roads needed for EirGrid construction work would be totally unfit for purpose in areas such as Corduff and Raferagh. He claimed that the electricity transmission company had not gone out onto the ground to inspect properties that would be affected, but had done an aerial survey instead. This was in contrast to the approach adopted by SONI in the North, where engineers had walked almost 97% of the planned route. He claimed EirGrid had not taken into account the implications for fauna and wildlife in the countryside as well as heritage spots such as ancient burial grounds.

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo:  © Michael Fisher

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo: © Michael Fisher


Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy called on the public to engage with the consultation process and to outline their concerns. He said:

“Unfortunately, due to the Strategic Infrastructure Act enacted by the Fianna Fáil government with the support of Fine Gael, the planning process for the North/South Interconnector is, in my view, flawed. However, that should not prevent interested individuals and communities engaging with the public consultation process during which time the public may provide submissions and observations to An Bord Pléanala. The consultation closes at 5.30pm on Monday 24th August.”

Mr Carthy said Sinn Féin representatives had been working closely with all those groups and communities in Counties Monaghan, Armagh, Cavan, Tyrone and Meath who have been engaged in a campaign since 2007 against the EirGrid and NIE/SONI plans to impose 400kv overhead power lines and associated pylons on their landscapes.

“The concerns are very real; there are genuine worries for health, our environment, the landscape, the economic development of the areas concerned. The communities concerned have made their position crystal clear: the North/South Interconnector can only proceed on the basis that it is undergrounded. Sinn Féin fully supports that position and we will be preparing our own submission to An Bord Pléanala on this issue”.

“This project, despite 97% landowner opposition, is the only EirGrid project that remains unchanged since 2009 following its exclusion from the EirGrid national review. Report after report, including one published by the government appointed International expert commission have clearly proved that undergrounding of the power lines is both possible and feasible. Indeed, many argue that in the medium to long term, undergrounding is economically beneficial. I am calling on the public to take this opportunity to outline their position on this project and ensure that their voice is heard”, the MEP said.


Matt Carthy was also critical of EirGrid for charging members of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) €5000 for each hard copy of the planning application. The group had requested four copies of the application for their members and had also asked EirGrid to provide a hard copy to each landowner affected by the application.

Commenting on the correspondence between the NEPPC and EirGrid officials, the MEP said:

“It is completely outrageous that a full hard copy of this planning application costs €5000. I agree with the members of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign that the astronomical costs involved in obtaining a copy of this application will put it out of the reach of many in the community affected by the proposed pylons.”

“The message from the local communities could not be clearer – they do not want overhead pylons blighting some of the most historical landscapes of this country and presenting a real danger to their communities. This is another slap in the face to the community who have had to listen to PR exercise after PR exercise from EirGrid stating their full commitment to engage with local communities on the proposed pylons.”

Mr Carthy went on: “While I acknowledge that soft copies of the application are provided on CD, many people need access to a hard copy for various reasons and it would be expected at the least that the landowners affected could receive a copy of the application. EirGrid cannot expect to be to be taken seriously on its claims of extensive public consultation while communities are effectively excluded from the planning process and I am calling on the company to make the application more readily available.”

Sean Conlan T.D.  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Sean Conlan T.D. Photo: © Michael Fisher


The Fine Gael T.D. Sean Conlan attended the information evening at Aughnamullen. He said the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee deserved great credit for the effort they have put into organising the series of meetings this week to explain to the landowners affected in detail exactly what Eirgrid proposed to do on their land. He strongly encouraged anyone who wanted to find out further information in respect of the proposed route and how it affected their property and their community and who wished to obtain advice in relation to submitting a submission to An Bord Pleanála to contact the committee.

Deputy Conlan said: “The resilience and collective objection of the community as a whole to this application is paramount in trying to achieve our ultimate goal of having this project undergrounded. It is very important that the community continues to stand together to object to this new application by EirGrid to overground the North/South interconnector. By standing together as one the community stands the best chance of defeating EirGrid in their endeavours to put this project overground. It is very clear to me that the communities affected are more determined than ever that EirGrid are defeated.”

“I am available at any time to provide any advice or any assistance I can to members of the community and landowners who wish to make submissions detailing their concerns about EirGrid’s application and how it affects them, their families, their farms and their community. I want to reassure everybody in all the communities affected that I remain fully opposed to the overgrounding of this project by EirGrid. I will be making my own submission to An Bord Pleanála opposing EirGrid’s application to put the interconnector overground.”


Fine Gael Councillor Eugene Bannigan also attended the information evenings. He told the Northern Standard: “Over the last number of weeks EirGrid have published their plans for a new application to an Bord Pleanála where they are looking to build 401 new pylons over five counties. However EirGrid have not walked the full route so they don’t know what damage they could do to wildlife and protected species in the surrounding areas.”

Councillor Bannigan went on: “The recent launch of new farming schemes shows certain requirements are needed in order to be granted acceptance to the scheme, and this means land will be let go wild for Gaming and Wild Bird cover. So if a farmer on the grid is planning to let some of their crops go wild in order to meet these certain requirements, then the Department of Agriculture must help out, and if several farmers along the grid do this then it can slow up the process with An Bord Pleanála, and on the other hand you have the Department for Energy trying to let this interconnector grid go up. It doesn’t make sense as on one hand the government is trying to help farmers and this means let land go wild, and on the other hand, the government is trying to let EirGrid go ahead. So it’s the government versus the government.”

Brendan Smith T.D.

Brendan Smith T.D.


Fianna Fáil T.D. for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has criticised the Communications Minister Alex White for refusing to consider a motion by Monaghan County Council calling for the cessation of work on the North/South Interconnector so that the project could be undergrounded. The motion came on foot of comments made by EirGrid’s Chief Executive during a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, when he admitted that the undergrounding of the lines was technically feasible.

Deputy Smith commented, “I am extremely disappointed by Minister Alex White’s stance on this issue.  Despite submitting a range of Parliamentary Questions raising concerns about the fact that the underground option was not being considered, he failed to give any straight answers, choosing to evade the specific questions.

“The North-South interconnector is an extremely contentious issue here on the border. People have grave concerns about the fact that the Government appears to be content to press ahead with the overhead lines option, without giving due consideration to the possibility of undergrounding them.  This is despite the fact that the head of EirGrid told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that it is technically feasible to put the lines underground.

“It is extremely unfair that the Government is continuing to refuse a review of the North-South interconnector plans, especially in light of the fact that the other two Grid Link projects are being reconsidered.  People here feel as if they are being ignored by this Government, which is refusing to take their concerns on board, and is now even refusing to give credible answers to Parliamentary Questions, and has now effectively passed the buck back to Eirgrid.

“I am very disappointed with the Minister’s evasive and hands-off approach to this issue.  There has been a substantial reduction in the potential cost of the undergrounding project, yet Minister White is refusing to reconsider.  This is not good enough and the people of Cavan and Monaghan will simply not accept it. I will be continuing to put Minister White under pressure to review this project to ensure a safe and secure energy supply for people living on the border”, Deputy Smith concluded.

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recent decision by EirGrid to submit a planning application for the North South Interconnector without consideration being given to the options of undergrounding this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.  

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)
In January 2014, an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was established to oversee the integrity of the process being undertaken by EirGrid to report on comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both the Grid Link (GL) and Grid West (GW) projects. While the North South Transmission Line project (N/S) is outside the IEP’s Terms of Reference, the IEP did agree, on foot of a request by my predecessor, to provide an opinion on the compatibility of the methodologies, to be employed on the GL and GW projects with what had already been done on the N/S project up to and including 2 May 2014, being the date that the IEP decided to examine the N/S project. 
Having considered and discussed all of the material, the Panel issued a statement on 1 July 2014, indicating its unanimous opinion that, in all material respects, what had already been done on the N/S project is compatible with the methodologies being employed on the GW and GL projects. 
On 27 March 2015 EirGrid published a new independently peer reviewed draft Strategy which allows for the achievement of an optimal balance between the competing demands of publicly consulting on necessary network development, choosing the best emerging technology options for that development, and minimising new build. The draft strategy found that there remains a clear need for the North South transmission line, and that the existing proposal for a 400kV overhead line remains the most appropriate solution for the project.  


Michael Fisher

EirGrid substation at Ballykelly, Co. Louth near Inniskeen for North/South Interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

EirGrid substation at Ballykelly, Co. Louth near Inniskeen for North/South Interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

A group representing landowners and householders opposed to EirGrid plans for an overhead North/South electricity connector that would be routed through south and mid Monaghan met last night to arrange a fresh campaign against the proposals. A public meeting has been organised by the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee to be held on Monday April 20th at Aughnamullen Community Centre, Lough Egish. All of the county’s TDs and councillors are being invited to attend. Committee member Nigel Hillis told the Northern Standard their opposition to the plans was stronger than before.

Last week EirGrid’s Chief Executive Fintan Slye visited Carrickmacross as the company announced its new draft strategy for the future development of Ireland’s electricity transmission grid. It included updated plans for the North/South 400 kV Interconnection Development that would cross five counties from Meath to Tyrone.

EirGrid banner for North/South Interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

EirGrid banner for North/South Interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

EirGrid and its Northern counterpart SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) are jointly proposing a new high capacity electricity interconnector between the two networks. The draft strategy says there remains a clear need for the North/South Interconnector, and that the existing preference for a 400kV overhead line is still the most appropriate solution for the project.

The development would link a substation at Woodland, Batterstown in County Meath with a planned substation in Turleenan, in the Dungannon area of County Tyrone. EirGrid intends to submit a planning application for the North/South Interconnector in the coming weeks. Currently there is only a single interconnector, that runs past Ballykelly on the Carrickmacross to Dundalk road in County Louth (a few kilometers from Inniskeen)  to Tandragee in County Armagh.

Shane Brennan of EirGrid (right) points out the route of the proposed interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

Shane Brennan of EirGrid (right) points out the route of the proposed interconnector Photo © Michael Fisher

At their public information office in Carrickmacross, SONI Eirgrid Project Manager Shane Brennan from Clontibret explained to me that the new interconnector would increase the capacity and reliability of interconnection between the two networks. It would allow the two independent networks to operate together as if they were one system, thus improving competition, and securing the electricity supply throughout the island of Ireland. EirGrid maintains that operating the two networks as if they were one system will bring cost savings for all electricity consumers as larger electricity systems can be operated more efficiently than smaller ones.

The increase in interconnection capacity will also facilitate the development of wind generation, which will help achieve Ireland’s renewable energy targets. Last November EirGrid submitted its draft application to An Bord Pleanála for review.  The following month, An Bord informed EirGrid that it has reviewed the draft and that certain specified missing information was required to be submitted. Last month EirGrid sent in further information, as requested.

EirGrid pylon at Ballykelly, Co. Louth near Inniskeen Photo © Michael Fisher

EirGrid pylon at Ballykelly, Co. Louth near Inniskeen Photo © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile EirGrid has re-published its proposed line route which will form the basis of an application for planning approval to be submitted to the planning authority in the coming months. This follows a review of the December 2013 line design. The review resulted in some of the proposed pylon locations being re-positioned along the proposed route, but the alignment itself was not changed.

Maps have now been made available showing the proposed route in County Monaghan. It takes in parts of Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, Magheracloone, Corduff/Raferagh then on to a controversial section around Lough Egish. The route continues to Drumhowan, Doohamlet, Annyalla and Clontibret where it skirts the battlefield site and then joins the Northern grid in County Armagh.

EirGrid has opened three project information offices, including one at the Workhouse in Carrickmacross where those with an interest can  call in and meet the project team. The Carrick office on the Shercock Road is open on Mondays and Thursdays 12 noon – 6pm.

EirGrid information office Carrickmacross Photo © Michael Fisher

EirGrid information office Carrickmacross Photo © Michael Fisher

According to Fintan Slye of EirGrid, there remains a clear strategic need for a second north-south interconnector.
“We committed last year, to be open with people and find out what it is they want from this most critical of infrastructure.  We are now asking people to give us their views on our draft strategy”, he said. Mr Slye concluded: “EirGrid must ensure the necessary grid is in place to ensure that Ireland remains competitive – fostering economic growth, attracting new investments, and supporting indigenous jobs. It must do this without placing too great a burden on communities, or too high a cost on industry. When we have received people’s feedback we will submit this draft to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for its consideration before publishing the final strategy later this year.”

The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee has been campaigning against the overhead route for the past seven years. It has argued that the lines should be placed underground. Nigel Hillis, an engineer, said the need for a new interconnector had not been identified by EirGrid and they had not persuaded people living in the affected area that it was needed. This was not the case with another major infrastructure development when the main N2 road was being improved with by-passes around Castleblayney and Carrickmacross.

He said there was still serious opposition to the plans. One of the main concerns from the start, he said, had been the scale of the project, because the size and topography of the small farms in the county had not been taken into account when the positioning of pylons was being worked out. He said EirGrid had not identified the need for having big pylons on top of hills, close to a farmyard or houses. (The company said the centre of the proposed high voltage line would be no nearer to a residence than 50 metres).

Mr Hillis questioned why EirGrid was suggesting that part of the proposed GridWest scheme (up to 30km) could be situated underground using trenches alongside roads. He claimed that people in Monaghan were being treated as second class citizens and said they wanted to be treated the same as others.

The Dáil Communications Committee chaired by John O’Mahony T.D. has invited EirGrid to appear before them in the coming weeks to answer questions about the North/South interconnector. Mr Hillis hopes his group will also be given a chance to put their views across as well. From the first day of their formation the committee had argued for an underground route and that was now feasible, he said, as this option was being considered for the other two major grid projects.

Eirgrid says there are technical issues with putting 400kV AC lines underground over long distances and there would be operational complexities. It maintains that underground cables for the North/South route would be too expensive and difficult to install. Local residents however think the cost to them, their livelihoods, their homes and to local tourism would be equally damaging.

Northern Standard Thursday April 9th p.31 with pictures by © Pat Byrne

Northern Standard Thursday April 9th p.31 with pictures by © Pat Byrne