High voltage line electricity pylon  Pic. Michael Fisher

Plan for second interconnector goes back 14 years
Line has been designated by EU as one of 195 key energy infrastructure projects

Michael Fisher  THE IRISH TIMES

Nearly 18 months ago EirGrid applied to build a high-capacity electricity interconnector between Dublin and Tyrone, the second between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The proposed line stretches over approximately 135km, linking the existing transmission networks in both jurisdictions between an existing substation in Woodland, Co Meath, and one planned for Turleenan in Co Tyrone.

In the Republic the development, now approved by An Bord Pleanála, will pass through Monaghan, Cavan and Meath, requiring 299 steel lattice-style pylons, ranging from 26m to 51m in height, linked to an existing pylon line.
The line has been designated by the European Commission as one of 195 key energy infrastructure projects across the EU that have been dubbed as projects of common interest. Such projects, the Commission says, “are essential for completing the European internal energy market, and for reaching the EU’s energy policy objectives of affordable, secure and sustainable energy”.

The decision by An Bord Pleanála–- one that has come with conditions – followed a second oral hearing in a Carrickmacross hotel in Co Monaghan. It lasted 12 weeks, and was one of the longest such public inquiries in the State’s history. The plan for a second interconnector between the Republic and Northern Ireland goes back 14 years when an initial feasibility study was carried out on the possibility of building a 220KV line between Tyrone and Dublin.

However, as the peace process bedded down, plans became more ambitious, and a further North/South study was carried out in 2005, which this time investigated the potential and the need for a 275KV line. A year later the cross-Border interconnector that had been shut down during the Troubles following a bomb attack on pylons near Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, was finally restored.
Information days
Meanwhile, approval was given for planning for a second line – one that had now grown to a 400KV plan – which saw EirGrid hold information open days in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. It launched an information telephone and email service in October 2007, though two years passed before it submitted a planning application to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Following a statutory consultation period, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála began in Carrickmacross in May 2010. However, it was brought to a sudden end within weeks, and Eirgrid withdrew the application.
The late Fine Gael councillor Owen Bannigan had revealed an error in EirGrid’s plans in the stated height of the proposed electricity pylons that would run across Monaghan on the 21st day of the oral hearing.
Two years later, Eirgrid’s then newly-appointed chief executive Fintan Slye told agendaNI magazine that a second North/South interconnector was “absolutely critical” for Northern Ireland’s future security of supply. In November 2014, EirGrid submitted its draft application file to Bord Pleanála for review. Four months later EirGrid republished its proposed line route, one that would form the basis of its planning application.
The route plan followed a review of the December 2013 line design. The review resulted in some of the proposed tower locations being repositioned along the alignment, but the alignment itself was not changed. By June 2015, EirGrid was ready to place a public planning notice in newspapers, followed by the submission of an application shortly afterwards to the Strategic Infrastructure Division of An Bord Pleanála.
Ten weeks of public consultation followed, one that prompted 900 replies. Last January, Eirgrid offered to meet people in their homes or at one of their information offices or elsewhere to discuss their concerns.Throughout campaign groups in Monaghan and Meath have criticised the consultation, but most particularly EirGrid’s “insufficient attention” to alternatives.

Localised impacts
“In England they’re pulling down pylons; in Ireland we’re putting them up,” said one Meath resident. The final ruling from Bord Pleanála runs to 615 pages. In its conclusions the planning authority declares that it recognised that the pylons’ plan would “result in a limited number of localised impacts”. However, “having regard to the identified strategic need for the development”, the plan is in accordance with planning rules “subject to compliance with the mitigation measures” that the planning appeals board has laid down.



Minister awaits decision by An Bord Pleanála

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 23rd June p.14

At question time in the Dáil last week, Deputy Seán Fleming (Fianna Fáil, Laois-Offaly) asked the new Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources Denis Naughten to support putting the North-South electricity interconnector underground using high-voltage direct current technology. He asked the Minister if he would make a statement on the matter.


Shane Cassells TD asking question in Dail to Climate Change Minister Denis Naughten TD

Deputy Shane Cassells (Fianna Fáil, Meath West) also asked the Minister if he would support the undergrounding of the North-South interconnector using the technology now available. Will the Minister put a halt to the current plan?, he enquired. Deputy Cassells said the current EirGrid proposal for which planning permission was being sought would destroy the landscapes of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan if monstrous pylons were to be constructed in these three counties.

Deputy Denis Naughten: In fairness, all Deputies in the region have contacted me at this stage on this issue. EirGrid is the designated transmission system operator. Its roles include the operation, maintenance and development of the electricity transmission network in Ireland. As detailed in the government policy statement on the strategic importance of transmission and other energy infrastructure, the government does not seek to direct EirGrid in the development of energy infrastructure to particular sites or routes or technologies.

EirGrid made a formal application for a North-South 400 kV interconnector project to An Bord Pleanála on 9th June 2015. This is the subject of a statutory independent planning process and is currently before An Bord Pleanála. Part of this process included an oral hearing that concluded last month. As the planning process is still ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Deputy Shane Cassells: I am appealing to the Minister, on behalf of the people of these counties, to become involved because this is a major issue for Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. Not only would it destroy the landscapes of these counties, it would destroy people’s homes. I have sat in the homes of people throughout County Meath. These monstrous pylons will be built beside their homes and will destroy their lives. It is amazing to think that in 2013 the EirGrid chairman, John O’Connor, sat before a Dáil committee and said he would not want to live beside one of these pylons. However, he seems to think it is good enough for the rest of the people in these counties.

The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign is led by Aimée Treacy and Padraig O’Reilly. They have spearheaded a campaign to stop the project but they are being thwarted by the formidable legal people of EirGrid. I was at the High Court hearing some months ago when the project was challenged. The Minister’s office, under the previous officeholder, and EirGrid used powerful legal teams to fight against the community groups. We need the Minister to stand up for the people rather than EirGrid. EirGrid is spending money relentlessly on public relations campaigns to try to curry public favour, but it is destroying people’s lives. I appeal to the Minister to get involved and arrange to put these pylons and cables underground. The people need the Minister to stand up for them.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I understand the frustration among people in this case, but the government does not direct EirGrid on what mechanism it should use. We need an interconnector. People agree that we need an interconnector. The debate has been how that connection would be made. The government has not directed EirGrid in any way in this matter. This project is before An Bord Pleanála at the moment. An Bord Pleanála has weighed up the options and all the arguments on all sides. We are going to get a decision from An Bord Pleanála.

I have read some of the numerous reports into undergrounding. However, the reality is that the North-South transmission project is required to ensure security of supply of electricity to Northern Ireland. The existing 225 kV double circuit overhead transmission line between Louth and Armagh is simply insufficient to meet the needs.

Deputy Shane Cassells: The Minister referred to the An Bord Pleanála hearing. I was there and gave evidence at the hearing in Monaghan as well. Representatives from EirGrid came in on numerous occasions during the hearing and changed aspects of their application during the hearing. They came with images that bore no resemblance to the application. These people are ruthless in the pursuit of their aim and do not care about the people. This Chamber is here to care about the people. The government can most certainly become involved.

The previous two Ministers had no wish to hear from the people’s side. Therefore, I am appealing to the Minister not to read out the material prepared by the Department but to listen to the voices. This can be stopped before the September ruling by An Bord Pleanála. We need to see an intervention by government in this respect.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I have listened to a number of Members from the areas concerned, all of whom have expressed their concerns on this matter. I have not yet come across one person who takes the view that we do not need the interconnector. It is needed because if the existing line were to go down, there simply would not be enough electricity reaching the north east of the island to keep the lights on.

Deputy Shane Cassells: I agree with the Minister.

Deputy Denis Naughten: We have a single electricity market and we need it. It is helping to drive down the cost of electricity for every person throughout the country. 

Deputy Shane Cassells: The point is that it should be done underground.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I hear what Deputy Cassells is saying and I have heard and listened to what other colleagues in the House have said as well. I understand the frustration that exists but a statutory process is ongoing.

Deputy Shane Cassells: The frustrating thing is that Pat Rabbitte said the project would drive up prices.


In an earlier question on energy prices, Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister whether the Electricity Supply Board should consider reducing its charges for electricity, given its reported profits of €635 million in 2015; he said high energy prices were being maintained to make the ESB an attractive proposition for privatisation. Surely the Minister is not satisfied with the minimal 6% cut in electricity prices by Electric Ireland. Does he agree that the company must go much further than this? Does he believe the ESB is being fattened up for privatisation?… 

Deputy Denis Naughten: Prices are not being kept high. No one in this country can keep prices high because they are unregulated. There is an open market. Representatives of ESB tell me the company makes little of its money from the Electric Ireland arm. Thankfully, ESB is in the black and making profits a little short of €300 million. A considerable amount of this profit comes from other arms of the company, including the network and electricity generation arms. I am told that of the pre-tax profits generated by the ESB, approximately 14% relate to the retail arm.

Other companies in the sector make margins as well. It does not seem to me to be excessive. The Commission for Energy Regulation is accountable to the House and the relevant Dáil committee. I call on Deputy Barry to make direct contact with the Chairman of that committee and bring the commissioners before the committee to quiz them on the issue.

Deputy Mick Barry: There the Minister goes again. Like Pontius Pilate he is washing his hands of the situation. I will ask the Minister a far simpler question. How does the Minister feel about the fact that consumers in this country are paying the second highest electricity rates in the European Union, while, at the same time, the ESB is making profits which, whether we use the Minister’s figures or my figures, run to hundreds of millions of Euro?

Deputy Denis Naughten: Electricity prices are higher here than in most parts of Europe. However, we need to remember that Ireland is on an island. We have a small electricity market. It includes the North and South and we have had reference to the single electricity market on the island of Ireland. There are geographic issues.

The other point is that we have to important a substantial amount of our energy. We are not self-sufficient in the energy sector and that adds to the costs. As a result of the size of the market, there are additional transmission costs and such costs are not incurred in continental Europe. As a result these particular challenges are built into the cost.

I am not trying to wash my hands of it. By law I cannot directly intervene in this matter. However, Deputies can question the Commission for Energy Regulation. I am calling on Deputy Barry to use the tools available to him in the parliamentary committee to raise these questions.




 Michael Fisher    MEATH CHRONICLE  Saturday 28th May

EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for landowners, famers and residents in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan affected by the company’s plan to build a second North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among a dozen people (including EirGrid) who made closing submissions this week to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.

Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to the invalidity and the fatally flawed contents of the application.

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

Dr Colin Andrew of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

REGINA DOHERTY TD at a previous sitting called the hearing “an absolute disgrace”. She told presiding inspector Breda Gannon there was a technical, financial and information deficit in the details provided to the Board. She requested that EirGrid should be asked to address and fix the deficit and then come back and have another debate about the plan.

Ms Doherty said the first public consultation regarding the original proposal was in 2007 and EirGrid had had several years to prepare a new application (submitted in June 2015). It was an inadequate application for the people of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan to defend and oppose the case. Although she acknowledged the need for security of electricity supply, the overhead lines and pylons proposed were not the appropriate technology.

Ms Doherty said the company had to show why other than overhead options were technically inferior and take into account the effects on land valuation and the impact on flora and fauna. The only thing they heard from EirGrid was that “we know best; the people know nothing”. There had never been a fully costed underground route either acknowledged or entertained. This was a huge flaw. EirGrid’s unwillingness on this was a disservice and an injustice to the people who would be affected. The financial and emotional costs had not been weighed up.

The Meath East TD said she was pleading with the inspectors to get an explanation why. We are arguing in the dark, she said, about the technical and financial perspective. She was asking EirGrid to go back to the drawing board and come back with what they should have done in the first place. EirGrid should put the options forward and allow a reasonable and informed debate and they should listen to the very real concerns raised by people at the hearing.

AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid Project Manager, explained the company’s approach to the application. He said a high voltage DC underground option had greater complexity and brought greater risks. It would not do the job as well as an overhead route and was not in line with best international practice. He put the extra cost involved at €670 million.

Dr GEORGE EOGHAN from Nobber, Co. Meath, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth said it would be horrifying to put a series of pylons and power lines near the historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn), a key cultural area. The former UCD Professor said he could not undertstand the proposal as he thought the Irish people had a greater respect for our national monuments. What was proposed amounted to a criminal action, he claimed.

He said Teltown should be left in its rural setting and kept as it is. The unspoilt rural landscape must be preserved for present and future generations. Dr Eoghan called for the EirGrid application to be rejected.

DECLAN MOORE, consultant archaeologist for EirGrid, said earlier in the hearing in the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.

The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.

Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.

KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfill the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.


EirGrid as the applicant was given the last word to explain why a 400kV alternating current (AC) overhead interconnector was a key part of Ireland’s energy future. A lawyer for the company Brian Murray SC said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.

Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.

On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”.

Mr. Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which was raised on several occasions during the hearing.

He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.

It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.

Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.



This section dealt with the Baile Phib Gaeltacht near Navan, Co. Meath

Three submissions were made to the hearing in Irish concerning the importance of the Baile Ghib Gaeltacht in Co. Meath and how it could be affected by EirGrid’s interconnector plan. Questioned by a local resident, a consultant archaeologist for EirGrid confirmed that the power lines would at one point near Oristown pass over the route of the Tain Bó Cuailgne march.

Uinsionn O Gairbhi a local resident explained the history of the area. This Gaeltacht was founded in 1937, when twenty Irish-speaking families were moved from the west coast of Ireland under the Land Commission. Each family received a house, 22 acres, farm animals and implents in exchange for land and property in their native county. Baile Ghib was eventually given official Gaeltacht status, along with Ráth Cairn in 1967.

Mr O Gairbhi said young children from Dublin, Navan, Kells and Drogheda came to the area to learn Irish. If the pylons and power lines were erected they would constitute a danger zone that would have to be avoided. These dangerous wires must be put underground, he said, so that the health of people would not be in danger and they would not interfere with the beauty of the area.

Athboy resident Cathal Seoige a former member of Údarás na Gaeltachta said Baile Ghib was full of heritage and history. He also called for the high voltage lines not to go through the area and insisted they should be placed underground.

Máire Nic an tSithigh also called on EirGrid to put the interconnector underground and said this would be the best solution for our language and heritage.

EirGrid Project Manager Aidan Geoghegan said that after considering the technical, environmental and economic aspects they considered that an underground HVDC cable would not be appropriate. He said there had been 400kV overhead lines in Ireland for the past thirty years. They were very reliable and performed well even in bad weather.

Consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore said the overhead lines would have no direct physical impact on the Táin route and it was not a registered recorded monument. In answer to Maura Sheehy he revealed that the Táin route would pass under the proposed development close to Oristown.

This section involved landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan

BERNIE RUTH, Secretary of the Corduff Raferagh Heritage Group explained that it was set up in 2000 to share, preserve and archive the local heritage. She was sure the professionals from EirGrid had exmined the myriad of maps available to them to check for any archaeological sites of interest. But what they did not have was local knowledge, local interest and local passion, which their voluntary group had.

There was a cillín in Corrinenty, an unmarked burial ground for unbaptised children, in very close proximity to the planned line and a pylon. There were Mass rocks in Greaghlatacapple and Umerafree, and Mass was celebrated annually at Greaghlatacapple, which would be within view of many of the pylons. There were many more places of interest to them—the locals—within the area.

Each year they held a number of heritage walks around the townlands, pointing out items of local history and gathering information from local people. Currently they were recording and photographing old structures like buildings, gates, piers and bridges. Quite often the pictures were impeded by the current ESB or telephone poles. What would it be like with pylons and heavy lines?

The group was planning to re-establish the old Mass path on Corduff mountain, with a viewing area on the summit where you can see as far as Cavan, Louth, Meath and Armagh. But with the possibility of viewing more pylons than scenery, this project might have to be abandoned.

The heritage group, like the majority of their neighbours, were ordinary people, living ordinary lives. They had no objection to progress but hoped that An Bord Pleanála and EirGrid used common sense and buried the lines, not only in the interest of preserving the beautiful drumlin landscape and their heritage,but most importantly their future mental and physical health.

She said that she lived two fields away from one of the proposed pylons, on a narrow country road that was used by many people for their daily recreational walk. She did not think there was any person who had come to this hearing over the past 26 days, no matter which side of the room they were on, who would let their children, siblings, parents or any family member live under or near these pylons or lines, no matter what the experts said. The experts did not always get it right, she added.

Bernie Ruth said that to allow the project go ahead as planned when there was an alternative would be a shame and a disgrace to each and every person present at the hearing. It was now time to use common sense and to bury the lines, not our people.

JAMES BANNINGAN, Tossey, Secretary of Lough Egish Gun Club, said three or four of the proposed towers and the power line would be highly visible from the main road between Lough Egish and Castleblayney. He expressed concerns about the possible leakage of silt from construction sites into the lake.

There were dangers for fly fishermen who were fishing near power lines, he said. He was worried about the possible effects on angling tourism.

SEAMUS QUINN, Cooltrim Egish, said EirGrid wold never be allowed into his land and he hoped they did not get planning permission. One of the proposed pylons wold be right in front of his house, he said.

GABRIEL WARD, Tooa, referred to the flora and fauna and wildlife in the former Shantonagh House estate. The woodland contained various types of trees including oak, ash and hazel. A lot of people went for walks in the area, which also contained two old flax mills. Bats had been known to roost in the area.

The following landowners were represented by NIGEL HILLS, who questioned EirGrid on their behalf: Roy Brown, Eamonn Kerr, Philip McDermott, Enda and Rose Duffy, Margaret O’Neill, Peadar McSkeane, Joe Boylan, Kevin Duffy and family, Patrick and Sarah Duffy, Hugh and Bernadette Duffy, Colman and Patricia Ryan, Eileen Smyth, Eamonn McNally, Gene Connolly, and Jim and Mary Connolly. He raised their concerns about access routes, pylon locations, the lack of consultation, health and safety, farm impacts, land and property devaluation, development restrictions, and the effect on flora and fauna.




Michael Fisher    MEATH CHRONICLE   p.1

EirGrid has been accused by anti-pylon campaigners in Meath and Monaghan of making up their application as they go along. They have accused the semi-state company of turning the planning procedure into an absolute disgrace during the oral hearing into the proposed North/South electricity interconnector. The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign called on An Bord Pleanála to put an end to what they said was a “costly charade”.

It follows the introduction by the company for the third time of modified access routes along narrow country lanes that would be used by contractors building the latticed steel pylons and erecting the power lines. Thirty-two separate changes have now been made by EirGrid since the hearing began last month.

On day 26 of the oral hearing a lawyer for EirGrid Jarlath Fitzsimons SC said there had been an ongoing review of the 584 temporary routes identified. Six new ones had been notified to An Bord Pleanála on the first day at the Nuremore Hotel on March 7th. Nineteen more changes were made a fortnight later following the discovery of discrepancies in mapping. Shortly before the close of proceedings last week, Mr Fitzsimons revealed seven more alterations to access routes. A further eleven minor mapping modifications to the routes were identified. According to the lawyer, EirGrid had responded in a positive way to observations made by landowners during the course of the hearing regarding specific tower locations.

Temporary access routes are included in the application to enable An Bord Pleanála to conduct an environmental assessment of all aspects of the proposed development. EirGrid spokesperson David Martin said: “With a total of 584 temporary access routes in the planning application, it is understandable that modifications to a small number have been proposed as information comes from observations made at the oral hearing and also from the continuing reviews.”

“In order to enter the area for the proposed development, we have identified 584 temporary access routes. We have listened with interest to the detailed submissions given by landowners along the proposed line route. Several have focused on the detail of the temporary access routes. This feedback has been very helpful as we endeavour to provide the most convenient access routes possible for landowners.”

The hearing in Carrickmacross in front of two Bord Pleanála inspectors is now in its ninth week and is not expected to finish until the end of May. It’s one of the longest such planning enquiries into what is one of the largest ever infrastructure projects in the state. EirGrid is proposing to erect a 400kV high voltage line with 400 pylons from Woodland in Co. Meath across parts of Cavan and Meath into Co. Armagh and finishing at Turleenan near the Moy in Co. Tyrone.

On the 22nd March, during week three of the hearing EirGrid announced a number of major flaws in its planning application and made a request to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to change nineteen access entrances and routes to landowner properties. The NEPPC said landowners had neither been notified of nor consulted on these plans at this stage. EirGrid conceded that all landowners needed to be notified.

On Tuesday 26th April, EirGrid yet again announced without any prior notice a further request to ABP to change an additional 18 access routes, making ‘minor deviations’ to access route maps. The affected landowners, similar to the situation pertaining in March, had neither been notified of nor consulted on these plans at this stage. EirGrid again conceded that all landowners needed to be notified.

NEPPC in a statement pointed out that based on the extraordinary revelations on 22nd March they had requested the two inspectors to seek approval from the Planning Board that the hearing be halted. The inspectors had decided to continue with the hearing. NEPPC then wrote to An Bord Pleanála directly, requesting that at least the access route changes and other errata in the planning application be updated on the planning application website, but they had still not received any response. NEPPC said the latest changes made a mockery of the oral hearing and of the planning process itself. NEPPC called on An Bord to halt the oral hearing and take responsibility for not allowing the public’s time and money to be wasted by what they said were EirGrid’s farcical activities.

Spokesman Padraig O’Reilly said: “EirGrid is being allowed to make wholesale changes to its planning application on an ongoing basis, without so much as a query from ABP. It looks like EirGrid is running the show all by itself. In the latest letter received by landowners, where they have been informed of changes to accessing their lands, EirGrid states in relation to the ongoing oral hearing that “We will of course facilitate any submission you may wish to make arising from this modified access route”.

“The official position from An Bord was that anyone who wanted to make a submission to the oral hearing firstly had to have made a written submission by August 24th 2015 and then submit a request to make an oral submission by February 4th 2016. Yet EirGrid were now writing to landowners as if it was representing An Bord Pleanála (ABP) and making up their own rules for the oral hearing participation. ABP needs to quickly get a grip here before the whole integrity of the process in general is destroyed. It is simply not acceptable to sit on its hands and watch EirGrid take this brazen approach”, he said.

“NEPPC is yet again calling on elected representatives to put an end to this farcical situation. EirGrid is making a mockery of the strategic infrastructure process for a second time in five years. We cannot have a situation where a state company can remain immune to accountability and in so doing drain public confidence and bring the strategic infrastructure process into disrepute”, the statement added.

Mary Marron of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said what was going on was an absolute disgrace. She wondered if more information was going to be added during the rest of the hearing. People had been coming into the hearing and pointing out to EirGrid errors in the access routes. If this was what was going to happen continually then the remaining landowners due to make submissions would have to decide if there was any point.

Monaghan Fine Gael Councillor Sean Gilliland said he found EirGrid’s approach to be absolutely insulting to the An Bord and to the local communities in the county. EirGrid believed they had identified issues with access routes but it was the public who had done so. Cllr Gilliland wondered if the environmental impact reports were wrong then were the health reports flawed as well? Our lives and the future of our young people are in your hands, he told the inspectors.

Cllr Gilliland said the planning application was flawed. On behalf of people in this rural part of Ireland he said he was begging the inspectors to consider the recent submissions made by landowners and householders, all of whom objected to the overhead power lines. What was happening was unjust and absolutely contrary to democracy and civil rights. It was not morally right nor would it ever be. They were being pushed into the mud by EirGrid who were taking information and re-presenting it in submissions they did not understand.





This dealt with the potential effects on the Brittas estate Co. Meath

Probing questions to EirGrid by a lawyer acting for the Brittas estate near Nobber in Co. Meath revealed what anti-pylon campaigners believe are several inadequacies in the planning application for the North/South interconnector. EirGrid has said the detailed environmental impact statement it submitted has complied with the relevant Irish and EU regulations.

Michael O’Donnell BL acting for the owners of Brittas House and demesne Neville Jessop and Oinri Jackson asked EirGrid why no site specific details were provided regarding construction of the proposed pylons, the felling of a section of mature woodland, and the impact the proposed line would have on the views from a wing of the house built in 1732 and incorporating an earlier residence from 1672. The house was extended in the 18th Century and a ballroom wing, designed by Francis Johnston (architect of the GPO), was added in the early 19th Century. The house is located approximately 430m to the east of the proposed development.

Three ringforts are within 400m of the proposed line. According to an archaeological consultant for EirGrid, Declan Moore, these monuments will have their setting impacted on by the proposed development. The environmental impact statement explained that as much as was practicably possible the topography of the area had been used to keep impacts on the setting of Brittas House to a minimum. Mr Moore found that where the proposed development crossed the entrance avenue, there would be no views of the house and likewise in the vicinity of the house there were no views of the proposed development. But he added that there was the potential there may be views from some of the upstairs windows of the house, especially during the winter months. The impact on the setting of the house was in his view slight to moderate.

Questioned by Mr O’Donnell, Mr Moore said he had not entered the demesne as permission had not been granted but he had carried out from the public road a visual inspection of some of the three archaeological monuments inside it. He insisted that the development would have no direct physical impact on any such monument. He also repeated a number of times that there were no national monuments within the demesne.

This was disputed by the lawyer for the owners. He revealed that a ministerial letter had been sent out in July 1997 to the then owners referring to a monument in the townland of Brittas with details of preservation requirements.

At a previous module Neville Jessop explained how one of the access routes proposed by EirGrid to a pylon site would require concrete lorries to pass over an old bridge which had cracks in the stonework. He told the company the access bridge was not available because of its condition. Any repair work that needed to be done on the structure would require notification to the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht. A lawyer for EirGrid said on Tuesday it did not know the bridge had been closed for health and safety reasons.





This section was devoted to specific landowner and public issues from Co. Meath and around Kingscourt Co. Cavan

The hearing was told about specific landowner concerns in Co. Meath along the proposed line from Kilmainhamwood as far as Woodland, where it would enter the existing sub-station.

EirGrid was accused of spending its money on things like sponsorship of the Virginia pumpkin festival, the GAA (under 21 and Australian Rules), two local radio current affairs programmes and advertising in local media. A company spokesman said a key finding of a number of reviews of EirGrid’s operations and engagement with the wider community had shown the need for effective communication of the necessity for grid infrastructure to ensure a safe and sustainable electricity supply. As part of the company’s strategy to address this, it was placing an emphasis on improving how it communicated its role, including through advertising and sponsorship.

David Martin said “We welcome the strong engagement from landowners, public representatives and community members at the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing. The oral hearing provides an opportunity for all relevant information to be brought before An Bord Pleanála, and ensures that their concerns are addressed. We encourage all landowners and concerned residents to attend over coming weeks. If you would like more information on any aspect of the project, you can talk to our team on the ground, or drop in to our offices in Navan or Carrickmacross. Contact details for our Community Liaison Officer Gráinne Duffy and Agricultural Liaison Officer John Boylan are at Since submitting our planning application for the interconnector in June 2015, we have continued to engage with communities in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.”

EirGrid said the consideration of alternatives to an overhead line, including underground cables (both cross-country and along public roads), had been outlined its planning application. This had relied on a suite of reports prepared by the government, third parties and EirGrid itself. One of these, prepared by PB Power, showed that an underground cable option is considerably more expensive, at €670 million more that overhead lines.

The government-appointed Independent Expert Commission found that an underground cable option would be €333million more expensive. The reason for the difference in these figures was that the PB Power report studied a cross-country option, while the IEC report considered a roadside route. The company said a further detailed study of roads in the project area had shown that the use of the M3 and local roads was simply not suitable for the interconnector project.

When considering alternatives for the project, cost was just one factor. Underground cables would also not be as reliable as overhead lines, causing greater complexity and greater risk. EirGrid said it also studied the use of disused railway lines and a subsea option for cables but they were not viable options for this project.



DAY 19


EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons SC said the photomontages were not a clever manipulation, nor were they dishonest. It was unhelpful and inaccurate suggest this. He said a full suite of tools had been used in making assessments and a number of significant impacts along the route had been clearly identified regarding specific residences.

Consultant landscape architect for EirGrid Jeorg Schulze gave an extensive reply to the concerns about photomontages raised by Fine Gael Cllr Sean Gilliland. He said they helped to give an assessment of the visual impact of the line on specific vistas identified in the county development plan. In response to several queries about why houses had not been shown in the photomontages, Mr Schulze said it was the landscape that was being assessed. He pointed out that the residential impact assessment for residences had covered 1070 houses within 500m either side of the proposed line in the Monaghan area. At no point had they tried to hide any impact there would be on residences.

He said the environmental impact statement stated the impact on individual houses and gave conclusions. They did not need photomontages from all locations to come to those conclusions. He himself had seen some of the areas from the public road and had walked along part of the Monaghan Way. Cllr Gilliland listened to the explanation and said EirGrid were being “economic with the truth” and he would leave it at that.

Monaghan County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Noel Keelan, asked the presiding inspector what would be the response from An Bord Pleanála when a new government was formed and the new Dáil would have representatives from three main parties opposed to an overhead line, as had been made clear on Monday. He was informed that the Board would have to have regard to current government policy when it made its decision.

Fine Gael Cllr Aidan Campbell asked the inspectors what weight was placed by An Bord Pleanála on the county development plan, which had been worked on by all the councillors and the planning officers. The EirGrid response was not what they wanted because it contravened a number of things in the plan. So what was the point of having one, he asked. Presiding inspector Breda Gannon confirmed that the Board also had to have regard for county development plans (as well as government policy) in coming to their decisions.

This section dealt with concerned residents’ groups from Co. Meath

The inspectors heard submissions from eleven groups of residents who had come together to lodge joint submissions to An Bord Pleanála. The effect of the planned line on historic areas such as Teltown and Donaghpatrick was again made clear. Many had sent in objections when the previous application had made. By making one objection, it meant each group had to make only one payment of €50. The hearing was told that as almost 1000 submissions had been made to the Board, this would have brought in nearly €50,000 in revenue.


This section dealt with material assets: general and traffic

Acting senior engineer with Monaghan County Council John McKernan said EirGrid’s response to submissions last year was too vague on a number of traffic issues. It did not provide any detail in relation to the transport of excess soil from the foundations of the proposed towers to the waste disposal sites. This was particularly in respect of egress from the access routes onto the public road, and the provision of visibility splays at the point of emergence onto the public road.

The response provided merely repeated what had been stated in the original application relating to the use of dumper trucks to deliver concrete to the foundations. He said the company’s response did not provide any detail regarding the off-loading of the concrete from the delivery truck at the public road, and the loading of the dumpers being used to deliver the concrete down the access lanes to the site of the towers.

Mr McKernan said no detail was given regarding the off-loading of the steel framework from the delivery truck at the public road and the loading of the vehicles being used to deliver the steel framework to the sites. EirGrid had still not addressed the key issues regarding the physical capacity of a number of the access routes to accommodate the traffic movements between the public road and the tower sites. He said no realistic measures had been provided to address the issues raised regarding any accommodation works and relating to the control of lands in order to carry out such works.

On the question of how much surplus soil and rock would be generated by excavation at the tower sites and taken away to a licensed waste management site, the ‘worst case scenario’ envisaged by EirGrid was said to be approximately 10,500 cubic metres. Mr McKernan said reasonable figures were required from the company in respect of waste soil generated at each tower location, in order to ascertain the volume of traffic movements generated on the affected public roads.

Regarding the frequency of construction traffic on narrow roads in Monaghan, Mr McKernan said concerns remained that a number of towers would be constructed at the same time in the same area, leading to a significant amount of traffic using the public road. He asked for specific details of the phasing of the construction work in order to allay the Council’s concerns.

Some of the haul routes were quite convoluted. No proposals had been put forward to prevent contractors using public roads that would provide more direct routes for access to towers. EirGrid had proposed to carry out a pre- and post-construction video survey of the road pavements and verges on the haul routes. But this was insufficient in his opinion and a full mechanical machine survey of the public roads involved should be made at least three months in advance of works commencing.

Finally, the use of flag men would not resolve difficulties regarding delivery trucks blocking the public road while parked for off-loading. Nor would it resolve conflicts between large delivery trucks meeting day-to-day traffic traversing the road.

Along with senior planner Toirleach Gourley Mr McKernan continued to interrogate EirGrid about when Monaghan County Council would be provided with specific foundation details for each of the 134 proposed towers in the county and part of Cavan near Kingscourt. EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons SC insisted the relevant information had already been provided in the application and response to submissions. Statements that there was inadequate or no information were without substance, he said. He told the presiding inspector it was not a function of Monaghan County Council to reject the information.

We are looking at new and significant information, Mr Gourley stated. It differed from what had been published in the environmental impact statement. He said he had identified gaps in the EirGrid information. As a result the Council could not examine the impact of construction vehicle movements such as concrete lorries on local roads. The latest information they received conflicted with the information presented on behalf of EirGrid yesterday.

Asked by the inspector about information on traffic movements and towers, consultant engineer Tom Cannon said there had been a robust traffic assessment and the figures provided were an over-estimation of what would be required. He said there would be excavated material during the construction of the proposed development, specifically in relation to the tower foundations. Typically 34 m3 of excess soil would be excavated at each intermediate tower location with approximately 230 m3 of excess soil excavated from angle towers. In the case of three angle 90 degree angle towers the excavations would be deeper, requiring more concrete to be laid and more soil to be removed. It was stated that 96 of the 104 intermediate towers would not require piling. A worst case scenario would be that all excavated material amounting to 10,500m3 for all the towers in Monaghan would be sent off-site to a licenced waste recovery facility. He indicated that there were a number of potential storage sites in Monaghan, including the proposed temporary yard outside Carrickmacross.

But senior planner Toirleach Gourley pointed out that because the licence was coming to an end at one site and another two had been filled with soil from the new factory development on the Monaghan by-pass, the possibilities for disposal were restricted. His estimate was that there was approximately 17,000 m3 of soil to be disposed off as there was an extra 7000 cubic metres intended for the storage yard over and above what was in the environmental assessment.

Jarlath Fitzsimons SC said EirGrid had used information that was publicly available at the time of the planning application in June last year. It was not possible to use a crystal ball to predict the possible landfill sites when the line came to be constructed. Mr Cannon, he said, had indicated some of the sites that might be available. There was a wide sweep of potential disposal areas provided. Different areas would be required at different times. Mr Gourley, he said, seemed to be arguing for perfection in the environmental impact statement.

Robert Arthur of ESB International repeated the various stages of construction that would be required for the towers and gave details of the timescale involved. John McKernan asked for details of concrete lorries that would be off-loading material on public roads to dumper trucks that would bring the concrete up to the site towers. Some of the roads were very narrow and one proposed point for off-loading was at a crossroads and another at a T-junction. He was informed there were three angle towers where extra deliveries of concrete would be required for the deeper foundation.

In response to further questioning, the EirGrid consultant Tom Cannon advised that where the same access route was being used for two or more towers, the pylons would be constructed one at a time in order to reduce the level of traffic on the public road. He outlined other mitigation measure that would be taken including the use of flagmen at a small number of locations to ensure that traffic was not blocked. He also said there would be one proposed road closure during construction of two towers in the Monaghan area.

Mr McKernan asked EirGrid to put in place a mechanical survey of the state of the local roads that would be used three months before the development started. Mr Cannon advised him that the company intended to do a video of the routes involved both before and after construction, but Mr McKernan said this would not be a suitable way of collecting and assessing the relevant information.


Malcolm White of Irish Balloon Flights said his company had been providing passenger flights from its base in Co. Meath for sixteen years. He told the hearing about how their business could be affected if the proposed high voltage power line was permitted. Their main concern was for the safety of passengers and crew.

A consultant for EirGrid Damien Grehan said ballooning was taking place in a landscape that included numerous overhead cables including a 400kV line. Aeronautical engineer Rodney Fewings said the ultimate responsibility for flight regulation rested with the Irish Aviation Authority and pilots were allowed to fly over power lines.

The presiding inspector asked Mr Fewings about the potential of the overhead lines to impact on the Medevac helicopter operations in Ireland, as this had been raised in a number of submissions in response to the planning application. He said he saw no reason why it should be a problem because of the modern navigation equipment on board new helicopters.

This section dealt with the transboundary and cumulative impact

As members of the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee and NEPPC had decided a fortnight ago they would withdraw from the proceedings over EirGrid’s conduct at the hearing, it was left to the presiding inspector to ask EirGrid any relevant questions in this section. EirGrid said a comprehensive evaluation of the potential effects on County Armagh at the point where the proposed line crossed the border at Lemgare in County Monaghan had been set out in the environmental impact statement. These ranged from none to moderate.

EirGrid subsidiary SONI had produced its own impact assessment for the effects in the Republic of the development in Northern Ireland as the line extends to Turleenan near Moy in Co. Tyrone. Both companies together had produced a separate consolidated environmental statement on the entirety of the project.


EirGrid consultant ecolgist Daireann McDonnell who had presented details of the most recent wintering bird surveys for 2014/15 to the inquiry two days previously in response to a request from the National Parks and Wildlife Service then read a statement into the record. He confirmed that the studies along the proposed line had not identified any new sensitive locations or mitigation requirements for whooper swans. Mr McDonnell recommended that additional flight diverters should be installed on a section of the lines between thirteen towers near the River Blackwater in County Meath.


The hearing was told EirGrid and its consultants had been able to gain access to only 25% of the land along the route required for the towers, because they did not have permission from every landowner. At the conclusion of the module EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons SC outlined the reasons why the company had decided not to use its statutory powers to gain access in order to carry out environmental appraisals.

He said EirGrid respected the rights of each landowner in relation to their own lands, and always sought to achieve access through liaison with landowners and local communities to the greatest extent possible. EirGrid and its team had conducted site appraisals at a sizeable number of locations which, given the high degree of uniformity of land type and land use in both study areas, assisted in the confirmation of the conclusions of the baseline environmental appraisals conducted without the benefit of site surveys, in many instances.

There was no necessity for EirGrid to exercise statutory powers inherited from the ESB in relation to conducting surveys of lands for the proposed interconnector because they were able to use a suite of alternative assessment methods. The senior counsel told the inspectors that EirGrid and its consultants were confident the appraisal methodologies employed where physical access to sites was not granted had not had a material impact on the quantity or quality or adequacy of the information included in both the Environmental Impact Statement and Natura Impact Statement submitted to the Planning Board as part of the application.

EirGrid remained of the view that the exercise of its statutory powers to gain access to lands compulsorily would have not resulted in additional information being garnered which would have altered the environmental appraisal in any material way, he concluded.


There is a chance today (Thursday) for interested groups or individuals to comment on part one of the proceedings, which began five weeks ago. On Monday the hearing moves into part two, when elected representatives, concerned residents groups from Co. Meath and then individual landowners will make oral submissions on specific issues. Dates for the hearing have been set until mid-May.


At the High Court in Dublin last week Mr Justice Humphreys reserved a decision on a legal case by the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign. They are seeking permission for a judicial review of the validity of the planning application by EirGrid. The judge sad he hoped to give a decision before May 12th.



This section dealt with flora and fauna

Two experts from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht were present at the hearing. Dr David Tierney a wildlife ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service talked about the impact of the development on bird migration patters, particularly whooper swans. The swans tended to be found on wetland in parts of Co. Meath and some of their flight lines would go close to the proposed power lines.

Dr Tierney noted that in EirGrid’s respsonse to submissions, “grey coloured flight diverters are proposed as they will minimise potential additional visual impact impacts whilst increasing the visibility of the earth wire to flighting birds”. He said it seemed the choice of using grey diverters over yellow might have been made on aesthetic grounds, potentially compromising their efficacy in reducing bird deaths. It was difficult to understand that grey line markers offered more contrast than yellow ones especially in an Irish context of relatively mild wet winters.

He noted that along with bird distribution and flight activity surveys EirGrid proposed to undertake surveys of wintering waterbirds sites in the area along the route of the line. It would be useful if such data was regularly submitted to the Irish Wetland Bird Survey office, he said.

Apart from starting to acquire a standardised evidence base to quantify bird fatalities as a result of collision events with electric utility facilities across Ireland, which would inform the assessment of future developments, Dr Tierney said data collected from the proposed monitoring programme would need to be able to feedback into adapting, refining and increasing where necessary the suite mitigation measures aimed at minimising bird collision rates if this development was permitted.

Cliona O’Brien head of ecological assessment at the NPWS commented on an issue raised with EirGrid about what would happen if a badger sett was discovered at any of the tower construction sites. The hearing was informed that the company would then apply to the Department under the Wildlife Act for the necessary licence for any works during the construction period.

She also raised the subject of a previous ecological incident involving the construction of a 110kV electricity line by the ESB over bogland in County Donegal.

EirGrid’s response was that the line in question was constructed in quite challenging terrain consisting of deep peat that was completely different to that of the proposed North South interconnector. On the Donegal project an incident occurred during the lifting of bog mats which resulted in the top layer of soil being removed.

The company said it was now standard practice for an ecologist to oversee work on large transmission projects to ensure the construction and monitoring protocol was followed. In the case of the interconnector, EirGrid said the environmental officer would monitor construction to minimise impacts to bats, otters, kingfishers, badgers, whooper swans and other birds.