Defiant residents in a coastal commuter town have threatened to disrupt work on one of the country’s largest energy projects over safety concerns.
Homeowners in Rush, north Co Dublin, are campaigning to get Eirgrid to re-route a high voltage DC cable which will carry 500MW of power between Wales and Woodland in Co Meath.
Those opposing the €600m East-West Interconnector, which was given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanala last year, want Eirgrid to consider an alternative route through an estuary on the outskirts of the town.
Some have vowed to block roads when contractors for the State-backed infrastructure project move in.
Concerned dad-of-four Dermot Goode said: “I wouldn’t have a mobile phone mast near my house or let my kids play near pylons, but they want to put this right under out feet and past the national school.
“You couldn’t have asked anyone to pick a worse place to put this. It’s convenience over the risk to public safety.”
Protesters claim similar DC cables do not go through a residential area anywhere else in Europe and carry more power than Ireland’s largest power station, Moneypoint.
However Eirgrid, a state-owned company mandated to develop the interconnector by 2012, have rejected safety fears and stressed planning permission would not have been granted if there had been any risk to the public.
It maintained the earth‘s natural magnetic field is higher than that from the cables and that a route through Rogerstown Estuary was dismissed because the waterway is protected under EU law as a special area of conservation.
“It is very regrettable that people are worried about this but it’s very important people get the facts about the interconnector,” said a spokeswoman.
“We know there is a population in Rush but this interconnector would not have been approved by the World Health Organisation, Government and An Bord Pleanala if there was a health risk to anybody.”
Separately, Eirgrid also faces a battle over its north-south interconnector – a 140km stretch of new 400 kilovolt overhead line running from Meath to Tyrone - where campaigners want to bury the cables underground.
The company was recently forced to withdraw its planning application at a public hearing in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, after legal flaws were found.
Meanwhile the north’s Environment Minister Edwin Poots has ordered the Planning Appeals Commission to investigate the Northern section of the controversial development.
Rush residents worried about the cables being laid the length of the main street, past the national school and hundreds of homes, plan to hold a mass rally in the town next Sunday.
Anne McCrudden, chair of Rush Community Council, said every avenue – including a meeting with Energy Minister Eamon Ryan – has been exhausted.
Committee members now plan to appeal the decision to the EU.
“We believe we have a constitutional right to fight for the safety of our children,” added Mrs McCrudden.