As the State prepares to wave goodbye to the troika, many of us citizens are experiencing a slightly schizophrenic sensation: we welcome the return of relative economic sovereignty, but at the same time we might regret the fact that not even the troika was able to dislodge the perception that there exists a real disconnect between the Irish people and some of the more exalted elements of our state and semi-state apparatus.
Whether it’s using the proceeds of a hospital tuck shop to ‘top-up’ an already very generous remuneration package, or run up eye-watering legal bills to try and force through non-existent rights-of-way on private property, we see a stunning level of what looks very like arrogance and condescension.
A perfect illustration of this patronising attitude is the Eirgrid pylon controversy. What infuriates people most is the very real sense that as far as Eirgrid — and to a lesser extent, the State — is concerned, that the matter has been settled and that us poor culchies are just going to have to deal with a decision already made.
That’s what really angers people; the clear message that all the blather about ‘consultation’ is just that: blather. That what we are seeing now is a pretence to cover up the fact that it’s already been decided by a handy little group of executives, none of whom can see any pylons from their mansions in Foxrock or Killiney. Everyone accepts the need for the ongoing upgrade of power supplies but we all know that Eirgrid won’t ever be seeking planning permission for a 400kv powerline through Clontarf or Clondalkin. That won’t be happening but apparently it’s good enough for the people in the Comeraghs or Kilkenny. Eirgrid just have to pretend to be listening to those people and nodding sympathetically while all the time their bulldozers and pile-drivers are revving up their engines impatiently.
Even more astonishing in its arrogance is the notion that somehow, Eirgrid’s disinclination to ‘underground’ the cables is the last word on the matter.
I don’t know where Eirgrid’s decision-makers has been for the last five years but they should know that the time when we all just meekly accepted the word of so-called ‘experts’ on matters like this is passed. minister, those days are gone. We want a look at the figures ourselves and we’d like independent verification of Eirgrid’s estimates.
We will not be talked down to or patronised. The people in the pathway of these proposed lines have genuine concerns that must be listened to and Ireland should follow the Danish policy of putting all lines underground.
The upfront cost may be higher but in the long term I believe we will achieve a much better outcome for Ireland, Eirgrid and most important of all, for the people who are being asked to live in the shadows of these monstrous pylons.
ICMSA has a long and distinguished record of supporting any and every positive move the State has made in terms of infrastructure. But these Eirgrid plans represent a point of no return.
Last Friday, at our annual conference in Limerick, I appealed directly to Minister Coveney to use his influence to make Government see sense on this matter before the real fight starts and the real damage is done.
John Comer is president of the ICMSA
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