Coalition TDs want underground cables reviewed

Almost all Coalition TDs living in constituencies along Eirgrid’s proposed GridLink in the South and East of the country want a cost-benefit analysis done on running parts or all of the extension underground.

Coalition TDs want underground cables reviewed

However, Government TDs in areas along the proposed routes have mixed views on whether there are any health risks. Eirgrid claims there will be none.

In an Irish Examiner survey of Fine Gael and Labour TDs, many outlined anger at community level about Eirgrid’s proposal to upgrade the national grid capacity.

Nearly three quarters of TDs said tourism and the landscape would be damaged with the construction of 750 pylons.

Eighteen of the 21 TDs who responded said Eirgrid needed to cost the option of running the high-voltage lines underground. Many TDs demanded this be carried out independently.

Over half of TDs on routes made submissions to Eirgrid before the deadline earlier this month.

A key issue cited by TDs as an obstacle to running high-voltage lines underground was the problem of reconverting power — from AC to DC — once it comes back above ground.

However, there were mixed views among elected representatives about possible health risks for residents living near lines or pylons.

Several TDs do not believe Eirgrid’s claim there are “absolutely no health implications”.

Carlow-Kilkenny Fine Gael TD Pat Deering said: “I don’t believe them [Eirgrid]. I’ve listened to their officials. I’ve talked to electricians and ESB [workers]. All of the opinion is that there are concerns. Eirgrid has not been clear about health.”

He also says the project will harm tourism: “There’s no doubt it will damage. It is a big issue. People from America don’t want to come to Ireland to see a vast array of pylons in green fields.”

Wicklow Labour TD Anne Ferris does not believe Eirgrid’s assurances on health either.

“No. I’m not happy with them,” she said. “But there’s no proof of cancer or leukaemia either.”

She said the estimated €3.2bn bill for the project could be spent on disabilities and health instead. She also has concerns about the visual impact of the project on her county: “You have the garden of Ireland here and two film studios. It will be a blight on the landscape throughout the country.”

Carlow-Kilkenny Labour TD Ann Phelan said she could not 100% believe Eirgrid’s claim about health.

She raised the fear local residents had about the project’s impact on the landscape. “It will cause a lot of destruction,” she said. “I don’t see how it won’t damage it [the landscape]. One constituent said it would be higher than the Statue of Liberty.”

TDs pointed to a World Health Organisation report due later this year on power lines and radiation, saying it would clarify matters.

Most TDs feel GridLink will damage tourism.

Scenic areas TDs fear will be damaged by power lines and pylons going through or near include the Wicklow Way, the Blackwater Valley in Cork and Waterford, Mount Leinster between Carlow and Wexford, and the Barrow Valley.

However, a number of TDs, including junior ministers Sean Sherlock and Tom Hayes, denied the power line project would damage tourism.

Cork East Fine Gael TD Tom Barry noted the construction of giant pylon projects abroad.

“I don’t buy it will ruin them,” he said. “Look at Austria and ski slopes. They have them coming out of their ears.”

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