The Aontú bill seeking to underground the North-South Interconnector has passed the first stage in the Dáil.

Opposition to the 140km long 400kV overhead line linking Co. Meath and Co. Tyrone “has raged since 2008”, according to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.

The cross-border initiative was given the green light back in September when planning permission was granted in Northern Ireland. However, a group of landowners have sought to judicially review this decision.

Damage to homes and farms

“The government seeks to construct 409 pylons up to 51m high, carrying 400,000V through Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, Armagh and Tyrone. There will be a minimum distance of 13m to homes allowed,” the deputy said.

“There are significant fears with regards threats to health. There are fears with regards damage to value of homes, farms and business. The tourism, agriculture, the bloodstock industries are all extremely alarmed.

“That technology that the government seeks to build is becoming out of date. It has been superseded by new underground technology that can do the same job.

“Indeed, new underground lines with similar distances are being built between Germany and Belgium within budget. The government is building the [Kildare-Meath] underground line.

“The campaigns run by NEPP [North East Pylon Pressure] and SEAT [Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone] have been incredibly well run. But they have been cursed by politicians [putting] their arms around them for photos while in opposition but go underground when in government.

“What is left? We are up against time, the clock is ticking.”

Second bill on the North-South Interconnector

The North-South Interconnector Review Group Bill 2021 is deputy Tóibín’s second bill seeking to underground the line.

“The purpose of the bill is to establish a review group to examine the interconnector, to define the review group’s terms of reference and to require it to submit a report to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications,” he explained.

“It provides for the necessary secretarial and administrative support, technical and professional advice and assistance towards research to the review group.

“This bill seeks to facilitate analysis of both undergrounding and overgrounding the interconnector in terms of technical performance, economic impact, environmental preference, socioeconomic impact and deliverability.

“The bill will facilitate analysis of the cost of the interconnector in terms of damage to house prices, property prices and damage to local business, enterprise and agri-businesses. This has not been done before.”