“Today’s announcement by the Independent Expert Panel of its Terms of Reference for reviewing EirGrid’s proposed overhead power lines and pylons is entirely inadequate and does not respond to the legitimate concerns of the people of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan”, Fianna Fáil’s MEP candidate for Midlands North West, Thomas Byrne, has said.

“The real test of today’s announcement is whether or not it precludes EirGrid from proceeding immediately to a planning application to build the North-South Interconnector. The Independent Expert Panel say they will offer an opinion to the Minister on whether their review process of the Grid West and Grid Link projects could be applied to the North-South project, but unfortunately, there is nothing in their announcement to prevent EirGrid from going ahead with a planning application.

“I am calling on EirGrid, as well as on Minister Rabbitte, to give a public undertaking that a planning application for the North-South Interconnector will not commence until the Panel has given its opinion on it to the Minister and he has had adequate time to consider it.

“This is not a criticism of Ms Justice McGuinness and the members of her Panel. The fundamental problem lies with the discriminatory nature of the original Government decision, to exclude the proposed North-South Interconnector from full evaluation by the Panel.  The situation remains that the proposed use of pylons for the Grid Link and West Link projects is being reviewed, but the Government has excluded from the review exactly the same type of pylons proposed for the North East. That is entirely wrong and unfair to the people of the North East.

“The North-South Interconnector is being treated as ‘the poor relation’ among the three proposed projects. However, carrying out a proper review of that project is entirely compatible with reviewing the other two projects and might even enhance those reviews. Fianna Fáil’s view is that there should be an independent international expert review of these projects.