Anger as Rabbitte says pylon plan won't be changed 'at whim'
A MAJOR row is brewing within Labour after Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said the roll-out of the Grid Link pylon plan would not be changed "at the whim of some passing fashion".
Mr Rabbitte dismissed fresh calls from anti-pylon campaigners to abandon the plan to construct hundreds of kilometres of overhead power lines from Cork to Wexford.
Amid furious calls from within his own party to run the power lines underground, Mr Rabbitte rejected claims from the anti-pylon groups that the power lines were not needed.
"I'm afraid that is not the case. A few short years ago we were on a knife edge in terms of capacity to supply energy.
"The best technical minds in the country have been applied to the issue and they say we have to build out the grid," he said.
Under the plans for Grid Link, a 250km high-voltage overhead power line would be built through counties Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow, including a network of hundreds of pylons.
EirGrid said the €500m project would ensure a high-quality electricity supply for the south and east and provide a platform for job creation.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, Labour senator John Whelan says that Taoiseach Enda Kenny "waded in with both feet" when he suggested that young people would have to emigrate if the pylons were not built.
"Kenny's attempt at linking the two highly emotive issues of pylons and emigration will come back to haunt him and the Government with a vengeance in the months ahead.
"His comments are pathetic, really, and would be laughable if the issue was not so serious. There is a whiff of panic to it, more daring and misleading spin from the intrepid duo of Messrs Kenny and Bruton that previously brought us the Senate abolition referendum debacle."
However, Mr Rabbitte sought to defend controversial comments which Mr Kenny made while in Saudi Arabia: "I think the point the Taoiseach was making is that if you are going to have social progress and economic development in the regions of Ireland, then you must have a power system that is capable of delivering energy to the regions of Ireland in order to maintain employment."
Earlier, the Labour's MEP for Ireland South, Phil Prendergast, accused Mr Kenny of using the unemployed as "bait to encourage people to accept the proposals".
Speaking on RTE's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke', Ms Prendergast said she would not be happy to have pylons placed anywhere near people's homes.
For its part, EirGrid said it would now use the public comments to evaluate the corridor options and choose the least constrained corridor.
The 'least constrained corridor' is the corridor that achieves the most acceptable balance between competing constraints while meeting the needs of the project.
"As we have stated previously, we expect to be able to identify the least constrained corridor in mid-2014," an EirGrid spokesman said.
Responding to calls from Labour Party chairman Jack Wall and Senator Denis Landy for a cost-benefit analysis to be conducted, EirGrid said it noted recent calls for a cost comparison in relation to undergrounding.
"EirGrid will consider all feedback received as part of the consultation process. We will assess the issues raised through the consultation process and seek to address them in a fair and transparent way," the spokesman said.
Fianna Fail jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said Mr Kenny's linking of the pylon issue to emigration was "outrageous". Mr Kenny and Mr Rabbitte showed just how "out of touch this Government has become", he said.
"It clearly demonstrates that the Government has absolutely no intention of taking on board the genuine concerns of communities and intends to just press ahead with the large-scale construction of overhead lines regardless of any objections," he added.