independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Pat Rabbitte plays down Coalition row on pylon review

Kenny attempt to bring North-South plan in 'did not undermine' minister

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, right, and junior minister Brian Hayes

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte has moved to play down tensions within Cabinet over the scale of the Government's pylons review.

Mr Rabbitte said he did not believe he was "undermined" by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's attempts to extend the review to include the North-South interconnector.

But he indicated that there was no guarantee that Mr Kenny's request would be met, adding that the interconnector was "much further advanced" than other projects.

Significant tensions have surfaced within Cabinet over the pylons review and the exact remit of an independent panel chaired by former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness.

Mr Rabbitte found himself at a centre of a row last week after he informed ministers that the panel would examine just the Grid Link (Cork to Kildare via Wexford) and Grid West (Mayo to Roscommon) projects.

A number of Fine Gael TDs, including Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, demanded to know why the review did not include the North-South interconnector.

Such was the fury among Fine Gael TDs, Mr Kenny intervened and asked that an extension to the review be examined.

The intervention stunned Mr Rabbitte, who had been adamant that the interconnector was too far advanced to undergo a review.

Sources in both Fine Gael and Labour have described the U-turn as "embarrassing" for Mr Rabbitte, who has already been criticised for his handling of the pylons issue.

However, Mr Rabbitte moved to play down the episode yesterday and insisted that the Taoiseach's request has been passed on to Ms McGuinness and her panel.

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"I met with Judge McGuinness on Friday and I put that request to her and she told me that she would have to go and convene the panel and discuss it with them to consider, as she put it, what, if anything they can do. She will convene the panel within a couple of weeks and they will consider that request," he told the Irish Independent.

"I don't believe I was undermined. These are difficult issues. Communities have very strong views," he said.

"We've seen it before in terms of the erection of masts. We've seen it in terms of trying to build the roads infrastructure.

"And now we're seeing it in terms of the rollout of electricity transmission," he added.

Mr Rabbitte reiterated the Government's claim that the rolling out of pylons is essential for job creation.

"There always has been a trade-off between the comforts of modern civilisation and a certain element of intrusion into the way we live.

"We can't have jobs, we can't have economic progress, we especially can't have the dispersal of jobs to the regions if we don't have an electricity transmission system that's fit for purpose," he said.

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Irish Independent

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