independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Rabbitte won't back under-fire EirGrid boss

Pat O' Doherty, Chief Executive, ESB
Pat O' Doherty, Chief Executive, ESB

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte has refused to express confidence in under-fire EirGrid chief John O'Connor.

Four Fine Gael TDs have devised a motion of no confidence in the former An Bord Pleanala boss as speculation mounts that he will reconsider his appointment.

However, the motion did not reach the floor at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night.

Mr O'Connor sparked fury by admitting earlier this week that he would not like to live within 50 metres of a pylon – despite plans by EirGrid to build 1,300 across the country.

While the Government this week expressed confidence in Mr O'Connor, Mr Rabbitte (inset) yesterday refused to do so.

He said he wanted to read the transcripts of an Oireachtas Committee during which Mr O'Connor's suitability as chairman was questioned.

Meanwhile, EirGrid chief executive Fintan Slye said he would have no problem living beside a pylon.

His comments were made at the Transport and Communications Committee.

Mr Slye said the €3.2bn upgrade of the national grid, called the Grid 25 project, was needed to secure supplies and allow the use of more wind energy across the network, and that this would "inevitably" result in new infrastructure being built.

"We recognise that public consultation is essential. We will take all the input we receive... we will address all the issues raised in a fair, balanced and open way."

Asked about whether he would live beside a pylon, he said: "My personal view is I would have no issue living next to a pylon, I know they're safe. I know from working in the industry they are needed to keep the lights on and for industry and I would have no issue."

RISK

Grid 25 was published in 2008, and includes more than 200 projects. It includes upgrading about 2,200km of lines – there is 8,700km at present – and building another 800km.

Mr Slye said the degree of consultation was "above and beyond" anything put in place for other projects. "We understand there is a degree of apprehension," he added.

He said there was no discernable health risk from overhead lines, and while it was possible to place some of the lines underground, it could only be done for short distances.

Chairman of the committee, John O'Mahony, criticised the lack of consultation. "Some of the information is confusing, and at maximum is misleading."

Irish Independent

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