TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has been accused of missing the point, after he questioned the validity of anti-pylon groups fielding candidates in the local elections.
Mr Varadkar said he failed to see the "benefit" of electing such candidates to council positions because decisions on pylon projects are made by An Bord Pleanala.
It has emerged that anti-pylon groups are eyeing up council seats in order to aid their national campaign of opposition against the projects.
One of the largest anti-pylon groups confirmed that it has been contacted by several individuals seeking to run under its umbrella.
The North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) said it would make a decision on whether to contest council constituencies by the end of February.
However, the prospect of such groups fielding candidates in May's elections was questioned yesterday by Mr Varadkar. He told the Irish Independent that local representatives would have no role in decisions on the issue of pylons and therefore there would be no benefit in voting for them.
"It wouldn't be unusual for candidates to put their names forward on a single issue," Mr Varadkar said.
"But when it comes to the local elections, they're not about a single issue, and in fact decisions on pylons are made by An Bord Pleanala, not by the council.
"So you would have to ask what the benefit would be of electing a councillor about an issue over which the council has no control."
Mr Varadkar's remarks were criticised by pylon campaigner Padraig O'Reilly, who insisted that fielding candidates would send a "significant message" to the Government.
"I'm very surprised that someone at Leo Varadkar's level would so clearly miss the point on this one and I reject his comments," said Mr O'Reilly, who is spokesman for the NEPPC.
"By fielding candidates in the local elections, we would send a clear message to the Government that they simply are not addressing the concerns surrounding pylons.
"This is going to be a huge issue around local election time and the Government appears to be missing this completely."
Mr O'Reilly said discussions about candidate selection are at an early stage.
"We will wait until the end of February before making a decision on whether to contest council seats so that we can see exactly how the government will respond to the serious concerns.
"We do believe the opposition are starting to get stuck in so we would be looking at asking people to vote and transfer to them."