Fionnan Sheahan: New pylon rethink won't stall selection of routes
Published 29/01/2014 | 02:30
THE timing of the coalition climbdown on pylons is convenient to say the least.
Just months out from the local elections the Government was facing a massive revolt against EirGrid's plans to erect 1,500 pylons, threatening to become the dominant issue of the campaign.
The fallout from the escalating pylons crisis even hit Mr Kenny's backyard last weekend with a prominent Fine Gael councillor in Mayo resigning from the party.
Before a selection convention in Ballina, Fine Gael councillor Seamus Weir followed through on his threat to resign from the party and run as an Independent.
Mr Weir decided not to put his name forward for the ticket and is now in contact with anti-pylon protesters.
"I feel I have to get in behind my local community. We have the pylons big time going through our area. It's a high tourism area. I'm getting great support on my stance," he said.
Mr Weir had been on the verge of leaving the party after 15 years and running as an Independent after an anti-pylon motion, which he tabled, got no response from Government.
Last week, the councillor was among a number of public representatives who attended a protest in Ballina held by communities in the Moy Valley region of Mayo outside an EirGrid information office.
Mr Kenny had adopted a gung ho attitude towards the protesters at the start of the year while on a trade mission to The Gulf, where he linked developing the infrastructure to ending emigration.
Within weeks, he was talking to his backbenchers and casting doubt over the plans by saying he wanted to see more debate.
The climbdown is partial and doesn't represent a complete abandonment of the plan, but there is certainly a rethink.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte is suddenly announcing an independent investigation into the options for going underground and for overground – the investigation will delay the application for planning permission on the routes beyond 2016. But it won't hold up the selection of the routes.
EirGrid is also announcing a new compensation scheme for those living close to the pylons.
Anyone who lives within 200 metres of a new high voltage line will get a payment of up to €30,000 and communities within a kilometre of the line will get €40,000.
The accusations of an attempt to buy off protests will fly.
Despite the package announced yesterday, don't bank on the pylons issue going underground just yet.