Friday 22 February 2019

Cabinet minister 'on collision course' with Government over cross border power lines

Denis Naughten (Brian Lawless/PA)
Denis Naughten (Brian Lawless/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A cabinet minister has “absolutely no confidence” that the North-South electricity interconnector between Meath and Armagh will ever happen.

Regina Doherty is on a collision course with her own government after claiming the long delayed project should now be scrapped.

Her statement comes despite a report brought to Cabinet last week by Communications Minister Denis Naughten which supported the economic and technical case for using pylons rather than putting cables underground.

Officially the Government has said it will not now intervene in EirGrid’s plans to build the cross border power lines.

However, Ms Doherty, who is a TD for Meath, said today that the arguments being made why the interconnector is needed are a “smokescreen”.

She said claims by groups like IBEC that it will help attract business are not true.

Speaking to Michael Reade on LMFM, Ms Doherty said Denis Naughten has “no choice” but to support the project, but “the rest of us in Ireland are very aware that there are immense vulnerabilities in this project”.

She said the plan has “far more” benefits for Northern Ireland than it does for the Republic and even those are “diminishing month by month”.

Supporters of the project say it will provide a second high-capacity all-Ireland interconnector, ensuring the long-term supply and enhancing services to business.

But Ms Doherty said: “ I have absolutely no confidence that this project will ever be delivered.”

Asked whether she was in a difficult position as part of the Government backing the plan, Ms Doherty said her first responsibility is to the people of her constituency.

“It’s up to me to aid the interests of the people and move those interests along.”

She added: “I will continue to bring their opposition to the highest table in this country.”

Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne slammed the approach being taken Ms Doherty today, saying she was trying to “wash her hands” of the issue.

Mr Byrne, who also opposes the pylons, said it is not possible for a Cabinet minister to be advocating against government policy.

“There’s no way a Cabinet minster can say anything other than government policy.

“Regina likes to just get through the gaps. I’d have no difficulty saying it to her face,” he said.

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