Madam – I read your comments about Brendan Halligan (Sunday Independent, June 23, 2013) and his alleged conflict of interest between being chairman of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and being on the Board of Mainstream Renewable Power.
Brendan is indeed on the board of Mainstream. He occupies a serious position as the Senior Independent Director. He brings a wealth of experience in policy formulation process, in how the EU works, in how ethical business works from a lifetime of experience as a TD, MEP, as the creator of the consultancy business CIPA and as the creator of the IIEA.
He has declared his interest in Mainstream. None of the services offered by SEAI have been availed of by Mainstream. If they were Brendan would have to absent himself from any decision-making forum at SEAI because there would be a conflict of interest.
Policy decisions, such as those affecting the Energy Bridge, the Mainstream plan to build 5000mw mainly in the midlands and sell it into the UK, are made by the Government and civil servants at the Department of Energy and Communications. The strength of government commitment to green energy exports is shared by all parties, by the Taoiseach and the relevant ministers. The creation of a new exporting industry, as big as the dairy sector, using a completely unutilised natural resource to the great profit of the midlands and the rest of Ireland is welcomed by all but a group of NIMBYs.
In Ireland, everyone knows everyone else. That is one of our strengths. If you were to try and filter out from public life or private industry those successful ones who know more people, I'm afraid that there would be no one to sit on any board, public or private. That is why we have conflict of interest provisions in all companies.
Besides, the argument is spurious. Brendan Halligan is supposed to be a champion for renewable energy, being chairman of SEAI. If he sat on the board of Shell, or BP he could be accused of conflict of interest. He merely furthers his huge interest in dealing with climate change by offering his services to the Government and to Mainstream.
Eddie O'Connor, chief executive,
Mainstream Renewable Power