Full text of the speech delivered by Sinn Féin European Election candidate Matt Carthy at Ard Fheis 2014:
Those communities in Counties Monaghan, Armagh, Cavan, Tyrone and Meathwho have been engaged in a campaign since 2007 against the EirGrid and NIE plans to impose on them high voltage 400kv overhead power-lines and associated pylons are to be commended. They are now joined by communities in the West, Midlands and South of our country.
I especially want to record the Trojan work of the representative campaigningorganisations who have been singularly responsible for frustrating and delaying the efforts of EirGrid/ NIE to ignore the very real concerns of unwilling ‘host’ communities and impose their structures on our landscape.
The concerns are very real; there are genuine worries for health, our environment, the landscape, the economic development of the areas concerned. To their credit most of the communities affected have not expressed opposition to the need for inter-connectors or an enhanced electricity network. They’ve simply, and rightly, demanded that they be under-grounded.
Report after report, including most recently one published by the government appointed International expert commission have clearly proved that under-grounding of the power-lines is both possible and feasible. Many argue that in the medium to long term, undergrounding is economically beneficial.
EirGrid claim that undergrounding will cost 2 ½ to 3 times more that overhead pylons. They previously said it would be 10 tens more expensive, prior to that they said 40 times. Before that again they said it just couldn’t be done. The easiest way to find out is for the government to commission an independent cost benefit analyses of the cost differential over the lifetime of the power lines. What are they afraid of?
The Danish government have set in train a process that plans to ensure that all future high voltage power lines in that country will be under-grounded. Our governments, north and south, should follow suit. We should aim to make Ireland a world leader in undergrounding technology, which is evolving fast.
It has to be said that the campaigning communities have received the verbal support of politicians from all quarters and that must be welcomed. However, without parties having a clear policy platform stating clearly that all high voltage power-lines, in whatever part of Ireland, will be under-grounded, then the support of local representatives will mean little. Motion 127, if passed, will reiterate a Sinn Féin position that has been in place since 2010. Then we became the first party with a policy platform that addresses the concerns of campaigners and affected communities. We remain the only party to have this policy. Put simply, if this motion was passed by either Fianna Fáil when they were in government then this issue would be resolved instantly. If Fine Gael or Labour were to do so now the rhetoric of their local representatives would carry a lot more weight.
If this government continues to follow Fianna Fáil’s lead and fail to apply the necessary guidance to underground these power lines and if the government’s appointees on An Bord Pleanála grant planning permission, EirGrid will still be required to enter these communities to impose their monstrosities. They will face, have no doubt, opposition on a scale they could never have imagined as they are met in their track by the united communities of counties across theEirGrid 25 netwrok. The people, in turn, will be joined by Sinn Féin, the only party with elected representatives in all counties affected.
So our advice once again to governments and EirGrid and NIE is to save yourselves a lot a time, money and whatever goodwill you have left by acceding to the demands of these communities because they will simply not allow these dangerous, unsightly pylons to blight their landscapes and their lives.
Molaim go laidir daoibh do thacaiocht a thabhairt do rún cead fiche is seacht.