Fianna Fáil Castlebar area representative Lisa Chambers has hit out at the decision to delay the route selection for the Eirgrid project until after the local and European elections as a political decision, rather than a practical one. The local elections hopeful said this week: "It’s clear that Fine Gael and Labour realise how politically sensitive the pylon issue is for people all over the country, and candidates for next May's elections are obviously worried about the impact the Eirgrid project will have on their campaigns."
Chambers continued that the decision was made to try to limit the impact that the issue may have on the Government parties candidates in the upcoming elections. "Delaying the decision on pylon routes is clearly a tactic to limit the impact the EirGrid project will have on the local and European elections for the Government parties. However the cat is already out of the bag, people who might possibly be affected are already aware of the proposed routes for these pylons and delaying the decision is not going to remove this issue from their memories for the period surrounding the elections,” she said.
Chambers, who ran for Fianna Fáil in the 2011 general election, said she believed that the Labour party in particular was coming under pressure from within on this issue and that is one of the reasons for the delay. She said: "Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has been fighting an internal battle with his party colleagues over the pylon issue, in particular he has come under increasing pressure from Labour party chair Jack Wall, who has led his party's internal revolt against the pylon plans. The Minister is obviously feeling the pressure and when asked recently if there had been proper engagement with citizens on the issue he responded "clearly not well enough". More disappointing though is his attempt to shift the blame for this lack of communication on to the State's energy agency EirGrid."
The Castlebar native concluded by saying that the public is entitled to be engaged in proper consultation as is directed by European Law. "There are environmental, health and safety, and also tourism concerns surrounding the proposed pylons. These are legitimate concerns and there are requirements under EU law with regard to the Habitats Directive, the Aarhus Convention, which promotes public involvement in decision making regarding the environment and Natura 2000 sites concerning nature protection areas. The requirement for consultation with the public is not a matter of choice for the Government, it is a requirement."