The suggestion by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton, that the cost of undergrounding cables in the planned EirGrid development would prevent more balanced regional development, was the type of argument which raised questions about the honesty of those favouring overgrounding of the various projects.
This was stated by Marian Harkin MEP when she repeated her call that Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte should ensure that Eirgrids plans are independently assessed on a cost benefit basis before commencement.
She said: "As somebody who has campaigned for balanced regional development for many years Mr Bruton's words ring hollow. This push has a lot more to do with exporting wind energy than with balanced regional development, and while access to the grid is very important for industry access to broadband is even more so. There is no issue about strengthening the grid, everybody accepts this is necessary, it's how it will be done, how affected communities will be involved, how health issues will be dealt with; that is what needs to be addressed. The Minister is conflating two issues, balanced regional development, as a policy in its own right, and his suggestion that undergrounding of cables in some way prevents its delivery. This is not an honest assessment of the situation and Minister Bruton knows this.”
The North-West Mep went on to say: “The recent IDA statistics on the location of jobs, together with the continued pattern of visits organised for promoters to the different counties, is a pattern which over or undergrounding of cables will not influence. On the question of the cost of undergrounding cables, no independent assessment has been made which takes full account of adverse effects on the two core economic power houses of farming and tourism. The people of Ireland have learned to their cost of the failure to question so called experts who commit large scale funding which has to be paid for by the public. Mr Bruton had nothing to say about the recent increase of over 50 per cent in the cost of the public service obligation factor in ESB bills which relates to the subsidisation of wind power. Neither he nor any other Minister can say with any degree of accuracy what is the cost to farming and tourism of building thousands of pylons across tourism earning landscapes and productive land. The people must be consulted on the €3.2 billion of their money currently envisaged for the construction of a series of electricity transmission projects. Anything less is totally unacceptable and Mr Bruton and his Cabinet colleagues must accept the right of the public to know that the hardship they have endured in recent years will mean that they have now the right of proper consultation on projects they would be obliged to pay for.”