The ongoing row over the Gridwest project continued to make waves this week. Early in the week Eirgrid announced it was opening two new information centres on the Gridwest project, one on Bury Street in Ballina and another at the Square in Ballaghaderreen. The Ballina information centre will be open to members of the public from 10am to 6pm every Monday and Tuesday, and the Ballaghaderreen information centre from 10am to 6pm every Wednesday and Thursday. The existing Grid West information centre at Linenhall Street in Castlebar will remain open to members of the public team by appointment only.
Gridwest project manager Sean Meagher took to the airwaves this week to defend the project against claims it had exaggerated the cost of under-grounding rather than over-grounding the power lines that are proposed to cross the county. Mr Meagher was defending claims made by UCD Archaeology professor Dr Seamus Caulfied that Gridwest had exaggerated the cost of under-grounding by a factor of 20. However on Mid West Radio this week, Mr Meaghar said that while the size of the trench that cable will be laid in will be half a metre wide and a metre deep, the actual trench that will have to be excavated to build the trench is a number of times bigger, disputing Caulfield’s claim.
Two Ballina area local election candidates also weighed in on the issue, with Sinn Féin candidate John Sheahan saying that comments made by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte about the costs of under-grounding the cables were an attempt to undermine and influence the consultation process on the project. Sheahan said: “The assertion by Minister Rabbitte that under-grounding the project will increase domestic electricity bills by three per cent for 50 years has no credible evidence to support this claim and begs the question of the Minister where does this figure come from. The Minister's comments are a last minute attempt to influence what has been from the start a flawed consultation process. It has been apparent all along that the State side have already decided what they are going to do, and that the consultation process is merely a cosmetic exercise. Sinn Féin, along with others, have submitted detailed evidence in relation to the economic, health, and social aspects of pylons as opposed to underground cables. I am not satisfied that the Minister and Eirgrid are giving the evidence and research in favour of under-grounding the project the consideration it deserves.”
Fianna Fáil election candidate Eamon Moore this week called on the Taoiseach and Minster for Communications to come to the area themselves and meet people saying: “I am calling on Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and TD for Mayo, and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte to come to north Mayo, to meet with the people, and to explain to them why they think it is a good idea to put a line of 135ft pylons across the entire landscape of the region.” He also said it was time for the Government to take on the real concerns that people have about the project. “There is genuine concern about the impact of this project upon communities and individuals, and I would implore the powers that be – Eirgrid and the Government – to take note of these fears and to adequately address them. I believe that a project of such magnitude cannot be allowed to proceed without the consent of the public. To date there has been a total lack of consultation in relation to the preferred route and there are genuine fears for health and safety, for the impact on livestock, and on tourism.”