Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Order of Business
Has a report been laid before the House because if so, it has not come to my attention? Failing that, a member of the joint committee from the Seanad should report to Members on its deliberations because it is not appropriate to put anything through this House without debate. Again, some of the Seanad's dearly-held powers in respect of the European Union, which were enunciated during the referendum campaign, in which the Seanad has equal say with the Dáil, are being exercised today. However, this measure also is being taken without debate, which is unfortunate.
With regard to the issue of overhead pylons, I have been encouraging everyone in County Meath to attend the meeting being held at Trim tonight. I expect and hope to be there, provided that proceedings here are concluded on time and depending on how long debate on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill continues. If I am not at the meeting in Trim, I will be in this Chamber. However, this is an issue for the Government. While the support of the Labour Party Senators in the campaign to place underground these cables is welcome, the Government has issued a policy statement on transmission in which it endorses fully the strategy of EirGrid. That was a Cabinet decision, which I believe was published some time in 2012 and is available on the website of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Consequently, EirGrid is proceeding with the explicit approval and endorsement of the Government.
The single point in the Government statement that in some respects is welcome is a paragraph referring to gaining community acceptance. However, EirGrid has failed completely to gain any level of community acceptance or even community engagement. Nothing has happened and the community has refused to engage with EirGrid. Moreover, I believe those concerned are correct because of the heavy-handed manner in which this has happened. This has resulted in huge wastage of resources in County Meath because one should not forget this project started in that county in October 2007 but has not yet reverted to An Bord Pleanála. These things have a habit of dragging out for years. It has been five or six years since I attended a similar meeting in Trim, at which approximately 3,000 people attended. I would not be surprised were the attendance tonight similar or perhaps larger, because the attendees then all came from counties Meath and Cavan, whereas I understand people will be coming from all over the country this evening. It is important that the North-East Pylon Pressure Campaign, NEPPC, be supported in its meeting today and that a message be sent to the Government that it must change the marching orders it has given to EirGrid on this matter.