Seamus Healy TD – Leaders Questions 21 January 2014

Seamus Healy TD raises the issue of monster pylons, the anger in rural Ireland and the 35,000 public submissions to EIRGRID in opposition to Government plans.

Deputy Healy asks the Taoiseach to suspend the pylon project until at least an international, independent assessment is carried out.

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One thought on “Seamus Healy TD – Leaders Questions 21 January 2014

  1. Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Communities across the country are angry and frustrated yet determined to oppose EirGrid’s intolerable proposal to erect 250 monster pylons, carrying 400 kVA overhead power lines across Munster and Leinster. Thousands of people turned out for meetings in opposition to these plans and there has been significant development over the Christmas and new year.

    The first was the revelation that there have been 35,000 submissions to EirGrid in opposition to these plans, and that shows the depth and strength of feeling of opposition to these proposals. In its submission, Fáilte Ireland has also criticised these EirGrid plans, and that body has particular relevance with regard to tourism and job creation. Every week Government Oireachtas Members and MEPs are appearing on the front pages of local newspapers and on local radio to oppose EirGrid’s plans. I welcome this and hope it is not just another election promise to be broken when the local and European elections are over. The newly appointed chair of EirGrid told us he would not live near these pylons and today in the Irish Examiner, half of the Government Deputies living along the proposed route, some of them sitting behind the Taoiseach as we speak, have stated they would not live near these pylons. Almost three quarters have stated that this project would damage the landscape and tourism, and several have stated that they do not believe EirGrid’s claim that there are no health implications.

    Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
    One of the lads is beside the Taoiseach.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    We are also indebted to the Irish Examiner because on 30 December it reported that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, wrote to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan—–

    Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
    He can have a word now. He is beside the Taoiseach.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    The Minister for Health indicated his concern about these pylons and the link with childhood cancers. He referenced the Dublin City University public health expert, Professor Anthony Staines, who has stated that “it is well established that low-frequency magnetic fields increase the risk of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia”. In view of those developments, will the Taoiseach accept there is a strong, genuine and honestly held view in the public that opposes these pylons?

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    Thank you.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Does the Taoiseach accept that EirGrid’s so-called consultation process is fundamentally flawed and does not conform to the Aarhus Convention? Will the Taoiseach suspend this project, pending a full international, independent assessment of the project, up to and including the question of putting these lines under the ground and sea?

    Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
    The Minister for Health agrees with Deputy Healy.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    I accept there are concerns and anxieties expressed by people across the country.

    Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
    There are huge concerns. A few of those people beside the Taoiseach have those concerns.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    The Taoiseach is not speaking about Doha.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    It is right that in a democracy we have always had differing views about major pieces of infrastructure, such as motorways, turbines—–

    Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
    The Seanad.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    —–pylons, gas connectors, major buildings etc. This is very normal in Ireland. I also believe that our people are well able to make decisions at the end of the day in respect of the best action to take in the interest of our country. We need to be able to provide an infrastructure that will cater for the next 50 years – for those who come after us – in the context of power supply, capacity to do business, provide employment etc. It is a question of how to do it.
    The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte, is dealing with this.

    Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
    Is he back in control?

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    He extended the period of consultation until mid January and he has now received over 30,000 applications, views and submissions.

    Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
    Trying to get beyond the local elections.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    Many of them repeat the issues but add to the number. The Minister will come back to the Government in the next week or two, I would think, with an initial assessment of the implications and issues raised by the people who took the time to make submissions.

    Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
    It is an initial assessment.

    Dessie Ellis (Dublin North West, Sinn Fein)
    What about the submission from the Minister, Deputy Reilly?

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    Settle down.

    Micheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
    I thought it was a passing whim.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    The Deputy has correctly pointed out that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, wrote to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Rabbitte. What did he write about?

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Mrs. Murphy’s cow.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    He wrote about the concerns of people giving out to him about the undergrounding of the cable through Rush, which in some cases was less than a metre from doors. He was entitled to express that concern, as somebody could with regard to overhead pylons etc. There is a very long way to go with this, Deputy Healy—–

    Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
    Yes.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    We must decide—–

    Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
    Just ask the Minister of State, Deputy Ring.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    We must be very clear. The challenge is—–

    Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
    Putting the pylons under the ground.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    —–finding the best way, in the interest of the country, to provide infrastructure. Deputy Finian McGrath may well laugh.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    It is no laughing matter.

    Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
    The Minister is making me laugh.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    If your constituents in Clontarf had an underground cable less than a metre from the door, they might be concerned too.

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    Please speak through the Chair. Do not encourage them.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    The Deputy may smirk and laugh if he so wishes. We need the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, to come back to the Government with his initial analysis of the 30,000 applications that have been sent in. EirGrid will follow that.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    It is not meaningful.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    This is a process in which there has to be proper, full, thorough, comprehensive consultation.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    We do not have it.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    Deputy Healy should note I am used to it over very many years. The result has to be that one makes a decision in the best interest of our country, using the best approach.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Will he appoint more consultants?

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    EirGrid has not defined the lines in a number of cases, as the Deputies know.

    Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
    The Taoiseach does not want them defined.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    It has outlined a series of options from Cork towards the south east, and north east towards Dublin. Obviously, it is its responsibility to set out what it considers the best option of a line—–

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Why is the April Bill put back?

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    Would the Deputy stay quiet, please?

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    The Minister will present to the Government his initial assessment of the 30,000 submissions to consider the implications.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    As the Taoiseach said, there is a very long way to go. I hope it does not depend on when the local and European elections take place. That would appear to me to be the position having listened to Government backbenchers, Members of the European Parliament and even Ministers of State.
    The Taoiseach mentioned the word “consultation”. Is he satisfied that the EirGrid consultation was adequate? Very many people believe it was fundamentally flawed and does not conform with the Aarhus Convention? I ask for a direct answer on this.

    Specifically on the health issue, it is quite clear that EirGrid cannot guarantee safety. It is quite clear that there are significant health issues involved. There are reports, both national and international, including references made by the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, to a local professor at Dublin City University, and there are other international reports—–

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    The Deputy cannot go into those reports. The Deputy should ask a supplementary question, and he has exceeded his time.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    The other international reports raise very serious health issues associated with the pylons, including childhood leukaemia. In view of those reports and the fact that EirGrid cannot guarantee that there are no health implications, I urge that we use the precautionary principle that is accepted at EU and WHO levels when there are health dangers. On this basis, the proposals should be withdrawn and cancelled. Will the Taoiseach suspend this proposal pending the outcome of an international, independent examination including the health issues?

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    First, Deputy Healy said the situation was fundamentally flawed. In his second question, on whether consultation was adequate, he said this was flawed.
    I am not clear on whether—–

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    I asked whether he was satisfied with the consultation.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    I am not clear about whether Deputy Healy is talking about the proposition of strengthening the grid in our country.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    It is all misleading.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    I am not clear whether he is saying the proposal to strengthen and improve the capacity of the grid is fundamentally flawed or whether the consultation process is flawed.

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Is the Taoiseach satisfied with EirGrid’s consultation?

    Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
    We are not having a chat here. There are other Deputies in this Chamber who want to get on with their business.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    More than 30,000 people have sent in responses as part of the consultation process. They have written letters and made submissions. The test of the consultation will be borne out by the analysis to be conducted by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he goes through all of these.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes is now opposed to it.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    I read in one of the national newspapers last week a letter by a former worker of the ESB who had worked all his life in close proximity to high-tension lines. He made the point that he had lived – thanks be to God – to enjoy the fruits of his pension for many years. He wondered whether any surveys were carried out on people like him who had worked in very close proximity to high-tension lines during their careers.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    The line is normally turned off.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    The World Health Organization has said the lines do not represent any undue risk. Are we to believe it or not?

    Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
    At levels generally encountered by members of the public.

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    People always have different views. I have encountered this on so many occasions over so many years on different issues. I suggest to Deputy Healy that we have a very common sense and rational discussion about this. Let us see the analysis of the 30,000 plus submissions. EirGrid has a responsibility to decide its preferred option independently of the Government.

    Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
    How independent?

    Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
    The Government has a responsibility to examine the policy that emerges on the best approach to providing the country’s infrastructure for the next 50 years. Deputy Healy will have adequate time to make a full and wholesome contribution to that.

    On the question of whether I believe the consultation was adequate, I am used to dealing with people along these lines. Sometimes, no matter who one sends, it is not adequate. Some people will say they are happy while others will say they are not. That is normal human nature. One never gets it right all the time. In this case, we need to see what is in the submissions and analyse the content. EirGrid must do its thing and the Government must respond on what is best to meet the challenge for the next 50 years.

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