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Snippet Contents:

This is my first opportunity in the House to congratulate Deputy Seán Kyne and wish him well on his appointment as Minister of State.
As my party colleagues have stated, we broadly support the Energy Bill 2016 which mainly involves amendments to existing energy Acts and strengthens secondary legislation, which is very important. One issue of concern to us and consumers throughout the country is the high retail energy prices footed by consumers, despite the collapse in wholesale gas prices. Consumers are not seeing an equivalent drop in the prices charged to them that should be expected due to the fall in prices worldwide. My colleagues in this debate have indicated that the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, must be reformed and empowered to take account of the impact of current retail prices being foisted on consumers by energy providers which is having an effect on the prices paid by consumers and competitiveness.
One project is a source of serious contention in the north east of the country, namely, the proposed North-South interconnector. During this and the previous Dáil, I have raised the issue by way of parliamentary questions, but I have never received a satisfactory response. The former Minister, Alex White, always dodged the question by outlining that the matter was before An Bord Pleanála. None of us expects anybody to interfere with the work of An Bord Pleanála, but we did not receive satisfactory answers during that period from the former Minister or his predecessor, Pat Rabbitte. Last August I made a detailed submission to An Bord Pleanála on the proposed project, with Councillor Clifford Kelly, one of my councillors in County Cavan. We lodged a detailed objection last August and our colleague in the Oireachtas, Senator Robbie Gallagher, with his then council colleagues in Monaghan, Seamus Coyle, P. J. O'Hanlon and Padraig McNally, made a very detailed submission objecting very strongly to the proposed North-South interconnector. Individuals, community groups and public representatives of other political parties submitted hundreds of very good objections.
Last January I welcomed the fact that An Bord Pleanála had agreed to hold an oral hearing, which took place over a period of many weeks in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. I participated in the oral hearing, with Fianna Fáil colleagues and public representatives of all other political parties. I outlined clearly and strongly that I strongly objected to the proposed project. Any public utility, in providing public services, must be cognisant of the concerns of individuals, families and communities about a project that will traverse so much of the country, as the proposed North-South interconnector will. At the oral hearing the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, representative of communities in counties Meath, Monaghan and Cavan, also made very detailed and well researched proposals and lodged objections to EirGrid's proposals. With others, I outlined the many negative aspects of the planning application in terms of the unacceptable scenario that would arise with the construction of monstrous transmission lines through large parts of counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. The project, if permitted to proceed, will destroy heritage and tourism in the area and place huge impediments in the way of farming practices.