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06/29/2016 12:00:00 AM


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Cassells, Shane

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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]

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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]\Second Stage
Bills\Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]\Second Stage

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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]

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Deputy Shane Cassells

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Shane Cassells

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Snippet Contents:

I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this Bill. I was present when the Minister started this debate some weeks ago. As he stated, the Bill deals with technical legislative updates and revisions to energy legislation. I would like to touch on a related matter, namely, the change to the legal definition of the all-island wholesale electricity market - the single electricity market, SEM - to bring it fully into EU compliance. The coming together of the CER and the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation in 2007 to act jointly as the SEM committee for the purpose of regulating the wholesale electricity market was an important process in ensuring security of supply in an efficient, cost-reflective market.
During Question Time a number of weeks ago, the Minister told me that the SEM was something that he regarded as vital, but the issue of cross-Border supply has caused major controversy in my constituency of Meath and the neighbouring counties of Cavan and Monaghan due to the planned construction of industrial pylons across their landscapes. The rationale for this project is the potential for power blackouts, as the Minister stated two weeks ago, and threats to security of supply, but at what cost to the lives of the people of those counties? Their lives will be destroyed by the project. The appeals to have the project changed by placing the cables underground fell on deaf ears in the previous Government. The former Minister, Pat Rabbitte, went so far as to say that prices would increase by 3% if the project was undergrounded. This scandalous claim was disputed and verified as being wrong by the North East Pylon Pressure, NEPP, group during deliberations. I fear that people's appeals are falling on deaf ears again. I hope not.
All of this feeds into both Governments' mantra of tasking the SEM with developing new market arrangements for an all-island wholesale electricity market, but at what price? While EirGrid might be happy with the arrangements being discussed by the House, as they further solidify what EirGrid is trying to achieve and provide the basis for pursuing its infrastructural goal of a North-South interconnector, who is speaking out for the thousands of residents who would live in the shadow of these monstrosities? It is certainly not Deputy Eamon Ryan. I am sorry he has left the Chamber, as what he said was scandalous. It verifies what we know from our time in coalition with the Green Party, something that no Fianna Fáil Member reflects on with pride.
The NEPP, spearheaded by Dr. Pádraig O'Reilly and Ms Amy Treacy and supported by thousands of residents, has valiantly led the campaign to stop the pylons and bury the cables. People have collected donations to fight a giant body that has no end to the money that it can throw around in sponsorships in the affected counties, including through newspapers, local radio shows in my county that had the capacity and gumption to challenge it, and the GAA. As a proud GAA man, I am really galled by that. To see players from Meath and Tyrone being used in television adverts to promote the project and the GAA taking EirGrid's money for the under-21 football championship is a sad reflection on how money is ruining the greatest amateur organisation in this country. What about the young kids, including my own, who kick footballs for their clubs in the shadow of these monstrosities on the playing fields of County Meath? It will make the old British army tower at Crossmaglen look like small fry in comparison.
The recent High Court challenge where the community effort was faced down by dozens of high-powered legal teams representing EirGrid and the Minister demonstrated how the arms of the State were working against people. They need the arms of the State to work for and stand up for them. At the recent oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála, EirGrid's tabling of significant changes eight weeks into the process showed contempt for the people and landowners involved. An Bord Pleanála's decision is not due until late September. That notwithstanding, I urge the Minister to intervene, bury the project in its current guise and bury the cables with it. People are not asking for the project to be buried, only for the cables to be buried.
Plenty of officials will welcome the technical changes to the legislation for the SEM, but all these do for the people of County Meath is serve to remind them of how the Government is doing everything it can to allow bodies to achieve whatever they need in order to put their plans in place. No one is standing up for the people. I appeal to the Minister as an intelligent and, importantly, brave man, as he demonstrated in the previous Dáil.