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 Header Item National Broadband Plan (Continued)
 Header Item North-South Interconnector
 Header Item Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 997 No. 6
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan] That will strengthen the case and accelerate the roll-out of the national broadband plan because the need for it is ever clearer by the day.

  Questions Nos. 68 and 69 replied to with Written Answers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Question No. 70 is in my name, but I will leave it until Deputy Durkan is in the Chair.

  Question No. 71 replied to with Written Answers.

North-South Interconnector

 72. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the recent representations he has received on the need to underground the North-South interconnector in view of the recent decision in Northern Ireland to grant planning permission for the North-South interconnector, including representations from elected representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [25172/20]

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke I will not repeat my concerns on this topic from earlier. Has the Minister met or will he meet representatives of North East Pylon Pressure and Monaghan Anti-Pylon who have been campaigning on this issue for years? Sinn Féin, North and South, has been very clear and upfront in our position on the North-South interconnector.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan As I said earlier, the North-South interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the single electricity market and increasing security of electricity supply across the island of Ireland. It will also help us to move towards 70% renewable electricity, and other commitments that I mentioned earlier and will not repeat.

The decision last week by the Minister for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland to grant full planning permission to the project means that the project is now fully consented North and South. Since my appointment as Minister I have received a small number of representations on the project.

I now expect EirGrid and ESB Networks to engage openly and extensively with those living closest to the route of the interconnector. In that regard I note that EirGrid has already set in place a variety of engagements locally, including the appointment of community liaison officers and a mobile information unit active in the area. I expect such engagements to intensify in the coming weeks and months, subject of course to national public health guidelines on Covid-19.

I believe that this important infrastructure will meet the objectives I mentioned earlier. While EirGrid and ESB Networks are engaging with the community, it would not be appropriate for me to be involved in that process.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke The Minister mentioned EirGrid's engagement involving community liaison officers and a mobile information unit. I would like the Minister to meet people in the community to see what those words mean in those communities. The way EirGrid has handled this project and how it is perceived have the opposite effect to that presented by EirGrid. The same is said of the sponsorship of local groups, organisations and events. It is not well received in the community. There needs to be a third way to find a solution to this. I believe an accommodation can be reached but it will be through real engagement.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Deputy is representing the concerns of his constituents here, as he is absolutely right to do. This has been a highly difficult process for everyone. As well as the planning process and the other reports I have mentioned, there have been cases brought to the High Court and the Supreme Court, which held a two-day hearing on October 2018. That has not been an easy process for those involved. Irrespective of the history, which goes back 17 years, I have confidence that EirGrid is absolutely committed to carrying out a community engagement with the best of intentions to the highest standard with proper respect for local landowners and others who may live close to the projected lines. Complicating that further when it is EirGrid's responsibility to manage that would not help or benefit anyone.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke The Minister in the North - not the Executive in the North - granted planning permission for the project in the North. My colleagues have called for the Minister to come before the Assembly and explain that decision. In February 2017 the Dáil passed a Fianna Fáil motion calling for no further work to be done on the North-South interconnector until a fresh analysis and a full community consultation were completed. That never happened. Fianna Fáil is leading the Government at this time. Does the Minister have the support of Fianna Fáil on this project? Is there cross-Government support for the project or is the Minister standing on his own, as Minister?

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy Based on the Minister's utterances and his attitude on this issue, I can tell him that in ten years' time the North-South interconnector will not be built. Today I read transcripts from the previous time the Minister was in government when he then refused to listen to Deputies in this House, including Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and others, who pointed out to him that without the principle of public acceptance being considered at least by EirGrid, this matter would not progress. At that time it was felt that the delays would involve legal actions and the planning process, but crucially the delays would be starting in real terms in relation to the construction phase. Therefore, it will not happen.

Deputy O'Rourke rightly pointed out some of the deficiencies with the report the Minister mentioned earlier. It went so far as to describe undergrounding of the North-South interconnector as a credible option. The figures the Minister quoted are spurious because they relate to undergrounding along the exact same route as proposed for the overhead lines.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy That is not how undergrounding works.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy, please-----

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy The local community has zero confidence in EirGrid.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy-----

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy The local community will not engage with it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Carthy-----

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy The Minister has a responsibility to engage with the local communities because otherwise this project simply will not happen and it will be his fault.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly It is difficult to let in an extra speaker if Deputy Carthy does not comply with the time requirements. I have discretion and have used that discretion to let him in. I ask him to please comply with the time. I have been very strict with the Minister. The Minister has one minute to reply.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan I will answer Deputy O'Rourke's questions first. I stand here on behalf of the Irish Government in all its elements, just as the Minister, Ms Mallon, is representative of the Administration up North. I imagine she made her decision in consultation with her colleagues in the same way that I consult with my colleagues regularly-----

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy No, she did not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Let the Minister reply.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan -----on the basis that this is a critical project for maintaining an all-island approach to energy. If we break that and lose an all-island approach to energy, it will be very expensive for householders here. We earlier mentioned the high cost of electricity. Failing to maintain an all-island approach and failing to have a united approach to the matter would bring considerable expense to Irish householders. It will bring severe difficulties in the long run and jeopardise security, the creation of employment and developing our island on a united connected basis. I presume it was on that basis that she made the decision. That is the same basis on which I stand here to answer the questions as best I can.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 73. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Climate Action and Communication Networks Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan the extent to which progress is being made towards the reduction of emissions in line with EU and international targets without negative impact on the agrifood sector; if it is possible at this stage to identify enhanced progress in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [25026/20]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan This question is self-explanatory. It seeks to identify the extent of the progress towards emission-reduction targets in line with EU and global targets without damaging the agrifood sector.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The next ten years will be critical if we are to address the climate and biodiversity crisis which threatens our safe future on this planet. The programme for Government commits to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, a 51% reduction over the decade, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. It also recognises the special economic and social role of agriculture and the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane, as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in terms of plans and strategies to achieve these targets.

On Ireland's existing 2030 EU target to reduce greenhouse gases in the non-ETS sector by 30%, the climate action plan written by my predecessor sets out the policies and measures to achieve this, including setting an emissions reduction range for agriculture. This is underpinned by actions aimed at: reducing emissions on our farms by vigorously adopting the abatement opportunities identified by Teagasc; promoting diversification of land use as part of a gradual transition; harnessing opportunities in the bioeconomy; realising the potential of sustainable bioenergy supply opportunities; better management of our peatlands and soils; and developing clusters of exemplar practice.


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