County Hall are heading for a head on conflict with the Department of Environment and Eirgrid following the councillors decision to stand by the Ratheniska residents.
The County Manager, Peter Carey, advised councillors to remove amendment 94 which required all future 400kv lines be to put underground, as he said it was contrary to national policy.
He warned councillors that there was a strong possibility that there would be a ministerial directive on the county development plan and also a strong possibility of a legal challenge to the plan, if the councillors decided to leave the ammendment in,
Senator John Whelan has warned that “Eirgrid’s cavalier and confrontational corporate culture will lead to more trouble.”
He said he had seen it first hand in his own community.
“Sound and sensible farmers and families are up in arms with Eirgrid and tensions are mounting and opposition gathering as a direct result of Eirgrid’s antics, arrogance and ignorance and what I can only describe as bully-boy tactics. They are behaving more like the KGB than the ESB.”
The council received submissions from ESB, Eirgrid and the Department of the Environment claiming that the councillors proposal contravened planning guidelines regarding the roleout of the national grid.
The submissions also claimed that the amendment contravened the National Spatial Strategy and the Midland Regional Authority Planing Guidelines.
A fourth submission was received from the local residents group regarding 110kv powerlines, but Angela McEvoy, acting senior planner said that this submission had not been received with the timeframe and could not be considered.
Mr Carey told the councillors that Eirgrid had taken a case against Monaghan County Council and the judicial review had quashed the decision of the council.
He said it was not his role to act on behalf of everyone, but he was obliged to point out the legal position to councillors.
But Stradbally councillor, James Deegan, said the council should reaffirm the commitment they made three months ago,
He said he took umberage at anyone, especially a government department or government sponsored state body “wielding a big stick trying to terrify and bully their way.”
He said the councillors were not in the business of stopping progress, but he said they had to look after the environment and safeguard the values and health of people and property in that area.
He said the overhead power lines were “a short term, economic fix to a long term environmental disaster”, which he said future generations would not forgive Eirgrid for.
“If we allow this to go ahead, we will be creating another Kyletelesha - a quick fix to the dumping problem which quickly became a problem for the local authority and ended up costing huge amounts of money.”
He said as the planning authority, the council had the final say over what goes in or what is left out.
Cllr Deegan proposed that the councillors reject the managers recommendation and leave the ammendment in the development plan.
Seconding the proposal, Cllr Padraig Fleming said he was shocked to learn in the last week that Eirgrid had already built 25km of 400kv powerlines underground from Rush, County Dublin to County Meath.
Supporting the proposal, Cllr James Daly said he hoped Eirgrid would concur with the council’s wishes.
“Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, but I’m sure we are doing the right thing.
“A delegation from the council met with the Minister for Environment in July, and he told us that our amendament did not contravene the National Spatial Strategy.”
Cllr Daly claimed that Minister Phil Hogan said he had no problem with Laois doing their own business.
Cllr Tom Mulhall was critical of the Eirgrid representatives, who he said were “runners” coming down to “brainwash” people.