On the face of it, this article is not relevant to Tara. But there is a
map of the three routes with the hard copy and one of them runs between
Trim and Navan and in my opinion will be visible from the hill. It is in
the area of one of the proposed routes for the M3. The orange one for
those who are familiar with the routes. Muireann
How a mother's love is at heart of power struggleCommunities along the
new north-south electricity path are preparing to fight, says Maeve Sheehan
Sunday October 28 2007
ANN Murray divides her time between her job with Monaghan County Council
and raising her three children in the sleepy village of Annyala, in the
north of the border county. She involves herself in the day-to-day
goings on of her community, welcomed the opening of a creche for
pre-school children, and enjoys rearing her family in the peaceful
countryside where she grew up.
Two weeks ago, this typical working mother took on an unexpected role as
community activist. The spur was not the more usual issues that plague
country communities, issues such as rural crime. It was her almost
chance discovery that her rural hamlet fell right in the path of an
80-kilometre high-voltage crossborder electricity cable planned to run
from Cavan, across Monaghan to Tyrone. A second power line in Meath
would boost the supply to the densely populated north east.
In gestation for three years, and announced by energy ministers north
and south last year, the cables would connect the Republic's supply to
the North, bringing cheaper and more efficient electricity into Ireland.
Three weeks ago, the proposed routes for the cables were unveiled for
the first time to the unsuspecting communities that will host them.
For a project that will have an impact on several hundred thousand
households, the launch was remarkably low key. There was no leaflet drop
or information campaign. Just advertisements in five local newspapers
and an invitation to attend one of three public meetings -- one for each
county. The three meetings were attended by no more than 500 people.
They were told that the power lines are vital to Ireland's economic
The first Ann heard of it was from her sister two weeks ago, when she
learnt that EirGrid, the operator of this line, was holding a public
meeting for local residents. She went to the Glencarn Hotel in
Castleblaney with a mental note of questions in her head. Cheaper
electricity was fine but not if it meant exposing her children to health
risks, having pylons blight her view and devalue her property.
She wanted to know where the pylons would be erected, how high they
would be and what were the health effects.
"We got no answers," she said. "Our community is very angry over the
health implications, the serious, serious health implications of the
high-voltage power lines. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who
will be affected. We have a school and a creche here and all three
proposed routes will be in the townlands around us. Not alone are there
health risks, but it will spoil the look of the place, and the value of
our homes. Who wants to live in a house next to a pylon?"
Ann responded by setting up a public meeting of her own. She telephoned
friends and neighbours to spread the word, booked a room in the
CleverClogs creche, and organised tea and biscuits for afterwards.
Almost 100 people crammed into the community hall last Monday night.
Parents, teachers, farmers, young
couples, pregnant women, many were hearing for the first time that
pylons would be plotting a course in the townlands of Annyala and
beyond. The only public representative was a Fine Gael councillor, Gary
It quickly became evident that many of those who crammed into the
classroom felt that they had been caught on the hop.
"Was this debated in the Dail?" asked one man.
"Was this known about before the General Election?" asked another.
"We must stand united on this," said Councillor Carville.
Jim Lennon, a former high level civil servant who is involved in the
anti-pylon protest against the North's section of power line, talked
"Organise yourselves into groups. Knock on every door. Tell people what
is happening," he said. "We can delay them and we will delay them on
technical issues. It does not stop it but it does put costs up."
The meeting in Annyala marks the start of what looks like being a long
and divisive battle that could yet end in the courts. At its core is
economic advancement over what communities such as Annyala claim are
their human rights.
On the one hand, there is the efficient energy infrastructure which is
vital to Ireland's economic development. The Celtic Tiger has drained
Ireland's energy resources, particularly in the highly populated north east.
Ireland needs access to other energy supplies. To achieve this end, the
governments north and south have launched the single electricity market
which will start next month.
What it means for consumers is lower utility bills. Electricity
suppliers will be able to trade electricity on the all-Ireland market
and sell it at competitive prices to customers. British suppliers are
already looking at entering the Irish market.
Facilitating all of this is EirGrid, the State body that builds the
infrastructure that transmits the power.
The biggest project is the cross-border high-voltage power line
undertaken with Northern Ireland Electricity. The €180m, 400 kv power
line will run over 45 kilometres of land in the Republic, starting out
at a proposed new sub-station in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, running across
Monaghan and continuing for another 35 kilometres to Co Tyrone. The
second is a 400 kv power line that will run from Woodland, near
Dunboyne, Co Meath, and connect to Kingscourt. It will stretch across 58
kilometres of land, much of it heavily populated commuter belt towns.
Both lines will run overhead, suspended by pylons along their respective
The economic progress brings with it a downside -- the blight of pylons,
fears that the homes traversed by the power lines will plummet in value,
and more importantly to many, the disputed health risks.
EirGrid insisted this weekend that there are no health risks associated
with the power lines. Its confident position is at odds with the broader
scientific community which, at its most sceptical, has broadly
acknowledged the possibility of health risks.
The World Health Organisation believes that there is only a possibility
that electromagnetic fields may increase the risk of childhood leukemia
but has dismissed links to other illnesses.
Other research, including a key Californian study, suggest the possible
health risks are more widespread. They cite adult leukemia, adult brain
cancer, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, breast
cancer, depression, certain types of heart disease, miscarriage and suicide.
A key British study -- the Draper report -- found that children living
within 200 metres of a power line were 69 per cent more likely to
develop leukaemia, and those living between 200 metres and 600 metres
away had a 23 per cent increased risk.
Earlier this year, a British government advisory group charged with
looking into the issue, reported that the best option for reducing
childhood leukemia was to ban the building of homes and schools within
60 metres of power lines.
The group -- which included industry representatives, academics and
health experts -- was so deeply divided on the health risks that they
failed to agree any recommendations other than on advising people on how
to manage the risk to electromagnetic exposure for themselves.
Denis Henshaw, a physics professor at Bristol University, was one of the
contributors to that report.
"Unfortunately, this is a really adversarial area. But make no mistake.
From my point of view, there are large numbers of health effects," he
said. "No one wants to turn the lights out. I don't want to turn the
lights out. But we are talking about a completely unregulated industry
here," he said.
In Ireland, the Department of the Environment, which takes the World
Health Organisation line on the debate, has responsibility for the
health effects of electromagnetic fields, but no official body has been
tasked with monitoring it. However, the Department is in the process of
extending that role to the Radiological Protection Institute.
There is no international standard on the safe distance from
In Ireland, there is nothing to prevent house-building right up to or
even beneath a power line.
EirGrid said its "design aim" is to place the power lines within 50
metres of buildings, while those who attended one of its public meetings
were told it would be 25 metres. A spokesman said the distance was not
for public health reasons, but rather for visual and amenity reasons.
In the UK, the safe distance is now taken as the 60 metres suggested in
the Sage report. In Sweden, it is 150 metres.
For the protesters, the answer is simple. They want the cables laid
"When there is an issue like this and when you are not sure, and the
preponderance of statistical evidence would suggest that there is a
higher likelihood of risk, then you adopt a precautionary principle and
you do more research," said Jim Lennon.
"Either you shield people from it, in terms of houses and property which
would be prohibitively expensive, or alternatively you bury it.
"It is expensive but in a first world economy, how do the costs and
benefits bear out on this. Who bears all the costs and gets the benefits?"
EirGrid claims the cost is prohibitive. It would be eight times more
expensive to lay them underground -- about €1.4bn for the cross-border
cable alone. There are technical considerations too. Repairs would take
days rather than hours, EirGrid says.
John Fitzgerald, research professor at the Economic and Social Research
Institute, agreed. "The inter-connector is very important in economic
terms. It will make it less likely for the lights to go off, it will be
cheaper for consumers and in the long run, there will be more efficient
electricity, and a more secure supply," he said.
"The cost of putting the power lines underground would be likely to
defeat the benefits of it, which could leave you with a less secure system."
It would appear that the onward march of the pylons is inevitable.
Because the power lines are part of the national infrastructure, the
State can compulsorily purchase the land it needs from those who resist
allowing the pylons on their property. Nor does the powerline go through
the ordinary planning process. As a national infrastructure project, it
will go straight to An Bord Pleanala.
EirGrid said it is engaging in extensive consultation with communities.
The three public meetings already held are "the first of many". EirGrid
will not decide which route the power lines will take until early 2008.
According to a spokesman, the affected communities will not get any
advance notice. The route will be announced at the same time the
planning application is submitted. Then, those who wish to, can make
submissions through the planning process. The planning authority can
expect to be inundated.
"We are going to be a united front. We are all going to stand together,"
said Ann Murray. "A mother is here to protect her children. Not alone
our own children, but we have to protect everyone else's children too.
The bottom line is if this is going our way, it is going underground."