Interconnector: SDLP MLA criticises minister over power project

Image caption

The project will create an 85 miles long (138km) overhead electricity line stretching from County Tyrone to County Meath

An SDLP MLA who opposes the above-ground construction of the North-South Electricity Interconnector says his own party’s minister, Nichola Mallon, has not listened to him “enough”.

Justin McNulty says he was “devastated” when he was told the Infrastructure Minster had approved the project.

The Newry and Armagh MLA said the construction in his constituency would be an “ugly scar”.

Previously Ms Mallon said the proposal would bring economic benefits.

Speaking on Inside Politics Q&A, Mr McNulty was asked if he had been given a hearing by the minister to which he replied: “I don’t think she has listened to me enough.”

‘Sad and short-sighted’

He described the decision by his party colleague as “very sad and short-sighted”.

Planning approval for the North-South Electricity Interconnector was announced last week by Nichola Mallon.

The project will create an 85-mile-long (138km) overhead electricity line stretching from County Tyrone to County Meath.

Previous applications have been quashed by court rulings, with the decision returning to the department.

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The route of the proposed north-south electricity interconnector

Ms Mallon said the proposal will enhance network stability and bring economic benefits.

The minister said: “Following the quashing of the previous decision, I have carefully reconsidered the proposal and the up-to-date environmental information and have concluded that planning permission should be granted for the development which remains of strategic importance for our island economy.”

There were more than 6,000 letters of objection to the original proposal and more than 3,500 since a consolidated environmental statement was submitted.

Sinn Fein MLA Liz Kimmins also told Inside Politics Q&A that her party was “disappointed, as are the thousands who objected to it”.

‘Concerns for farmers’

She said her party had campaigned to have the interconnector placed underground.

The DUP MLA William Irwin said there was an “inevitability” about the interconnector getting the go-ahead.

He said he would like see the interconnector underground, and added that he did have “concerns for farmers”.

Planning approval for the section in the Republic of Ireland was given in 2016 and later upheld in the Irish Supreme Court after legal challenges.

Inside Politics Q&A is available on the BBC NI website and will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Tuesday 22 September at 06:00 BST.

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