This amending legislation is being taken at very short notice and is being put through the Dáil very quickly to meet a certain situation. We have agreed to that procedure, but I want to make it clear that we are doing so reluctantly and because of the urgency of the situation and not to cause any unnecessary interference with the discharge by the ESB of their duties to the general public.
On another occasion we should come back to this matter and discuss it. I do not think anyone could regard the present situation as satisfactory. There are many cases where landowners and householders are shabbily and harshly treated by the ESB. The ESB should always remember that they are a big powerful state monopoly and that they have a corresponding responsibility to be sensitive and careful in the exercise of their fairly draconian powers. They have served the country well and they are a basic part of our economic infrastructure. Therefore, all of us want to facilitate them in any way so that they may give the service they are statutorily obliged to provide.
On the other hand, there is the whole question of conflict between the rights of the individual. I am not all that concerned here with the rights of landowners in particular although I have seen instances, as I am sure has been the case with every other Deputy, where they have acted in a quite insensitive way, particularly in regard to the treatment of trees and other aspects of he environment. Houseowners have been often seriously inconvenienced by rather dictatorial and insensitive decisions by the ESB in particular cases. On some other occasion when there is not pressure the House should consider the whole matter of the exercise by the ESB of their powers, and also other State bodies in the operation of their powers.
In this connection I ask the Minister to consider the environmental aspects of what the ESB are doing. I am especially aware of the situation that has arisen with regard to bringing electricity from Moneypoint power station to the east coast. In my view that has produced an environmental horror. These great, gangling pylons seem to march across the countryside like an invading army of Martains. They are marching in a dead straight line from Moneypoint to Dublin, up hill, down dale, across valleys and through woodlands without any regard whatever to their visual impact on the countryside. This is something that should not have been allowed to happen, but unfortunately it is part of the approach of the ESB.
The ESB see their mission as being of paramount importance. They see themselves as the body responsible for providing energy where it is needed to industry and householders. They set about doing that job in the manner they see to be most economically and technically efficient. We should try to look at the other side of the operation. That is relevant in regard to this major imposition which the power lines from Moneypoint to the east coast have caused. The Moneypoint power station was a very doubtful economic proposition from the first. Time has proved our reservations, but that is water under the bridge. Now I am concerned about and would avail of this amendment to draw the attention of the Minister to the environmental cost of Moeypoint and its follow up. There is an enormous environmental fall out in regard to the atmospheric pollution from Moneypoint. I hope the Minister is alert to that situtation and is aware of the dangers. People have talked, perhaps dramatically, about the fact that when Moneypoint comes on stream, the Burren will be destroyed or seriously damaged. I am not in a position to give any authoritative assessment of that but we can only hope that it will be considered and carefully monitored by the Minister and his Department.
The other situation is equally objectionable. I will not suggest how power could have been brought from moneypoint to Dublin without some environmental problem. That is not my job, but it is somebody's responsibility to see that the full environmental impact of this major operation is taken into account. In the course of my political duties I have occasion to fly around the country. It is from the air that the enormous ugliness of this new power lilne is most obvious. It seems that the engineers in charge have no regard for anything except the straightness of the line of those pylons. They cut through woodlands, across valleys, through the most scenic areas without regard. This development is changing the aspect of the Irish countryside for the worst. I avail of this amending legislation to direct the attention of the Minister and his Department and hopefully the attention of the Department of the Environment to the need to watch this sort of thing. It seems that the ESB in the zealous pursuit of their economic and energy missi treat the coutry as if it were just a building site and put pylons wherever it suits. They put buildings and power stations wherever it suits without regard to the environmental implications or visual impact.
I accept that there must be a conflict between economic progress and development and the creation of employment, and the environmental case. I accept that from time to time there will be some damage to teh environment due to economic progress but we must ensure that the environmental side of the case will not go by default. If, in the heel of the hunt, after judicious careful assessment a decision goes in favour of economic development with some environmental damage, so be it. I would stress the importance, of ensuring that in every situation the environmental case is at least taken into account before a final decision. I regret that in the case of the Moneypoint power lines that has not happened. I do not know whether all the powers that this power line seems to be in a position to bring to the east coast should necessarily be brought to the east coast or whether some other distribution system should not have been devised or whether the Moneypoint power could not have been used more economically on a regional basis.
The situation now is that these great big ugly pylons are straddling the country cutting through everything in their way, in a dead straight line. I might be wrong but I think there is not one single deviation from a straight line between Moneypoint and the outskirts of Dublin City. I would ask the Minister to keep these considerations in mind and to come back to the house on some occasion so that we can lay down guidelines for bodies like the ESB as to how they should deal with environmental aspects of their work.
While critical of the ESB, I am concious that they have from time to time done great work in the environmental area. I refer to what they have done along the shannon in promoting fishery interests. In regard to this other aspect of their work there is need for a much more careful and sensible approach. My colleague, Deputy Reynolds, who is responsible for energy on our behalf has agreed, with some reluctance, to accept this amendment as a sort of emergency urgent matter, but we are not happy about the situation. We are agreeing to this amendment now at the last minitue, in the expectation that the Minister will have regard to our worries and fears for the rights of landowners and householders and about the environmental impact of what that ESB do in the course of their work.