I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Bill. As the Minister knows, we all support the Bill and acknowledge the great effort that has gone into it and to ensuring that we can produce our own electricity. It is only when we go to petrol stations and see diesel on sale for €1.27 per litre that we realise the consequences of depending too much on other countries for energy. We as a nation cannot and will not be in a position to be competitive not only in Europe but across the world if our energy prices continue to grow in the present manner.
Our economy is experiencing a minor downturn, and I hope to God that it will turn around sooner rather than later. However, there are two areas in which we cannot afford to be mean, even if we have to borrow money for them. One is the interconnector, which is probably the most exciting project any Minister is undertaking at the moment. We cannot afford to skimp on it, and the quicker the interconnectors are up and running and providing our own electricity, the better. The other issue on which money cannot be spared in lean times is education.
The provision of electricity is crucial. Europe is growing and I hope all new EU member countries will be in the same position as Ireland in terms of rising standards of living. However, we must be able to provide these people with technology, food and so on. As we know, food has become a scarce commodity, and with only five weeks' supply in Europe at any one time, Ireland is in a better position than other countries because we have spent so much money down the years on promoting our brand of food. Energy, including electricity, will be a crucial issue in ensuring that we are as competitive as any other country across the world, so we welcome the Bill. Deputies Crawford, English and I have spoken previously on this issue, and the Minister knows that we back him to the hilt in this regard.
Having said all that, the Minister probably knows what I plan to talk about, namely, the North-South interconnector. The issue will not go away because it is like so many other issues in Ireland today. Young people, in particular, will not accept things being handed down to them, whether by the Government, the church or anybody else. They do not like something just being dumped on them without any reason. They will not accept an advertisement in a newspaper stating what is going to happen.
The plan to locate pylons throughout County Meath was identified a couple of months ago and has caused great concern. The Tánaiste and perhaps some Deputies from County Meath said the North-South interconnector would never be discussed in the House, so I welcome the fact that the Minister has intervened. He has taken full responsibility and ordered an independent review of the costings. I will not comment further at present, but when the results of that review are known I will demand that they are discussed in this House and at committee level.
The people of Monaghan, Meath and Cavan got together on the issue four or five months ago. They will not accept a report which simply says that cables must be laid overground because the cost of putting them underground is too high. The people of Ireland will not accept that either, which I am delighted about. People will not accept streets being closed for a month or six weeks, such as happened in Duleek for sewerage works, and companies going out of business.
As everybody in the country, including the Minister, knows, the manner in which EirGrid did its business early on was revolting. It thought it could bully people and do what it liked. We have now reached a stage in which millions of euro will be put aside for Ireland to provide as much electricity as possible at a decent price. People in North East Pylon Pressure, who own EirGrid in the same way as the Minister and I do, are not going to be bullied and will not accept a decision to locate pylons in any part of Meath, Monaghan or Cavan because it suits business people attached to the project or others.
Pylons have their uses but they are an ugly sight in any country. When one drives up the M1, which I have done several times, one sees a line of pylons. They do not look so bad because they are in a straight line and run alongside the M1, although some of the wires have not been connected. A high-ranking Minister from my constituency was to approach the National Roads Authority on this issue, but we have not heard whether he did so. Why has nobody considered locating the pylons alongside the M3? When I asked that question at my first meeting with EirGrid and questioned whether the issue related to Tara, the representative admitted that it did. However, locating pylons along a motorway, as with the M1, would be far more acceptable to people in Meath, Monaghan and Cavan, rather than running the line through towns, villages, fields and farms, thus destroying the area. If the Minister thinks, having commissioned an independent study, that this will satisfy the people it will not and it will put a stop to this country's great plan if we do things the old way.
The young people, the GAA, farmers and people from all parties have come together to ensure their electricity supply will be connected in the proper way. Money will not be an issue for them but it may have been an issue for the Government to spend on this underground study. Perhaps it could not hand over €50,000 for a report which was supposed to be done in 40 days. Will the Minister indicate clearly when this report is expected to be published? Money will not be an issue for the people of Meath, Monaghan or Cavan to ensure that when EirGrid goes ahead it will be done correctly and will not affect their health, the price of houses, the environment or the tourism industry. This is the reason the people of Meath, Monaghan and Cavan have come together as a unit in a way I have not seen previously.
I understand the Minister's position, a position I will never be in, and that he has a lot on his plate but he should keep the people informed about what is going on. On the three or four occasions people addressed the joint committee, the Minister said an independent study would be set up. That was fair enough but everyone went back to their old ways and went underground and would not say openly what was being done. It had to be dragged out here on one occasion because we got wind of it. A statement was leaked out at 3 p.m. on the day in question; that is not the way to proceed.
I will be as straight as I can on this issue. I know the people we are dealing with; they come from every walk of life. I have worked with them and played football with them. They are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, Labour and Independent and the Minister must get somebody to speak with them within the next three weeks. If this report comes out, it leaves the door open for anyone to conduct a study. We will then end up in the courts which will be followed with a campaign that will continue for the next eight or ten years. Other Deputies have said it will never be discussed in the House. Gradually Deputies from other counties are beginning to realise the concerns of the people. It is the same in the health area; it is the fear of the unknown. What are the effects of magnetic fields on people? One of EirGrid's representatives made a statement on local radio in which he referred to the possible death of only a few children as a result of the installation of cables and it has not been retracted properly. That was a terrible statement to make by anyone who is employed by EirGrid.
This is a health issue. Every parish in Ireland must know within the next five or six years why our young people are dying. Will it be because of our food, the environment, magnetic fields or mobile phones? They will not take "No" for an answer. When this campaign started in October or November 2007, I was amazed at the people who turned up at these meetings — men, women and children. Age means nothing in regard to cancers of all description. The people want to know whether the food chain, Sellafied, incineration or whatever is responsible. They are far more educated than, perhaps, Members. The North East Pylon Pressure group is six months ahead of EirGrid in regard to its PR, investigations and what has happened throughout the world and will not accept a €50,000 study. Money is not everything at the end of the day. We are going to spend billions. As one of our Fianna Fáil colleagues rightly said earlier, this is a fantastic opportunity for us to supply our own electricity and, as Deputy Broughan said, to export our electricity. It has been clearly stated that Ireland has the capacity, without having to use oil, to provide energy to Europe. The interconnector is the main means of doing that.
EirGrid is not doing its job in regard to dealing with the people. EirGrid is our company, it is not a private company. We own it and we do not want to see it in the courts for ten years but it is heading that way. The issue will be fought at the next election and at the local elections next year. Why has the Minister come back in regard to talks with the National Roads Authority? The Minister should go for a drive out the M1 and look at them. Something on that line would be acceptable to the people because this ground has been acquired. It is away from property and people and away from devaluing their land.
Meath, Monaghan and Cavan, like other counties, have tourism industries and the sight of pylons is not acceptable. While I understand that a great deal of work is being done in the Department, this is a fantastic opportunity for Ireland as a nation to provide as much power as possible of its own. We cannot continue to pay €1.27 per litre for diesel.
I have been in business previously. I go home at weekends and I deal with people as part of one of my businesses. They cannot survive for much longer given the energy costs. One man who had 35 people employed is now working by himself, due to the energy costs and the downturn in the building industry. We have the technology and an educated workforce and Europe will grow. We have got to be ready and energy is the key. As an island nation everything has to be transported from this country through the use of oil or whatever. The more we can produce here, the less oil we have to import for transporting to Europe.
I am in contact with the group referred to earlier which is not a Mickey Mouse campaign. This is not party political; everyone in every parish is united on this issue. Each time I am in touch with the group on a different issue I am asked how this one is proceeding. The group is as organised as the GAA, if not better. Following one telephone call everybody knows that is going on. Millions of euro has been collected to ensure that the company they own will not devalue their land or affect their health or the tourism industry. The closing off of the relationship following the announcement of the study was a mistake because that is not what was agreed. The group did appreciate the Minister taking it into his hands.
In Duleek and Donore streets are being dug up resulting in businesses closing for six or eight weeks. A notice to this effect appeared in a newspaper that the people do not buy. Two years ago, when the State was flush with money, people had borrowed to the hilt and are still heavily indebted now that the State has no money. They will not allow their businesses, the value of their land or the health of their children to be jeopardised. While the World Health Organisation states the pylons will not affect human health, new WHO findings are due to be published.
At midnight recently, Councillor Brian Fitzgerald and I visited an area with a number of electricity pylons. I could not believe it when the fluorescent electricity tubes we brought with us lit up close to a pylon. If one is using one's car kit while driving past the pylons located at Loganstown on the road to Dublin, one's mobile telephone will cut out. Although there is clearly a problem, no one wants to address it.
The people living in the affected area are prepared to compromise. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, must inform the people of County Meath of the outcome of his correspondence with the National Roads Authority. What is the position regarding talks which were due to be held with the NRA on the possibility of installing the transmission lines along the route of the M3? The new road will open soon. If pylons were erected, the protestors at Tara would have other things to climb on to besides trees. Pylon towers do not look so bad on the M1 but they cannot be erected in Moynalty, Nobber or Batterstown or on land on which farmers are supposed to produce good food.
While I want the project to proceed, we must listen to the concerns about the current proposals. Otherwise, the Minister's plans will be blocked and jobs will be lost. All public representatives in the area, including Deputies Seymour Crawford, Damien English and Fianna Fáil Party Members and councillors, share these concerns. We are right, not the five, six or ten people who have decided to bulldoze through the current plan, which is not needed and will not be allowed to proceed.
This is not a Mickey Mouse campaign. Residents will stop at nothing to ensure their health, the land they use to produce food, property values and the tourism industry are protected. The value of houses must not be allowed to decline by almost one third because the cheapest option is to erect stupid pylons across several counties.
I ask the Minister to instruct EirGrid to examine the M3 and M1 options. The pylon towers may not look so bad on the M1 but we will not allow them to be erected across our lands. With a further 600 km of transmission lines required elsewhere, the Minister will have similar problems in every other county. I ask him to engage in meaningful talks with representatives of North East Pylon Pressure before it is too late.