On 28 January last, in response to EirGrid’s recent public consultation process, I announced that I have appointed an independent panel of experts, to be chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, to decide terms of reference for comprehensive, route-specific studies of fully underground options for both Grid Link and Grid West.
Studies of the overhead and underground options will then be published side-by-side, in objective and comparable terms, before proceeding to the next stage of public consultation on those two projects. The two studies will take account of environmental (including visual amenity) impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors. The independent panel will have power to commission its own work if there is any perceived deficiency in the studies presented.
Subsequently, on 31 January 2014 I met with former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness, chair of the expert panel.
The Taoiseach and I agreed last week that I would ask Mrs Justice McGuinness to consider what work, if any, her panel might usefully undertake to establish that there has been parity of treatment between the North South project, in terms of the work undertaken to date, and Grid Link and Grid West, in terms of the studies that are now proposed. The Chairperson said that she would discuss the issue with the expert panel to consider what, if anything, the expert panel can do. Mrs Justice McGuinness also indicated that she would be convening a meeting of the panel as early as possible.