The Deputy is himself not very clear in terms of what he is proposing. Debate on this issue has been ongoing for some time. There is always consternation and controversy in the country on issues such as the development of dual carriageways or motorways, the provision of gas lines or wind turbines or, in this case, upgrade and expansion of the electricity grid.
As leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy Martin understands very well that our country cannot be left bereft of infrastructure for investment purposes. Unfortunately, we have not yet arrived at the point where it is possible to transmit power without cables. The question that then arises is how do we provide physical infrastructure that will have capacity for power which will result in locations being able to attract investment and, as a consequence, jobs. Everybody is aware that a major entity cannot be supplied with an inferior water pipeline and that infrastructure such as is required throughout the country cannot be provided without electricity provision.
The modern communications systems available to us today allow people to access torrents of information on every conceivable aspect of these developments. The Government does not speak for EirGrid. It has no function in determining whether it should recommend a particular, or series, of locations for the erection of pylons. The Deputy will be aware that the previous Government carried out an assessment on the cost of undergrounding a major line in the country from County Meath northwards, which assessment was that doing so would be three times more costly. Given the need for this grid, I am not sure people would be willing to agree to underground it, in respect of which there appear to be technical difficulties, if required to pay three times the cost to do so. There is a need for rational discussion on an issue as important as this. We all agree that the country cannot be left bereft of opportunities for the future. This means we must have infrastructure capable of providing electricity for industry, business and homes throughout the country.
While we have a degree of capacity now owing to the unfortunate circumstances within our economy, a time will come, with Ireland now being recognised by some influential economic entities as being the best country in which to do business, when we will have decide what it is we want to do. I agree with the Deputy that consultations with communities, many of which I have attended down through the years, must be full and real, take on board people's concerns, anxieties, fears and questions and deal with them in as comprehensive a manner as possible. I know that in some cases these consultations have not been as full as I would like. There is a need for a balanced and rational discussion on what we want to do.
I understand that a cable of this magnitude if buried will need to be dug up every so often using converters which are very expensive. I hear the arguments about other countries. In Finland, the 110 kV line was undergrounded and the 400 kV line was not. When visiting Japan, from which I returned only last week, I noted around the areas that I travelled that the pylons and power grids were located overground. This debate is ongoing. I would welcome if it can be conducted in a rational and commonsense fashion. People say they want jobs all over the country. We cannot have them without infrastructure such as water, communications, roads and power. How this infrastructure is provided forms part of that discussion.
The Government is not dictating to EirGrid. There is a process and procedure to be followed which is based on law. There was much protest when construction of the motorway from here to Waterford was proposed and in respect of the construction of other roads. Nobody wants to go back to the situation of not having that facility to allow commerce and business to thrive.