Energy Policy: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann –

- rejects the memorandum of understanding signed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with the British Government to export energy from renewable sources from Ireland;

- acknowledges renewable energy sources are valuable natural resources that belong to the people of Ireland and that the Government has a duty to ensure any benefit accruing from them must benefit the people of the State;

- acknowledges that the Twenty-Six Counties has agreed binding targets of at least 16% of all energy consumed in the State to be from renewable energy sources by the year 2020 under Directive 2009/28/EC;

- accepts that exporting sustainable energy and importing fossil fuel before these targets are met is counterproductive in that it acts as a barrier to meeting Directive 2009/28/EC;

- believes a target for self-sufficiency from renewable sources should be set in line with realistic projections for growth in the generation of energy from onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power, and other renewables such as hydro and geothermal;

- accepts that greater emphasis should be placed on developing renewable sources other than wind and that the potential in energy generated from the sea is recognised;

- recognises that the rising cost of fuel bills disproportionately impacts marginalised groups such as the elderly, disabled and low income families and acknowledges the role domestic energy production could play in the reduction of energy costs;

- understands there is a groundswell of public opposition to the erection of electricity pylons as reflected by the 35,000 submissions to EirGrid and that a fair and transparent consultation process has not taken place;

- accepts that early involvement of the public in projects and the provision of accurate and up to-date information and transparency is essential; that participation with the purpose of informing and gaining support from the public toward a project is a central pillar of good governance; and that communities have a democratic right to influence decision making;

- agrees that strict and comprehensive planning regulations must be applied to the erection of wind turbines and electricity pylons in Ireland;

- recommends the Government observe the precautionary approach in keeping with World Health Organization 2007 guidelines when constructing new electricity supply installations and in relation to high voltage lines;

- recommends the Government adopt a precautionary approach in the construction of new alternating-current power lines; that new power lines should not be built close to residential areas or day-care institutions; and that the distance required should be determined on the basis of a specific assessment of the individual project and the fields to which the inhabitants will be exposed;

- acknowledges that the Irish landscape is unique in its natural beauty and a significant national resource in aesthetic, environmental, and economic terms and that the construction of any major infrastructural project must take these factors into account;

- calls for a cost-benefit analysis of undergrounding electricity pylons to be undertaken;

- calls for the undergrounding of electricity pylons, where possible;

- calls for a moratorium on the erection of electricity pylons and wind turbines until a comprehensive all-Ireland policy is in place; and

- calls for the creation and implementation of an all-Ireland energy policy that clearly states how our renewable energy targets will be reached; what infrastructure is needed for the development of renewable energy sources; how renewable sources can be developed on an all-Ireland basis and how renewable sources can best serve the energy needs of Irish people.

Notice taken that 12 Members were not present; House counted and 12 Members being present,

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, to debate this important motion. We tabled the motion to be helpful and constructive. There is considerable public concern about energy policy, specifically in regard to industrial wind turbines, overhead power lines and the plans by Eirgrid to expand the electricity grid across various parts of the State. These justified concerns have been articulated in submissions by members of the public and campaigning groups in response to EirGrid's Grid Link project for the south, the west and the south east and the North-South interconnector.

There appears to be a problem with this Government's approach to proper decision making. On too many occasions we have seen the Government jump with two feet into projects without considering alternatives that in the long term might cause fewer problems and even save money. For example, Sinn Féin made alternative proposals on water charges and if the Government had listened it may not have ended up with the controversy of spending massive amounts of money on consultant fees or the debacle we saw in Irish Water. There appears to be a pattern in the way in which this Government approaches policy and decision making. There is an unhealthy contempt for Opposition views and alternative. The Government seems to want to plough on with what it considers the best policies, which are not always the best policies, regardless of the concerns of those who live in communities and the Opposition in general. We have seen the same issue arise in regard to the construction of pylons and wind turbines.

If the Government had been willing to listen to alternative proposals, it might not have found itself in the position in which it is and it may have ended up with a much smoother path in governing and in realising the energy policies at which we all want to arrive.

More than 35,000 people made submissions to EirGrid on the pylon projects, which is unprecedented. A huge number of people made the effort to make a submission. Many people in my county of Waterford made submissions and not only people directly affected by EirGrid's plans - the erection of pylons up to 43 m high and high voltage overhead powerlines and those who live in close proximity to them - but many people who live far away from the proposed routes who are angry and do not agree with putting these pylons through the heart of the Lismore area in Waterford and the heart of the Comeragh Mountains, for example. Many people see it as an act of vandalism and completely unnecessary. Those concerns were clearly articulated in the submissions made by members of the public on EirGrid's plans. They emphasise public opinion on the matter.

Considering the multitude of views, it is imperative the Government takes account of all of the views on pylons and the possible effects they can have on the communities through which they pass. People have many concerns, including the potential health risks, the impact on the value of land, on livestock and on farms and the imposition on the natural landscape and on the built heritage. I gave the example of the Comeragh Mountains. Many people who recognise the beauty of the Comeragh Mountains do not want to see them spoiled by pylons of up to 43 m in height in a string going right through the heart of those mountains, or, indeed, through the beautiful area of Lismore, the midlands or anywhere in the south east, whether County Wicklow, County Wexford or wherever the planned routes are. People do not want to see their landscape spoiled by these pylons, if it is unnecessary and if there are alternatives, to which I want to get.

I do not believe the Government has properly investigated the alternatives. I certainly do not believe EirGrid has given any serious consideration at all to the alternatives. In fact, it has been very closed in its mind and in its opinion in regard to the undergrounding of cables. It is interesting that six years ago when this first became a big issue with the North-South interconnector, EirGrid was on record as saying that going underground could not technically be done and that it was an impossibility. It also said that even if it could be done, it would be 20 times more expensive. Now it has shifted its position and has said it is technically possible and that it is approximately three times more expensive. That is a considerable shift in its position in a short space of time.

That tells me there are two issues and two conclusions we can draw from this. First, EirGrid was wrong six years ago when it stated it was 20 times more expensive and that it could not be done, which then begs the question as to whether it is wrong now. Second, perhaps it was right and that six years ago, it was 20 times more expensive but the technology has improved and it is possible. That is what we are asking the Government to consider. Technology is changing all the time and more countries are looking at different options and are not going for the overground high voltage power lines of the size and scale envisaged in all of these projects.

This is about asking the Government to listen. It is not about it pretending to listen or thanking the public for submissions, but saying it is ploughing ahead anyway. That is not consultation and listening to communities or the way Governments should govern. The Government must listen to the people who live in this State and who have genuine concerns, which they have articulated. As with so many issues, the Government parties should also live up to the promises and the pledges they made when in opposition. There is no doubt that in the north west and in counties in that region which are directly affected by EirGrid's plans, Fine Gael was very vocal in opposing what was being proposed at that time by EirGrid and the North-South interconnector. Now things have changed because it is in government, as is the Labour Party. It is a case of ploughing ahead, unquestioning of EirGrid's plans.

The ASKON report identified alternatives to what is envisaged by EirGrid. The report on undergrounding, published in October 2008, made a number of findings. It found underground cables were better suited to integrating the existing grid network, that they were more reliable, that the transmission loss from underground cabling was significantly less than from overground, that underground cables were safer, that there were obvious environmental benefits to undergrounding and that undergrounding could be established at an affordable course with the worst case scenario of €1 per household per year. Surely this report is worthy of consideration and is one which should cause us to reflect on policy and ask ourselves if we should rush in and invest all the money in pylons of this size and scale when in a couple of years' time, technology may have advanced again. One should bear in mind what I said about EirGrid's position six years ago and its position now. What happens in five years time if we are in a position where this can be done even more cheaply and technology has improved even further but we are left with these pylons and not able to do anything about them? That would be disastrous for the State.

I would like to deal with industrial wind turbines, which are causing major concerns for communities. Wind turbines will be dealt with when Sinn Féin launches its Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2014 tomorrow. That Bill aims to impose a minimum set back distance for wind turbines of ten times their height from dwellings and it deals with proper zoning of sites for wind turbine developments. The Bill addresses the export of wind energy to Britain before Irish energy demands are met. That is central to our motion in terms of the memorandum of understanding with Britain on the export of energy created from renewable sources.

At a time when we are importing energy from fossil fuels from outside this State, we should not be exporting to Britain, or anywhere else, energy created from the natural resources of this State. That is a major concern to the people. The renewable energies of this State should serve the people of this State, who should come first and not people in Britain or anywhere else. This must be for the benefit of this State and the natural resources must be used for the people of the State.

That goes right to the heart of the argument against the development of massive wind turbines in the midlands region, that is, for-profit wind turbines exporting energy. The energy produced from the turbines proposed for the midlands cannot be connected to the Irish grid, meaning that the gross energy produced would be exported to Britain. Ireland has renewable energy targets to reach and domestic consumers have witnessed their energy bills rising but the Minister is proposing to export our renewable energy production to Britain. However, it is clear that its development must be in the interests of the Irish people and become part of domestic energy production.

I will listen to the Minister's contribution and those of his colleagues, but I am very much of the view that we should reflect on what people and communities are saying and develop an energy policy that makes sense and benefits the Irish people and puts them first. That is what our motion is about. I hope we can have a constructive debate on the merits of our motion and view on Government policy.

Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis an rún seo atá curtha chun cinn ag mo chomhghleacaí, an Seanadóir Cullinane. Ba mhaith liom buíochas freisin a ghlacadh leis an gCeannaire as ucht an t-am seo a thabhairt dúinn le haghaidh an rúin a chur chun cinn. Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Ós rud é go bhfuil Seachtain na Gaeilge ar siúl faoi láthair, tá súil agam go mbeidh ar a laghad cúpla focal againn ar an ábhar seo i nGaeilge. Sílim go mbaineann an rún seo lenár bhflaitheas náisiúnta. Tá cuid mhaith cainte déanta ag an Rialtas seo faoinár bhflaitheas eacnamaíochta a fháil ar ais arís. Baineann cúrsaí cumhachta lenár bhflaitheas chomh maith céanna. Ba cheart go mbeimid in ann seasamh ar ár dhá chos féin sa chomhthéacs seo. Tá sé sin mar cheann de na húdair a bhfuilimid ag cur an rúin seo chun cinn inniu.

Sinn Féin will launch the Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2014 tomorrow. The Bill deals with a number of failings by the Government to properly regulate the construction of industrial wind turbines. The Bill also attempts to impose proper regulation of all aspects of wind turbine construction. This includes proper zoning of areas for wind turbine developments, the duties of planning authorities, set-back distances and the responsibility of decommissioning wind turbines. Many residents in the midlands and throughout the country have been rightly concerned about proper set back distances of wind turbines from property.

The Bill seeks to impose a setback distance of ten times the height of the turbine from any dwelling for turbines that are higher than 25 m but industrial turbines are not the only issue. In Connemara, which is probably one of the most picturesque areas of the country, planning permission has been granted for hundreds of wind turbines in an area of scenic amenity. We are witnessing the privatisation of wind, which is a natural resource. This has happened because of a lack of guidelines and regulation up to now, a charge which cannot only be levied at the Government, and a lack of action by the previous Government. One lady bought her dream house in Connemara on a small farm. Three separate planning permissions were then granted, which means that approximately 70 wind turbines will be built all around her. This is a disgrace. It is unfair because it is being done with a sleight of hand and some people think there is collusion between the local authority, the planning people and the private enterprise developing these projects. A number of the planning applications for projects such as these were supported by people who used to work with the local authorities and who know the inside track on the guidelines in question.

Proper regulation should be in place but the Bill seeks to rectify the mistakes made by the current and previous Governments. Two Bills were published by Deputy Willie Penrose and Senator John Kelly who has raised the issue on many occasions, but the Government has even turned a blind eye to them. It is important that there is correct management of renewable energy produced in Ireland. Ireland has binding targets for renewable energy that it must reach by 2020. The State still meets most of its energy demand from imported fossil fuels. Any renewable energy produced here should be used to lessen the fuel bills that are a burden on many households. The Bill seeks to ensure the State's energy demands are met prior to renewable energy being exported - muid ag seasamh ar ár gcosa féin i ndáiríre i dtosach báire agus ár bhflaitheas á choinneáil.

Proper planning is essential for developments in rural Ireland. The Government cannot ignore local communities that have concerns about the development of wind turbines. The Bill also seeks to address many of these concerns and it is our hope that the Government will accept it. There are also concerns surrounding farmers who have signed contracts with wind energy companies. This has also involved a sleight of hand where they have been practically gagged and asked to sign with the promise of moneys in the future in order that they will not speak to those living around them. Divide and conquer has been the strategy of many of the energy companies. There must be clarity around land access and land use and the farming community must be made fully aware of the consequences of signing contracts with these companies.

There needs to be a diversification of renewable sources and we cannot be dependent on onshore wind energy. In the European Union hydro power accounts for 48% of electricity generated from renewables; wind, 26%; biomass, 19%; solar, 7%; geothermal, 1%; and tidal and wave, less than 0.1%. Norway is almost 100% self-sufficient in producing electricity from hydro power. The country is also exemplary in the way it has treated its oil and gas resources. The Government still has not implemented the recommendations of an Oireachtas joint committee regarding the oil and gas industry. The Minister of State might comment on when it intends to do that. The latest media reports have said the current and previous Governments have given the most favourable terms to oil and gas companies prospecting off our coast. If we had the savvy of the Norwegians to ensure national rights were put before those of private companies, we might not be in our current predicament.

No country is self-sufficient in electricity generation using wind energy. Denmark now generates more than 30% of its electricity from wind energy and exports more than 12 billion kW per year. Achieving self-sufficiency in electricity from renewables is a key target for the country. There are, however, critiques of the economics of electricity exports, including in Denmark, which may be relevant to future planning in Ireland. Bhí mé i gCeanada dhá bhliain ó shin agus chonaic mé go bhfuil an-obair á dhéanamh ansin maidir le forbairt fuinneamh na dtonn. Sílim gur áis é sin go bhféadfaimis breathnú air i bhfad níos mó. Déantar go leor den fhorbairt i gCeanada i gcomhair leis na pobail áitiúla. Mar shampla, in áit a bhfuil deontas tugtha do phobal áitiúil le turbines a chur faoin uisce, maidir leis an sruth a bhíonn ag teacht isteach agus amach, is féidir leis na pobail sin brabach a dhéanamh dóibh féin as an bhfuinneamh a ghintear a úsáid go háitiúil agus an bhreis leictreachais a úsáid le haghaidh rudaí a chur chun cinn ina bpobal féin.

We oppose fracking on the island and have tabled the motion in good faith.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

Seanad Éireann –

- acknowledges that Irish energy policy is designed to meet the overriding concerns of security of supply, sustainability and cost competitiveness;

- acknowledges that Ireland has agreed as a binding target under EU law that at least 16% of all energy consumed must be from renewable energy sources by the year 2020;

- recognises that both the import and export of electricity, including electricity from renewable sources, will be a feature of an interconnected European single electricity market and that the Government, the regulatory authorities and industry must plan accordingly;

- acknowledges that the memorandum of understanding signed by the Irish and UK Energy Ministers in January 2013 sent a strong signal of our shared interest in exploring the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain;

- further recognises that any scenario for the future of Irish energy beyond 2020, regardless of EU targets, will accordingly include a vital role for energy from indigenous renewable sources both in the domestic and export markets;

- acknowledges that renewable energy is a valuable natural resource and that the Government has a duty to safeguard a fair share of any benefits from its exploitation for the people and the State;

- accepts that exporting renewable energy is entirely compatible with meeting the targets imposed by EU law;

- believes a cost-effective ambition for meeting domestic energy demand from renewable sources should be set in line with realistic projections for growth in the generation of energy from onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power, and other renewables such as hydro and geothermal;

- welcomes the recent publication by the Government of the offshore renewable energy development plan which provides the framework for sustainable exploitation of our offshore wind, wave and tidal resource and the commitment by the Government of €26 million to support research in wave and tidal power;

- welcomes the Government’s close attention to securing value for money in the design and roll-out of the renewable energy feed In tariffs in order that unsustainable supports and unjustified profits are avoided;

- recognises that the rising cost of fuel disproportionately impacts on those on low income and acknowledges the role energy production from domestic sources could play in reducing energy costs, while further acknowledging that improving the thermal efficiency of homes remains the most cost-effective way of increasing energy affordability and reducing energy poverty;

- acknowledges that the Irish landscape is unique in its natural beauty and a significant national resource in aesthetic, environmental, and economic terms and that the construction of any major infrastructural project must take these factors into account;

- welcomes the Government’s July 2012 policy statement on the strategic importance of transmission and other energy infrastructure which underlined that early involvement of the public in energy infrastructure projects and the provision of accurate and up to-date information and transparency is essential; that participation with the purpose of informing and gaining support from the public toward a project is a central pillar of good governance; and that communities have a democratic right to influence decision making;

- agrees that strict and comprehensive planning regulations must be applied to the erection of wind turbines and electricity pylons;

- acknowledges that new electricity supply grid infrastructure is both planned for and constructed in accordance with World Health Organization 2007 guidelines and EU and domestic law, in accordance with the precautionary principle;

- welcomes the fact that an analysis of options, both underground and overhead, for the transmission of high voltage electricity will be undertaken;

- welcomes the imminent publication of a Green Paper on Energy Policy that will, inter alia, further develop and build out a comprehensive and progressive suite of policies that clearly state how our renewable energy targets will be reached; what infrastructure is needed for the development of renewable energy sources; how renewable sources can be developed on an all-Ireland basis; and how renewable sources can best serve the energy needs of Irish people; and

- looks forward to a public debate based on an accurate examination of the facts and issues and rejects ill-informed and populist political sloganeering and scaremongering on issues of such vital national importance.

Will the previous speakers outline what they favour rather than what they are against? The motion needs to be corrected. It refers to undergrounding electricity pylons, but it should refer to undergrounding cables.

I welcome the Minister of State. The events of the past few days may have taken the wind out of our friends of Sinn Féin, given the decision of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regarding wind turbines. They have dug up a previous motion tabled last November about pylons and putting cables underground. The motion is an exercise in playing to the gallery with the upcoming local and European elections firmly in mind. Sinn Féin is against everything but in favour of nothing. Perhaps the party's Senators can enlighten us as to what we can do.

I welcome the opportunity to educate them about the real world. The motion contains 16 statements but the Minister has dealt with the first statement in that nothing will happen until everything is agreed in respect of turbines. I support the Government's aim to allow for the export of electricity to Britain and further afield if it will create jobs and wealth in the State and I have a history of saying this. I will refer to the motion statement by statement. I agree with a number of them, including the second statement. Where resources are bought at a fair price, they become the property of the purchaser. We live in a free market economy. There is no argument with the third statement. With regard to the fourth statement, I prefer the Minister's comments on this matter. When negotiations are finalised, I envisage that the private sector will fill any void in the production of energy for the domestic market with the surplus available for export but this is a number of years away. ESB International and Vattenfall, one of Europe's largest electricity utilities, have entered an agreement to develop ocean energy on the west coast.

Bioenergy and biomass should have been included in the motion, but they have been left out for some reason, although Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh acknowledged this. The fifth statement is debatable. There are serious concerns about the erection of wind turbines in close proximity to homes. There are also worries about flicker and perceived noise. The setback distances will be legislated for and many of the concerns can be addressed. Wind has benefits, as evidenced by the volume of energy created this winter, which has put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland stated renewables have saved the country €1 billion on imported fossil fuels in the past five years.

The sixth statement is correct. The Government's better energy warmer homes scheme is having a positive impact on reducing fuel poverty among vulnerable customers and we will continue with the scheme. A total of 104,000 homes have benefited under the scheme at a cost of €16 million with another 10,000 to be completed this year.

Most of those were completed under the previous Government.

Senator Tony Mulcahy to continue, without interruption.

But they are being done now. I cannot accept the seventh statement. The Minister has appointed an independent panel of experts chaired by Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness. I have immense respect for this former Supreme Court judge. Her work will be transparent and the panel's terms of reference will be above reproach.

With regard to the 35,000 submissions that, I assume, oppose the erection of pylons, we import €6 billion worth of fossil fuels every year and we need to offset some of this with renewables. However, if we generate electricity from tidal, wave or wind power in the west, how will it be transported to the other side of the country without a robust national grid of lines and pylons?

Electrons need to flow; they cannot be stored or transported by road; therefore, people need to sit down and rethink that one.

The eighth statement is common sense and is a continuation of the seventh statement. The ninth statement ties in with what I have already said on the fifth statement. The tenth and 11th statements are related. It is obvious that EirGrid and the energy providers would not put their customers at any risk through the construction of that infrastructure. In respect of the 2007 World Health Organization guidelines, the National Radiation Laboratory in New Zealand acknowledged in a 2008 report the results of studies that found a weak association between EMF field exposures and the risk of childhood leukaemia, but considered that the results were too tenuous and lacking support from other sources to form the basis of exposure guidelines. Furthermore, the report stated that other recent reviews, including the 2007 WHO review, came to the same conclusion, and found that the data currently available did not justify setting more stringent exposure limits. The WHO also recommended that very low cost precautionary measures be taken to reduce exposures to magnetic fields.

I can accept the 12th, 13th and 14th statements, but we have to be realistic. In County Clare, we have two of the biggest power lines in the country. These two separate 400 kV lines run from Moneypoint and continue across the country, ending up on the outskirts of the capital. They deliver much-needed electricity to Ireland. I do not hear anyone roaring and shouting about those lines in County Clare, and I have been living there for the last 36 years, or asking for them now to be put underground. A 400 kV high-voltage cable can transport three times as much electricity as a 220 kV cable; therefore, we can reduce the number of 220 kV and 110 kV cables by moving to bigger cables. About 2,000 km of cables are to be upgraded, so the older cables can be removed from lots of places.

No one wants high voltage electricity cables affecting the landscape, but we have to look at the bigger picture. Do we want no power lines? Perhaps we should start a de-electrification process here and we can go back to the candle and the oil lamp. Many people around the country found out how hard it was to operate without power cables 40 or 50 years ago, but when the cables were cut in the recent storms we saw another disaster. Even this morning in parts of County Clare we had power cuts from 7 a.m to 9 a.m. Imagine all those parents trying to organise their children and get them out to school without any power. We have a grid that has to be upgraded and connected to the rest of Europe for security of supply.

The Senator has run out of power because he is half a minute over time.

Just look at the antics of Mr. Putin in so-called democratic Russia-----

I am sticking rigidly to the time slots today.

I knew it would be difficult to get everything done in six minutes.

The Senator has made his point.

There has been so much confusion and misinformation on this issue, much of it coming from the Government.

I do not think-----

Senator Thomas Byrne to continue, without interruption.

Is that not what one tends to do during elections? We heard the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources announcing last week, conveniently timed for the local elections, that the deal with England was off. Members of this House and other people I met were literally dancing for joy that the deal was called off on Thursday or Friday.

Were they all Fianna Fáil people?

They were colleagues of the Senator-----

They were more or less Fianna Fáil people.

Senator Thomas Byrne to continue, without interruption.

They were decent people who were consistent on this issue. They were over the moon, but I told one of them to wait and see, and how right I was. One only had to read the newspapers at the weekend to see that one of the companies was fully going ahead with this, and I believe Bord na Móna has since come out and stated that it is fully behind it as well. I understand the Taoiseach was in Downing Street yesterday trying to push the memorandum of understanding and the export deal on the turbines. That was on the agenda yesterday in Downing Street. When Fine Gael councillors, Deputies and Senators are going around the country saying that this is terrible, that we will have to have meetings with the Minister and say something to the Taoiseach, the reality is that this is policy, for better or worse, that has been driven by the Government at the highest levels. It is about time the Government, in all its forms, spoke with one voice on it.

The anti-pylon campaign was led by the Fine Gael Party when it was in opposition, and it was still prominently involved in the early stages of the lifetime of this Government.

They are in the Fianna Fáil Party now, I see.

I have a consistent position on this issue. I have always felt they should be put underground and that they are a terrible imposition on the landscape. They are causing huge stress, worry and anxiety, as are the wind turbines in large parts of rural Ireland. We must have a proper debate on this. We must have a debate on the facts. We cannot have a debate when the decision is made. We cannot have a debate which says that An Bord Pleanála will decide, because An Bord Pleanála has to have regard to Government policy and we know what Government policy is. It starts and ends with the Government. We in the Oireachtas must try to shine a light on what is happening and on where the pressure is coming from, because there is a lot of pressure to move this project on.

Wind energy has a huge place in our future and it is necessary to have it, as long as it is not an imposition on the citizens of this country, as long as people do not have to suffer due to turbines beside them, and as long as they do not have to put up with this. There are many places in this country where turbines can be erected to help our own economic development and our own quest for renewable energy sources, whether we want to export the energy or not.

The issues of pylons and turbines are interconnected, even though each party claims they are totally separate. When the pylon project in County Meath and County Cavan was first enunciated six and a half years ago, it was specifically for the export of renewable energy. It was about bringing the wind energy down from Donegal at the time. Now that has been dropped and it has been said that we do not need it and it is just to reinforce the local and regional grid. They have chopped and changed. Senator Tony Mulcahy made the point that we cannot let the lights go out. EirGrid claimed something similar in County Meath six and a half years ago; the company claimed that if the project did not go ahead, there would be power cuts by 2011 and 2012. It did not happen, so the question is whether we can believe that. I certainly do not want to stand in the way of infrastructure development, but the pylon issue has been outlined well by Senator David Cullinane.

We were told at the beginning that it was impossible to put the lines underground. We were then told that it would be 25 times the cost. Then we got a Government report which stated that it was three times the cost, and I give credit to the Government for carrying out that report. The technology is constantly changing and should be examined. I do not know if the Minister can give us any update on the Catherine McGuinness commission and whether that commission is including the North-South line, because I have not heard whether it is. Perhaps I have missed something, but it seems that was put to the commission some time ago.

On a point of information-----

There is no such thing as a point of information.

Gabh mo leithscéal. I just wanted to provide clarification. We are talking about putting pylons underground.

When the Senator has an opportunity to speak, he can make that point. Senator Thomas Byrne to continue, without interruption.

The motion covers two issues, which are interconnected. I will provide examples in County Meath. The parish of Kilbeg and Staholmog and the parishes of Oristown and Kilberry, with all those rural parishes around Kells, are at the intersection of these turbine projects and the pylon projects. The pylons are going from north to south and the turbines are effectively going from east to west. That is an issue that has not been examined by the Government. Certain parts of the country seem to be a magnet for these things, because certain people want to bring them to those areas and many people do not.

Renewable energy must be part of the solution; only yesterday I called for a debate on climate change. It was outrageous to make a connection between pylons and climate change and I think the Green Party did this. There is no connection whatsoever, and we must get it out that we can support serious efforts to combat climate change but not equate that with a necessity to put up pylons. If renewable energy is obtained from wind, it can be put underground also, but there are other ways to generate and distribute electricity.

There have been a huge number of applications for wind farms. It is a crazy situation when three projects are competing with each other. I presume they cannot all get the go-ahead, but people on each of those projects will individually will say that the others are really unprofessional and do not have a hope. The reality is that the three projects cannot go ahead. Certain people are getting their hopes up that it will go ahead, because obviously there is an economic benefit to them and I certainly have no problem with this. I have said it at public meetings and encourage people to have respect for their neighbours and adhere to the planning process.

The Senator is just on time. I will give him some injury time.

Go raibh maith agat. Na mór phointí arís: caithfidh an Rialtas a bheith soiléir leis an bpobal cad tá ag tárlú anseo. Ní féidir leis an Rialtas dul ar aghaidh muna bhfuil an Rialtas soiléir.

Tá a lán ráitis ag teacht ón Aire, an Teachta Rabbitte, atá trína chéile. Cén stádas atá ag an aontas nó memorandum of understanding seo idir an dá Rialtas?

Ní féidir leis an ngobadán an dá thrá a fhreastal.

According to my instructions, Senator Mary Ann O'Brien is the next speaker.

I welcome the Sinn Féin motion and the opportunity for us all to debate and discuss this rather serious subject. The London School of Economics, LSE, published a report in February. The LSE is an entirely independent body which has published several pro-wind-energy reports. This one examines 1 million property sales over a one-year period. The value of houses within 2 km of wind turbines was slashed by 11%. Where I live in Kildare the average house price is approximately €245,000, so that represents a slash of €27,000 per property. Apart from fears for their health and for the landscape, many people are worried about this. Will they be compensated? One Sinn Féin Senator mentioned a lady who had saved all her life to buy her dream home in Connemara. What happens to such a person? Does she get compensation?

It is a savage intrusion on our enjoyment of the visual beauty of our countryside and a savage threat to tourism. The problem of wind energy and pylons starts with the citizens who pay tax, not with the Government. All of us here today, and those who are not here, are aware of this subject because one cannot step outside one’s door without somebody talking about it.

If there was a pylon within 50 m of the Minister of State’s home, and his children or grandchildren lived there, would he be happy? There are many studies of the health concerns, arguing for and against cause and effect. Writing in The Irish Times, Dick Ahlstrom said, “Many objectors to the Grid25 pylon project will have cited cancer risks as their major cause of concern.” He referred to a study conducted recently in France, published in the British Journal of Cancer last April, which included all 2,779 cases of acute leukaemia that occurred there between 2002 and 2007, and went on to say:

It showed children had a 70 per cent increased risk of this rare condition if they lived within 50 metres of high voltage power lines of the kind causing controversy in Ireland. It also showed there was no increased risk for children living 50 metres or more from these lines.

I know the Minister of State will respond by quoting some European study, because there are so many studies, but how would he feel if he or his children or grandchildren lived near a pylon? If there is even a shred of doubt about whether these pylons might cause illness in any citizen, young or old, we cannot even begin to think of letting a pylon be built within 50 m of a home.

The motion calls for a cost-benefit analysis. It is welcome that the Government has commissioned a report. We have heard that it costs 3.5 times as much to put the cables underground as above ground. Can we please see the quotes for both tenders, underground and above ground, in black and white? When will that be available? When will the Government study be complete and ready for us to examine?

I welcome the Minister of State. I am delighted to second the Government’s amendment to the motion. There is a great deal of confusion about this issue, notably in the text of the Sinn Féin motion, which calls for the undergrounding of electricity pylons, which gives rise to some bizarre images.

That might have to be corrected.

There is a more serious misunderstanding underlying the text of the motion: the conflation of, or confusion between, the memorandum of understanding, to which others have referred, and the development of EirGrid and the national transmission system. The Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, has made clear, as I am sure the Minister of State will, that plans to develop the grid have nothing to do with the proposed export projects. These are separate matters.

Two distinct imperatives underlie Government energy policy, which are reflected in the Government amendment. The first is the imperative to have a modern, developed, energy system to attract investment and jobs, as well as to provide people with the living standards to which they are accustomed. As Senator Tony Mulcahy pointed out, the storms demonstrated people’s vulnerability to interruptions in power supply. We need a developed energy infrastructure.

The second imperative is mentioned in the Sinn Féin motion and the Government amendment. The language in both is very similar.

We are not against everything.

Sinn Féin is not quite against everything, but I will address that issue.

The Senator is a little confused.

Senator Tony Mulcahy’s question was a fair one: “What exactly is Sinn Féin for?”

The second imperative is to increase the proportion of energy we derive from renewable sources. That is very clear. We have agreed as a binding target under EU law that at least 16% of all energy consumed must come from renewable sources by 2020. Those targets were hard-won. I believe passionately in environmental issues. I was one of the founder members of Friends of the Earth in Ireland and brought the first climate protection Bill to this House in 2007 as a Private Members' Bill. I am very proud that the Government is working on the Climate Change Bill. It is important that we stick to our targets for tackling climate change and carbon emissions. If we want to meet those targets, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and tackle the problem of fuel poverty, as mentioned in the Government amendment, we must develop the necessary infrastructure to do so. That is why it is deeply frustrating to hear the Sinn Féin members talk about their commitment to green energy and meeting our targets while opposing any plans to develop the infrastructure we need to meet those targets and produce energy sufficient for our purposes. That is where there is a gap of logic in the motion.

The Senator is misreading it.

It is a gap in the logic of many who regularly speak against wind turbines and electricity pylons and deliberately conflate those issues. We have to be clear about the need to develop a modern energy infrastructure and to put forward constructive ideas about how to do so. That is what the Government amendment does. It recognises that important regulations need to be put in place. Senator Cullinane mentioned the Bill the Labour Senators introduced on wind turbines and ensuring they are not erected close to residences. That is fair. As the Government amendment acknowledges, we need strict and comprehensive planning regulations to be applied to wind turbines and electricity pylons.

Senator Mary Ann O’Brien spoke eloquently about the need to ensure there are no adverse health implications. That is recognised in the Government amendment. The infrastructure must be constructed in accordance with the principles of the World Health Organization. There are regulations that must be put in place. It is very important, however, that we proceed with the plans to develop the necessary infrastructure. Energy policy must be allowed to proceed within the reasonable framework of which I have spoken, and public debate on it must be informed. There has been much ill-informed sloganeering on this issue, which we need to address. The motion raises other issues which the amendment addresses adequately such as the development of offshore sources. On 7 February the Minister published the offshore renewable energy development plan, which will seek to explore the development of those areas.

It is absolutely clear that we are all in favour of this. We also need to develop our bioenergy sources. That is important. In terms of Grid Link, others have acknowledged the independent panel of experts, chaired by Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness, which is due to report. That is a fair approach to take to develop infrastructure in accordance with the safeguards I mentioned.

The memorandum of understanding is somewhat confusingly placed in the Sinn Féin motion, which then refers to very different issues concerning EirGrid. The Minister spoke in this House and also in the Dáil about the memorandum of understanding. The memorandum was signed in January 2013 by the Minister and Edward Davey, MP, to send a signal of a shared interest in exploring the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain. At all times the Minister made clear that if the export market was to be developed it would have to be done in such a way that there would be clear, realisable and significant benefits accruing to Ireland. He said that for Ireland to enter any intergovernmental agreement of that nature there would have to be benefits, which would need to include investment, jobs and growth. Senator Mary Ann O’Brien spoke about the cost-benefit analysis that would need to be completed. The Minister has said there are potential benefits, including jobs created, community gain, interconnection benefits, co-operation on tax receipts and rates paid to local authorities and a dividend of trade. Significant benefits could be delivered by an intergovernmental agreement for both Ireland and Britain. It could also significantly increase our renewable energy output.

There are very positive aspects to the proposal but, as the Minister said, there are many unresolved issues. Last week he made public his judgment that it was doubtful that the project could be delivered as envisaged, bearing in mind the timeframe of the lead-in to 2020 and the need to meet our targets by then, which would mean we would have to start to develop the infrastructure at this stage. It has been reported that the Taoiseach has said there is still hope the discussions can proceed, but he has also said it is unlikely that it will be possible to proceed according to the timescale originally set out. That is an ongoing issue but it is separate. The export market is separate to the development of our own energy infrastructure.

The Senator is way beyond her time.

The Government amendment makes that very clear.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O’Dowd. Looking at the Government’s amendment first, if I may, the second last paragraph states that the Government "welcomes the imminent publication of a Green Paper on Energy Policy that will, inter alia, further develop and build out a comprehensive and progressive suite of policies that clearly state how our renewable energy targets will be reached." That has been lacking in the debate. I hope the Green Paper is imminent and that we get it soon, because a number of factors are changing rapidly in this area and we do need the numbers. For instance, we subsidise the ESB to use peat and then we prosecute individuals down the country who dig up the same peat. The numbers will show that the use of peat to generate electricity makes no economic sense and we may as well leave it to the small operators who sell it to people for domestic use. Let us see the numbers in that regard.

One must also bear in mind the success of fracking in the United States. I appreciate that many Members do not like it, but it is still a success for Ireland in that it has reduced the price of coal and gas on international markets. The Shannon natural energy group says that if it could land the gas in the Shannon Estuary and send it through the BGE network, that would reduce the country's energy costs. If that is true, one must also take into account how that changes the relative competitiveness of what we have in mind already. Some of the suggested alternatives are starting to look excessively high cost by comparison with the new market in energy. I am sure the Minister of State will expedite the production of the numbers on which we are now working. Some of the numbers that are published would cast serious doubts on tidal energy. They have been trying to do that in the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada for years and it has always proven to be uneconomical. Technically all of those things are possible, but the question we must ask is whether they make economic sense.

Paragraph 8 of the Government’s amendment states that it "welcomes the recent publication by the Government of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan which provides the framework for sustainable exploitation of our offshore wind, wave and tidal resource". I just do not know whether they are sustainable. Some of the costings we have received suggest that ocean generation of electricity could be twice as expensive as coal generation, three times as expensive as biomass generation and ten times as expensive as hydroelectricity. There is not much scope for new hydroelectric generation in Ireland. In addition, according to some estimates, offshore wind farms are extremely expensive to develop. In addition, there is a network cost. Let us see the numbers on all of the options. I do not mind spending money on research but we should not distort the competitiveness of the economy by getting ourselves involved in forms of electricity generation that do not make economic sense. I appeal to the Minister of State to provide the proper numbers on which we can base informed decisions as to whether various forms of electricity generation are worthwhile. Even in the United States, solar energy looks to be extremely expensive. Offshore wind looks to be uncompetitive, and with the reduction in the price of coal and gas, perhaps we have to look at the numbers again. If the numbers from the United States are correct, one could ask whether we need to change the network that much, because the coal could come in at low cost to Moneypoint, which is already connected up to the network, and gas can come in on the other side of the Shannon close to Tarbert, which is already connected up to the network.

When I hear of plans to build vast wind farms in the midlands, I wonder what are the numbers involved. Is it dependent on huge subsidies from the Department and from the electricity consumer? If so, that would damage the overall competitiveness of the economy. If we found we did not need to change the grid to connect up new wind farms in the midlands and that we could use the existing grid, we could use existing resources more efficiently. While we all have aspirations to protect the environment and to find sustainable ways of generating electricity, we need the jobs also. Loading the consumer and industrial sector with the cost of schemes that are somewhat fanciful in their economics is not the way to proceed.

We really do need to see the numbers with regard to what the various methods of generation would cost and what that would mean for consumers and industry, particularly the new high-tech industries, which are heavy users of electricity. It is a cliché to say that we do not need to go tilting at windmills or waves if they turn out to be horrendously uneconomical, but we would welcome the numbers from the Department.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na Seanadóirí as ucht na díospóireachta seo a chur faoi bhráid an tSeanaid. Glacaim go bhfuil tuairimí á nochtadh ar gach taobh ar an ábhar seo.

Ar dtús, caithfidh mé ceist a chur ar Shinn Féin faoi cad atá siad i bhfabhar. An bhfuil siad i bhfabhar aon rud?

Tá sibh i bhfabhar cuid mhaith de na rudaí atá muid féin i bhfabhar. Tá an tAire Stáit tar éis sin a rá.

Níor chuir mise isteach ar an Seanadóir ar chor ar bith.

Ach chuir do chomhghleacaithe isteach orm.

Tuigim sin, ach tá súil agam go mbeidh an Seanadóir sásta éisteacht liom.

Tá Sinn Féin i gcoinne gach rud, i gcoinne fracking, oil and gas, leictreachas a sholáthar do dhaoine, poist a chruthú.

Táimid i bhfabhar na n-acmhainní a choinneáil.

Má chuireann muid an méid sin go léir ar an mbille atá Sinn Féin ag tabhairt do mhuintir na hÉireann, níl sin sásúil. Caithfidh Sinn Féin féachaint arís ar na tuairimí atá á nochtadh aige.

Maidir le cúrsaí pleanála, níl eolas cruinn agam maidir leis an scéal a d'inis an Seanadóir faoin mbean i gConamara.

Is cuma cén áit sa tír atá duine, tá sé sofheicthe go bhfuil cúrsaí pleanála trédhearcach. Tá córas ann agus mura bhfuil duine sásta leis an gcóras, is féidir dul chuig An Bord Pleanála chun ceist a chur faoin ábhar. Ina dhiaidh sin, is féidir dul chuig na cúirteanna. Mar sin, ní féidir a rá go bhfuil córas "nod and a wink" ann.

This is a very useful debate. However, the Sinn Féin motion is based on a misapprehension regarding the nature of our transition to renewable energy and towards developing the green infrastructure we require as a State. It is important to recognise that our transition to renewable energy affords us the opportunity to use our abundant indigenous resources to meet our own energy needs, while also ensuring compliance with our legally binding EU targets. It creates a hedge against the volatility of fossil fuel prices and improves our security of supply. In view of the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of it getting out of hand, as it almost did recently, and of a threat to gas supplies to Europe and in the face of such geopolitics, the more we can develop our indigenous industry, the better for us. Clearly, our industry must meet all the legal and other requirements.

EirGrid's plan between now and 2025 is a major initiative which will put in place a safe, secure and affordable electricity system, the purpose of which is to ensure that the country will have a grid fit for purpose, one that will meet the current and future needs of the economy. Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh spoke about providing for this country and I understand he is opposed to the North-South interconnector. I believe he is wrong if he is, because the North is very much part of the country. We are on the same island.

I would love to see it united.

We need to ensure that if we can help each other in terms of energy that we do so. In particular, we need to develop regions that do not have the grid they need. This is a major task for all, whether North or South.

We need the grid to ensure reliability of supply to businesses and households. We need it to take the power from where it is generated to where it is needed. We need to reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels by putting the infrastructure in place to enable reduce our carbon footprint and enable us to reach our mandatory 40% renewable electricity targets by 2020. These aims are all based on our determination that Ireland will develop a power system that meets our future energy needs in a sustainable manner. For this reason we do not accept Sinn Féin's proposal and the Government side has put an amendment to the House.

Ireland has a target for 16% of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, with 40% of our electricity to come from renewable sources. To meet this target, Ireland must move from 170 MW per year to 250 MW. The Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, recognised that this makes it necessary to amended the REFIT schemes to extend both the backstop date for REFIT I and the closing date for applications to REFIT II. This year, work will begin on designing a new support scheme to come into operation in 2016. These changes will facilitate the cost effective provision of renewable energy and are fully consistent with starting on a trajectory of revising and reducing price supports for new onshore wind projects over time, while recognising the need for a predictable and transparent policy framework.

We have made significant progress to date, as underlined by the recent SEAI publication, which noted that the contribution of renewable energy to overall energy demand rose from 2.3% in 1990 to 7.1% in 2012, with renewable electricity contributing 4.1% to the overall energy demand in 2012. Figures for 2013 show that 19% of electricity demand is met from renewable sources. In addition, the level of uptake of connection offers under the Gate 3 process has been very promising. We require an additional 1,500 MW to 2,000 MW of renewable generation to meet the 40% target. Approximately 3,000 MW of offers have been accepted. The rate of delivery under Gate 3 will be a factor of critical importance and will require close monitoring.

Ireland has an abundant source of renewable energy. The pipeline of projects established through our group processing approach means we have confidence in our ability to meet our target of 40% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. We have an opportunity to enter into an across-state co-operation. The memorandum signed by the Minister is the first such memorandum in this regard. Transboundary co-operation makes sense and does not, as implied, represent a barrier to delivery of our own domestic targets. Such an agreement is above and beyond domestic targets.

With regard to the export of renewable energy, we have made good progress on this innovative and ambitious work since the signing of the memorandum of understanding by the Minister and his counterpart in the United Kingdom in 2013. The body of work progressed under the memorandum has significantly progressed our understanding of the potential mutual economic benefits to Ireland and the United Kingdom of renewable energy trading and the policy, regulatory and economic framework that is required to support it. The Minister has said many times that any intergovernmental agreement must be clear, realisable and bring significant benefits to us. Any reward must outweigh all potential risks. The foreseen benefits would need to include investment, jobs and growth. The local economy would need to benefit through the flow of rates to local authorities and community gain for local communities is important. Ireland must benefit from appropriate returns to the Exchequer and infrastructure to underpin economic development.

Both states remain committed to making these projects happen. However, key policy and regulatory design decisions still remain to be taken by the United Kingdom, which means we are still a considerable distance from settling on the specifics of what the Irish Government and the renewable generators believe must be the basic components of any intergovernmental agreement. For this reason, within the particular timeframe, it will not be possible to deliver the project as envisaged. Therefore, the shared work with the United Kingdom will focus on the longer term post-2020 period, and both countries will continue to work together towards that. As the Taoiseach said yesterday, we will engage with the United Kingdom over the next three months to attempt to develop a workable architecture for trade, which realistically now must be post 2020. I repeat what the Minister said. He has stated that whether the midlands export project goes ahead, the country will still need a grid that is fit for purpose. The plans to develop the grid do not have, and never did have, anything to do with the midlands export project. That project remains a novel project which, if realised, will bring jobs and wealth to Ireland.

Looking at the 2030 targets, the overarching objective is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies into the future. Ireland is very reliant on imported fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. While it is acknowledged that fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for some time, progress is being made towards increasing the share of renewable energy. We are aiming for a new EU energy and climate change framework for 2030 and towards achieving a low carbon economy by 2050. Following the recent publication by the European Commission of its proposal for a 2030 climate and energy framework, the Department is undertaking analysis to establish the scale of the contribution Ireland can make to meeting these targets, while ensuring that action taken will be cost effective and will not impose an undue burden on our recovering economy.

As I do not have time to read my prepared speech in full, I will make it available to the House and Senators may read it later.

I wish to make some key points before I finish. Reference was made to oil and gas by Senators and we are trying to develop our offshore energy also. I was in Bellanaboy recently, a remote area of County Mayo. What impressed me was that in one of the remotest part of the country, there are over 1,000 people working. The Senator may laugh, but we can look at the number of cars there and see the local economy benefit and how important it is to it. If we can achieve significant oil and gas finds off our Atlantic coast - there is significant interest in our potential there - this will be important for the country and will bring thousands of jobs. Any such development will need to meet all our environmental, health and safety requirements.

People cannot put their heads in the sand and go against everything. To go back to the Senator, I put it to him again that we know what he is against.

The Minister of State is being disingenuous. We are not against everything.

What is the Senator for?

We are for the retention of the oil and gas for the people of Ireland, something the Minister of State is definitely not for.

I call Senator Cáit Keane.

The Minister of State is very welcome.

Apologies, I should have called Senator Paschal Mooney. I did not see him indicate.

It is just in the normal flow of events that the next speaker should be from this side.

Yes, my apologies.

Go raibh maith agat. It happens. In fact, unfortunately I have been partially responsible for poor Senator Cáit Keane being on the receiving end of interesting decisions from the Chair when I was in it also. My apologies to her.

As my colleague, Senator Thomas Byrne, has outlined, we are supporting this Private Member's motion. There are a number of issues surrounding it that are of interest to me and perhaps we might tease out some of them. I welcome the Minister of State and compliment him on doing more than just standing up and reading a script of some ten or 11 pages of turgid detail that would have put us all to sleep, with all due respect to whoever drafted it. I accept that the facts must be recorded, but at least the Minister of State has contributed to a more lively and animated exchange, rather than just reading a long script.

I am particularly interested in the memorandum of understanding between the UK Government and Ireland, in the light of the recent decisions taken about the wind farm projects in the midlands, about which many people in the area are particularly pleased. These decisions do not change my party's view which is shared by the Government, that it is vital that renewable energy projects be developed in a manner which is sensitive to the environment and which will benefit local communities. I could not help but reflect on what was happening at the Corrib gas field. Yet another legal challenge has been mounted against an Environmental Protection Agency study. Despite the fact that I have read it twice, I still do not fully understand the basis for that challenge. It has something to do with the manner in which the project is progressing. Any international investor watching what goes on in this country in the context of mineral, gas and oil developments will note that the amount of time it takes from discovery of a reserve to getting it to the marketplace is unacceptably long. I say this while fully accepting that energy projects should be developed in a manner which is sensitive to the communities affected.

When Members of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications met public representatives from Norway about 18 months ago, we asked them about local sensitivities in the context of onshore facilities. While they had numerous such facilities, they had nothing like the problems we have encountered with the Corrib gas field because they had engaged, from the outset, with local communities. That is where mistakes were made here. The Government at the time saw this as an opportunity and decided, within the existing parameters of legislation at the time, to just go ahead. It decided that it was good for Ireland, but it created a monster that is still with us. That is very unfortunate, from the perspective of the country as a whole. I am not for one moment criticising the people who are living in the area and have legitimate complaints. I do not know what it is like because I am not living there, but I am not going to cast aspersions on the challenges that have been mounted during the years by members of the local community. However, it seems, on balance, that the majority of the community in County Mayo are in favour of the project. The amount of money that has been pumped into the local economy is significant. Belmullet and the surrounding area have been revived by the investment. I hope the Government will look at the experience with the Corrib gas field and ensure all of the checks and balances put in place since the initiation of the project will mean that we will not have a repeat of that experience. I am somewhat concerned that outside investors will look at Ireland and ask, "Why bother?" They will wonder if it is worth the hassle, particularly given that several hundred wells have been sunk in the past 30 years and that there have only been two or three successes. Those who suggest we should follow the Norwegian regime are living in cloud cuckoo land because we are in a totally different position. If one drills a well anywhere in the North Sea, one will find oil, but that is not the case around our coast.

That is not what the Fianna Fáil representatives said at the joint committee. Consistency would be good.

I am not speaking for my colleagues. I am only making my own observations based on my experience and what I have heard at various committee meetings. The simple fact of the matter is that we have had a lot of international investment in offshore projects in the past 30 years and what have we got for it? The Kinsale field - that is what we have got. No gas has come from the Corrib gas field in the past 15 years. That is all I am saying. If we are serious about developing our energy resources, there is a need for the Government and local communities to work together in the national interest. Is the Senator against this? Perhaps, he is; I am never quite sure what Sinn Féin is in favour of because it has-----

When Fianna Fáil gave away our oil and gas, it certainly was not thinking of what would be good for the people.

There is a particular element of Sinn Féin's motion on which I want to reflect and question. The motion calls for the creation and implementation of an all-Ireland energy policy that would clearly state how our renewable energy targets would be reached. The British Government has embarked on the development of a support mechanism for hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom which, sadly, includes Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Executive is a regional assembly, not a government. It is in no way comparable with the sovereign Government of the Republic of Ireland. It is under the thumb of Westminster which, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has already embarked on the introduction of a series of tax measures to incentivise and encourage companies to come to the United Kingdom and engage in fracking. County Fermanagh is seen as a potential site for the production of shale gas. I would love to know what the Sinn Féin Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Administration are doing to ensure the waters of County Leitrim will not be polluted as a result of decisions taken, not in Belfast, but at Westminster. Perhaps Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh will reflect on this.

We are totally opposed to it.

At least we stand for election in Northern Ireland, unlike Fianna Fáil, and are elected.

Sinn Féin is on a loser because the British Government has already decided on this issue. Sinn Féin representatives are talking out of both sides of their mouths. When they are in County Leitrim, they are against fracking, but when they are in County Fermanagh, they are more mute about it.

The Senator has obviously not read Phil Flanagan's statements on the issue.

They know the facts. That is my main concern about the motion.

I ask the Senator to point to one statement from Sinn Féin which indicates that we are in favour of fracking.

Senator Paschal Mooney to continue, without interruption.

It is the only thing that annoys me about Sinn Féin's position on this issue. Why does it not state it is going to fight to ensure there will be no fracking in County Fermanagh?

We have done so. We are against fracking.

Let us see the results.

The Senator is talking through his hat. He does not have a clue what he is talking about.

I know exactly what I am talking about.

The Senator does not know what he is talking about; he is putting words in peoples' mouths. He does not even know what they said.

Please allow Senator Paschal Mooney to speak, without interruption. Senator David Cullinane has spoken on this issue.

What I do know is-----

I ask the Senator to name one individual in my party who is in favour of fracking.

Please, Senator.

Will the Senator, please, respect the Chair and allow Senator Paschal Mooney to speak without further interruption?

I will make my point again for the sake of the slow learners. The British Government has embarked on the introduction of a series of tax breaks to encourage investors to engage in fracking in the United Kingdom.

We are against it.

I am not saying Sinn Féin is not against it; what I am saying is that it will not be able to do an awful lot about it. That is the point I am making.

Why is the Senator telling us something we already know?

Sinn Féin is not going to be able to do anything about it.

What has that got to do with anything?

The motion talks about a North-South get together on this issue. I wish that was possible, but let us sort out the fracking issue first and then we can talk about whether we can have joined-up thinking on an all-island energy policy. Fracking is the elephant in the room, as Sinn Féin knows. Those who live in my part of the country know that it will create enormous difficulties down the line. All I am saying is that we must find out what is going on in the North of Ireland. What is the relationship between the Westminster Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly in the context of this issue?

I commend to the House and the Minister of State a report published by Committee C of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on renewable wave and tidal energy. I am not sure if it was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, but I do know that it was submitted to the British and Irish Governments. It makes a number of recommendations, one of which is that an intensified effort be made in the United Kingdom and Ireland to understand, address and remove barriers and constraints on commercial or trade participation in the marine energy sector. I applaud the Government for its recent initiatives in that regard. There was a two page report in the Irish Independent earlier this week gaving an outline of the potential for the development of wave energy projects off the west coast. I hope this will continue to be a major priority for the Department. We are at a very early stage and playing catch-up with the Scots who are the leaders in this field. However, we have the potential to outpace them. I commend the Government's initiatives in this regard and hope it will continue to support the development of technologies that will lead to the harnessing of wave energy.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, for the debate on this important subject. Everyone is affected by the need for renewable energy. All of the new commissioned studies in this area are good. In line with EU law and our international commitments to reduce carbon emissions, we must ensure we have a sustainable and renewable energy supply. Decarbonising our energy system is our priority and is required by the European Union. As well as energy efficiency, securing a sustainable energy supply is a cornerstone of the Government’s energy policy.

It is estimated that between 25% and 30% of capital investment in renewable energy is retained in the local economy. The Minister of State spoke earlier about 1,000 jobs created by renewable energy in Mayo. We have a beautiful and green country, which the Government acknowledged in its amendment by stating “the Irish landscape is unique in its natural beauty and a significant natural resource in aesthetic, environmental and economic terms, and [...] the construction of any major infrastructural project must take these factors into account.” The Minister of State acknowledged that as a central pillar of good governance, communities have a democratic right to influence decisions concerning the siting of energy infrastructure projects.

It is also important to state the benefits of renewable energy. In 2007, the EU agreed a new climate and energy target of obtaining 60% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The Government has committed €26 million to research the best options in achieving this target. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte and the Minster of State have stated that if there is nothing in terms of jobs or revenue for Ireland from the memorandum of understanding on co-operation in the energy sector recently signed between Ireland and the United Kingdom, there will be no agreement.

Reports have shown that there is real opportunity to develop wind generation offshore as well as onshore. Given our proximity, the Irish Sea is ideal for the development of offshore wind farms, even with existing technologies. Such projects have considerable cost advantages over existing and planned projects in the North Sea, which are also further offshore and in significantly deeper waters. As conventional energy sources run out, Ireland has an extraordinary opportunity to use its natural resources in a cost-competitive way to achieve energy independence and become a world leader in the use of clean, green energy.

Wind-generated energy exportation could account for 20% of gross domestic product income in the next 40 years. This was pointed out by the environmentalist John Travers in his book Green and Gold: Ireland a Clean Energy World Leader?. We must be ambitious in this regard. Price competitiveness is key to this debate. Ireland imports 95% of its gas and all of its oil. Currency fluctuations, together with transportation costs, were factors in driving sizeable price increases in gas and electricity for several years. The Government has taken measures to ensure the customer is protected from higher prices through commercial and residential market regulation, targeted assistance for large energy users and continued support for cost-effective and timely investment in networks.

Foreign direct investment depends on Ireland's maintaining a 100% reliable electricity supply. Like Senator Tony Mulcahy, I thank the ESB crews who restored disrupted power supplies very quickly during the recent storms. The timely and cost-effective delivery of energy infrastructure is important to the country. An analysis is being undertaken of the cost of placing new pylons over-ground versus the cost of undergrounding. A previous energy regulator stated that there would be an extra cost of €2 billion if the new transmission network was undergrounded. The Government will undertake a new analysis of undergrounding, however. The welcome consultation process on the siting of pylons for the developed transmission network has concluded and will now be considered by the Minister. I know of a case in which An Bord Pleanála insisted on the removal of a wind turbine because it interfered with the character of the landscape, as well as having an impact on the archaeology of the area. Any general exemptions to planning are still subject to certain restrictions, which are outlined in SI No. 600/2001. The planning guidelines we have in place are designed to ensure a consistent approach.

The wind we experience is four times more powerful than in any other country in Europe. We must be proactive in using these resources. The initial consultation on pylons between EirGrid and local communities might not have been as good or informative as it should have been. I hope that will be addressed in the upcoming consultation process.

I commend Sinn Féin for its introduction of this Private Members’ motion which Fianna Fáil is delighted to be able to support.

Yet one of the Fianna Fáil Senators will vote against the motion. There must be a split in Fianna Fáil.

I am glad that the Senator raised an important point, because partitionism is alive and well in Sinn Féin, unfortunately. In County Leitrim one of the Senator's Sinn Féin colleagues is not opposed to fracking north of the Border but, because it is politically opportunistic, he is opposed to fracking south of the Border.

Name one Sinn Féin representative who is in favour of fracking.

My colleague, Senator Paschal Mooney, raised the concerns of the local communities in County Leitrim which, with the Sinn Féin Deputy in the area, are against fracking. What is the unified policy of Sinn Féin on this particular topic and on wind energy? Sinn Féin has let down rural communities. Members of its own party have left Sinn Féin because of its inaction in opposing wind farm projects north of the Border in County Tyrone. I was fortunate to meet some of the local communities there.

That is strange because the Sinn Féin vote has gone up in County Tyrone at every election. It is very odd.

If the Senator wants to have a go at my colleague, Senator Paschal Mooney-----

Can we come back to the motion?

-----I suggest he brief himself on the facts of his own party’s position.

He cannot name even one Sinn Féin representative in favour of fracking.

We will have no crossfire in the House. Will Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill stick to the motion?

Give us one name.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

A former campaign director for the Sinn Féin Party.

Through the Chair, please.

A former campaign manager. The Senator cannot even name him.

Perhaps the Senator will familiarise himself with the facts.

The Senator cannot even name one.

While Fianna Fáil supports it within the general scheme of this motion, we wish to distance ourselves from the Sinn Féin position in the North in respect of fracking, because it has split communities-----

What is Sinn Féin's position in the North?

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

The Senator might enlighten me as to the change in policy.

The Senator will have five minutes in which to respond later. Can we hear Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill without interruption?

I had not intended to raise this issue at all, but Sinn Féin colleagues began to have a go at me when I rose to speak. If the Senator is trying to justify his remarks, then so be it, but our position is crystal clear. Fianna Fáil is opposed to the development of wind turbines in the manner in which-----

Which way is the wind blowing today?

My party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, visited Denmark recently, where he examined the issue of pylons and the damaging effects on local communities of wind turbines in particular. Within the constituency in County Donegal in which I live, I was involved in a campaign in the Glen of Glenties, where a major investment of wind turbines was being developed. Planning permission had been granted by Donegal County Council, the local communities were up in arms and thankfully, An Bord Pleanála overturned the decision of the local authority regarding that particular development.

I recognise, as a scientist, that there is scientific evidence on both sides of the argument. That said, I refer to the overwhelming evidence that has been accepted by An Bord Pleanála both in this case and in respect of a project to put pylons into west County Donegal in the period between 2001 and 2003. The board listened to concerns put forward at the time by eminent scholars and professors, whereby there were close linkages between electricity pylons and childhood leukaemia. Regardless of whether they stand up scientifically and regardless of whether the developers of such projects, be it EirGrid or anyone else, can provide evidence to suggest this may not be the case, they cannot provide concrete evidence that it is not the case. When questions arise in respect of citizens' health, be they children or any other citizens, an independent approach then must be adopted. While I acknowledge that an independent panel has been established, it does not go far enough. The views of local communities have been and are being abandoned in this entire process and the consultation process often is left to the discretion of the developers, which is wrong. Some level of independence must be brought to bear in respect of the development of both pylons and wind farms and there must be some level of independent analysis of the facts.

As for the issue regarding the project with our British counterparts, why should local communities in this country pay the price just because the British authorities wish to meet their Kyoto Protocol targets? That is wrong, and the Minister who was involved in that particular contract should provide clarity and must outline to the people the facts in this regard. While Ireland certainly has obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, focusing attention exclusively on the development of wind turbines is not the approach to take. If he can, the Minister of State might also outline to the House all the funding that has been made available to private investors for wind energy projects nationwide. He might explain the reason each citizen in the country pays approximately €10 per electricity bill towards the development of wind-related projects, which often goes to multi-million euro projects undertaken by wealthy developers. Where is that money going and is it being paid to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland? Members will have noted the amount of money that authority pays to consultants. Where is that money going? Why are all citizens, irrespective of whether they believe in wind as an alternative source, obliged to pay this to their electricity supplier under the public service obligation? Some clarity must be provided in respect of that issue.

I welcome the Minister of State. He will have noticed the noise being generated between my friends in Fianna Fáil and my friends in Fine Gael, who appear to be competing to be champions of negativity in this regard, because the policy differences between them are so slim that the only difference is noise and volume.

The Sinn Féin-Fine Gael alliance has not come about quite yet.

If I did not know any better, one would think there must be an election approaching.

The Senator needs to get back to the motion.

I have returned to it immediately. Speaking of noise, the entire debate on this issue has been characterised by a great deal of noise and very little light on both sides of the argument. In my own simple way, I wish to clarify the issue for myself and perhaps in so doing might also be of some help to other Members. One can ask three questions with regard to the entire project. The first is whether one agrees in the first instance that it is necessary to upgrade the grid. While I believe most people would, I have heard some public commentary from people who are adamantly opposed to upgrading the grid and who have stated publicly there is no need to so do. One of those people happens to be a candidate for Fianna Fáil in the European elections. Therefore, the disparity of views in this regard is evident even within parties, and sometimes the upgrading of the grid might not be necessarily the main point of contention for some parties. It may be that political and electoral advantage are more important for its members. However, if one agrees that the grid needs to be upgraded, then it should be done, and those who assert that no upgrade of the grid is required must give a response to a question. I refer to a scenario in which a major high energy user of electricity decides to set up here in Ireland and wishes to provide 1,000 jobs in a region like the south east but then decides that because the one thing missing is a safe, secure and sustainable supply of electricity, it is unable to so do. What would the objectors tell the potential employees in the south east or somewhere else? What would they do or say? Would they wash their hands of it and state it is none of their business? Of course, it is their business. That is the first question.

Second, if one agrees the grid is to be upgraded, one must ask in the course of so doing whether is it prudent and wise to add capacity to the grid that might cater for or accommodate new sources of energy that might be available. Senator Sean D. Barrett pointed to the idea of fracking in the United States, which has driven down oil prices internationally. I understand my colleague, Senator John Whelan, supported fracking in the media last week, which would be alarming to his colleague, Senator John Kelly, in the Roscommon-Leitrim area. It is a debate that could be held. I personally am not in favour of it and I do not believe the Labour Party is in favour of it.

The Labour Party three.

However, if some people are in favour, the debate should be held honestly. That is the second point.

Third, if the grid is being upgraded and if capacity is being added to accommodate new and renewable energy sources, the question is whether it would be a good idea to ascertain whether it is possible to export some of this energy and whether that would make economic sense. In this context, one can consider the east-west interconnector, which is a cable 260 km in length that connects north Wales to north Dublin. It was noted in the Bord Gáis Éireann price index of last May that electricity is traded both ways and that the interconnector between north Wales and Dublin has contributed to the reduction in wholesale electricity prices. Who could be against that? Does one wish to keep energy prices high or is it a good idea to trade abroad any energy surplus one might have and to import energy when one is short of it? This makes absolute sense. I have attended public meetings at which it has been stated, as a serious point, that we would be exporting our wind. Why, for God's sake, would one not do that if one could?

Yes, of course.

These are the points to make and if one breaks down the arguments into the aforementioned three questions, the question is, what should we do? Should we have overground or underground cables? The Minister has appointed the former judge Catherine McGuinness to adjudicate on the terms of reference, which are the most important part of any argument. One could have narrow terms of reference, as perhaps did EirGrid in the past, or one could have objectively set terms of reference for the project and Ms McGuinness will do this. EirGrid will make proposals to her that she will examine, after which she will state objectively whether these terms of reference are sufficiently wide. I note that in the opening remarks to his contribution my colleague and friend, Senator Thomas Byrne, stated one could not trust the Government, the Minister, EirGrid or An Bord Pleanála, and one now could not trust the former judge Catherine McGuinness, but one could trust Fianna Fáil. That is the argument the Senator and Fianna Fáil wish people could sustain. I cannot sustain that argument because people did trust Fianna Fáil in the course of three elections and now look at where we are. The Senator may reflect on this and perhaps Fianna Fáil might acknowledge there are some other agendas at stake that might not be in the national interest.

When Fianna Fáil is in government its members are good Senators and Deputies. When it is in opposition they are good councillors. I do not want to start scoring points, but we need honesty in this debate. Let us consider the issue objectively to decide the best way to proceed, while keeping the national interest foremost in our minds.

All of us can agree that the national interest should be foremost in our minds, but while Senator John Gilroy made his points in an interesting and reasonable way, they highlight once again the problem of the Whip in politics. Politicians do not seem to be allowed to state their convictions. Perhaps it is good to debate these issues in a way that allows people to take different views within their own parties. The problem, however, is that they cannot vote according to their convictions. We saw an example of this a couple of months ago when a motion I introduced on putting high-voltage lines underground where physically possible was defeated by one vote because three Labour Party Senators who agreed with the motion were able only to abstain from voting.

I recently had a conversation with a farmer from my part of the country who was extremely concerned about plans to erect massive wind turbines around his farm. He expressed fear that his land would be greatly devalued if other farmers around him erected these turbines on their land. He told me that someone had visited his house, without written documentation, to gather information and suss the place out. Subsequently he received an ominous message advising that he had two weeks to sign up or he would be out. He painted an alarming picture whereby farmers and landowners are being played off against each other. Information and clarity as to the precise sources of information are sometimes in short supply and it is all about getting the decision over the line without proper consultation with people. This is a source of considerable anger and disquiet to many people throughout the country.

While Senator John Gilroy was right to say we all support the export of surplus wind energy, many people fear that Ireland will become a source of cheap energy for Britain in circumstances in which the British would not tolerate similar despoliation of their own landscape.

Stick to the facts.

It is a question of long-term versus short-term perspectives. It is the culture of the quick buck on the one hand, and taking a long-term interest in the quality of our landscape, our tourism industry and our natural amenities on the other. All of us want to improve our balance of payments and our exports, but what is the long-term financial cost?

I support the thrust of the motion. All of us have seen the map of the proposed corridors for the EirGrid massive pylon project. These pylons will cut through communities, towns and parishes across our country. In regard to the proposal to put pylons underground, we need look no further than the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) (Amendment) Bill 2014, which I introduced to the House. That Bill would require high voltage lines to be placed underground wherever it is physically possible to do so. I ask the Government to make time for a debate on the Bill. Although these issues have been discussed extensively on the Order of Business and elsewhere, the Government has not facilitated an extended debate on how we will meet our renewable energy targets or on high voltage lines and pylons. We are now confronted with the prospect that hundreds of turbines, pylons and power lines will become part of the landscape and consciousness of rural Ireland for generations, shaping the way future generations perceive our landscape. Some of these pylons are only 10 m shorter than Liberty Hall. Imagine a long line of such pylons across the landscape at intervals of 250 m. They will be located inside a corridor 1 km in width, with planning applications for final routes to be decided later.

The all-island grid study of 2008 did not give serious consideration to placing the cables underground. A commission has now been put together in advance of the local elections to consider placing high voltage lines underground as an afterthought. I have the greatest of respect for members and former members of the Judiciary but it may be preferable to stay away from the Judiciary when commissions are established on such an ad hoc basis in future. Members of the Judiciary have an important role in upholding the rule of law but this commission is political in its inspiration and has not been established with the common good in mind. I say this without in any way ascribing fault to Ms Justice McGuinness.

That is what the Senator is doing.

I ask the Senator to listen to my words not the voices in my head. I am not sure the Government was acting responsibly in putting together that commission.

The Minister for Health has expressed concern about the health impacts of pylons. The new boss of EirGrid would not like to live near these pylons. In February the European Commission's scientific committee issued a draft report on emerging and newly identified health risks which acknowledged the potential for health effects and raised issues in respect of levels of leukaemia among people living close to major power lines.

The Senator is misquoting the report.

We can be sure about reductions in the value of land and the long-term damage that will be done to the tourism industry and natural amenities. I have visited countries in which massive pylons have been erected in rural areas. One no longer feels as though one is living in a rural area. These areas are more like post-industrial landscapes.

I am concerned about the doublespeak on the memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom. It appears the British are less interested in some of the planned projects now because they may not assist Britain in meeting its targets. If that is the only reason these projects do not proceed, it will be an indictment of our Government, because it is not putting the national interest first. By the national interest, I mean the right of Irish people to a landscape that can attract tourism in the longer term and sustainable investment in renewable energy. Sustainability requires management of our resources in a way that respects our long-term future.

I will not go over old ground, other than to reflect on some of the concerns that have been expressed to me. My colleague, Senator David Cullinane, will respond to the comments made during the course of the debate. All of us will be aware from constituency meetings and social media of the considerable public opposition to the construction of pylons. This was highlighted in the large number of submissions made to EirGrid on the issue. The construction of this infrastructure should be put on hold to allow a plan to be designed that addresses the concerns of residents and exploits our natural resources to their greatest potential.

I commend those communities in Counties Monaghan, Armagh, Cavan, Tyrone and Meath which since 2007 have pursued a campaign against plans by EirGrid and Northern Ireland Energy, NIE, to impose high voltage overhead power lines and associated pylons on them. They have now been joined by communities from the west, midlands and the south, because this is an issue that affects communities throughout the island. I pay particular tribute to the Trojan work done by campaigning organisations in frustrating and delaying the efforts of EirGrid and NIE to ignore the concerns of unwilling host communities and impose their structures on our natural landscape.

The landscapes that will be blighted by this are tourism resources and of massive benefit to the economy. Erecting these pylons will do untold damage to our reputation in tourism. There will not be much of a repeat of The Gathering if we do so.

Real concerns were heard during the course of the debate about health, the landscape, the environment and the economic development of the areas concerned. To their credit, most of the communities involved have not expressed opposition to the need for interconnectors or an enhanced electricity network. They have, simply and correctly, demanded that the cables be placed underground. Many reports clearly prove that putting power lines underground is possible and feasible. Many argue that in the medium and long term undergrounding is economically beneficial. To reiterate what Senator David Cullinane said in his opening remarks, EirGrid claims undergrounding would be two and a half or three times the cost of pylons. It had previously stated it would be ten times more expensive and before that, that it would be 40 times more expensive. Before that again, it stated it could not be done.

We have heard a lot about the Danish model. The Danish Government has set in train a process to ensure all high voltage power lines will in the future be placed underground. It is time the Governments, North and South, followed suit. We should aim to make Ireland a world leader in underground technology which is evolving fast. We should aim to enhance our reputation in terms of tourism and our natural environment. Having cables above ground, with massive pylons, will do untold damage. It is cutting our nose off to spite our face.

I thank the Minister of State for his response and all Senators for their comments on this Private Members' motion. I will respond to them in the most constructive way I can.

That will be unique.

I will start with the contributions of Fianna Fáil Members. If we could generate electricity or energy from the hot air and wind that came from some Fianna Fáil Senators, we would be home and hosed in reaching our renewable energy targets. I must point to a number of facts. Sinn Féin's position on overgrounding versus undergrounding of high voltage power lines is the same in the North and the South. Our position on fracking is the same in the North and the South. We are against it. Senator Paschal Mooney is correct to point out that in the devolved assembly in the North responsibility for many areas, particularly fiscal matters, rests with Westminster. We have used this argument on countless occasions when we have been accused of imposing cuts to child benefit which are made directly at Westminster rather than in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Sinn Féin accepts the rule of Her Majesty.

We join Senator Paschal Mooney in accepting that we do not have devolved power, but the reality is that-----

If it had accepted Her Majesty's ruling in 1969, it might have made a difference.

The only political party on the island of Ireland doing anything about trying to obtain full fiscal powers for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the people of Ireland is Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin takes the Queen's shilling, but it will not challenge it.

Unlike the Fianna Fáil Party, my party is organised in the North. It is the largest political party on the Nationalist side and one of the largest on the island of Ireland. That is where much of the opposition to Sinn Féin's motion comes from. Fianna Fáil Senators spoke against it, but they said they would support it, which is more hypocrisy.

On a point of order-----

The Senator has no point of order to raise.

I am glad that the Senator acknowledged the point I was trying to make, but to then construe that my contribution was in any way against the Fianna Fáil Party's position to support the motion is mischievous; it is untrue.

That is not a point of order.

I am glad that Senator Paschal Mooney has shifted his position in the past few minutes.

I have not. The Senator is only fuelling mischief.

Senator David Cullinane to continue, without interruption.

I am grateful to Senator Paschal Mooney, but I point to the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil on this issue. When it was in power, it was in favour of EirGrid's plans, high voltage power lines-----

I was never in favour of them.

Not personally, but the Senator's party was in favour of them. Fianna Fáil brought forward the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act that allowed EirGrid to go straight to An Bord Pleanála and bypass the proper planning system.

What does that prove?

The track record of Fianna Fáil on this issue speaks for itself.

Sinn Féin supported many positions and has now changed its mind. I could name a few.

Senator David Cullinane to continue, without interruption. There are too many turbines here.

Now that it is in opposition, Fianna Fáil can make policy on the basis of which way the wind is blowing. The opinion polls show what people think of Fianna Fáil.

Senator Tony Mulcahy was one of the Senators who said Sinn Féin was against everything and in favour of nothing. The motion shows that we are in favour of maximising the potential of renewable energy sources.

And in favour of Christmas.

We are in favour of doing this in the interests of the people and not in favour of people exploiting our natural resources for profit to sell energy to Britain or anywhere else.

Bhí an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh ag caint faoin mBreatain.

Senator David Cullinane to continue, without interruption.

What we are in favour of is clearly understood in the motion and my contribution.

Bhí an Seanadóir Trevor Ó Clochartaigh i bhfad i bhfábhar.

Senator Ivana Bacik also spoke about what she saw as confusion in the motion where we dealt with wind turbines, overhead pylons and power lines. There is no confusion. It is a general motion on energy policy, the need for Ireland to be energy independent, as much as possible, in order to reach our renewable energy targets, by using the energy created for the common good of the people of the State and on the island through an all-Ireland energy policy. Energy policy encompasses many aspects, including wind turbines and pylons.

Senator Tony Mulcahy cited some existing wind turbines as the reason we should place pylons elsewhere. That is not the case and he is being disingenuous in saying so because the technology has changed. Infrastructure was put in place 30 years ago, but that does not mean we should do the same today because of the changes in technology that have taken place. He has entirely missed the point.

I did not miss the point; I am quite happy to stand over what I said.

As Senator David Cullinane is overtime, I ask him to conclude.

There was a lot to which I had to respond and I hope I have clarified Sinn Féin's position. I thank the Minister of State for attending. We need a constructive debate because people are concerned about many issues. We will push the motion to a vote as we do not agree with the amendment. The motion should have been supported.

The Senator will need Fianna Fáil to back Sinn Féin in the vote.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 16.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 16.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 March.

Is that agreed?

No. It is disgraceful.

Question, "That the House reconvene at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 March 2104," put and declared carried.