I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 40 together.
The North South Interconnector, as proposed as an overhead line, now has full planning permission in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
I have listened carefully to the issues raised in relation to this project, particularly those living in close proximity to the proposed project. In February and March 2017, two motions calling for an updated independent study into the north-south interconnector were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. I met with the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, together with Oireachtas members from Cavan, Monaghan and Meath in February 2017. I subsequently met with Oireachtas members in May 2017 and most recently again in January of this year. In addition, my officials have held separate meetings with the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and North East Pylon Pressure Campaign in March and April last year.
All of these engagements – together with the motions - were important in my decision to commission two independent studies into the project. The studies are designed to address the main points of the motions as well as key concerns expressed by those parties opposed to the development of an overhead line. Some impacts such as environmental and health concerns will not be assessed since the statutory planning process is the appropriate method by which such impacts are assessed and evaluated.
The Consultants undertaking the two studies have finalised their reports and once considered in my department and submitted to me it is my intention that these will be brought to Government and made publicly available. This process will take a number of weeks.