Brilliant from Gerard Howlin, who points out that the only party which has not protested against a new north-south interconnector is the DUP. Even Sinn Fein (whom he doesn’t mention by name) have been all over the southern protests like a rash:
No physical infrastructure epitomises partition more than electricity. Our road system predates 1922. They may have been sundered in places, and checkpoints and customs posts put on it at other points, but the lines on the map, whatever the reality on the ground, all crossed the border. Not so with electricity.
New-fangled electric wires, when they came in the 20th century, were developed as separate networks in the North and Republic. “Burn everything British but their coal” was the slogan of the economic war in the 1930s. In fact, we ultimately developed electricity generation dangerously dependent on imported fossil fuels.
There is an energy security issue of course — those who remember having to queue for petrol know the reality of that. There is global warming, and we are way behind on our climate change commitments.
The fact that we only now have our first minister for climate action in the Cabinet underscores how far back we are from where we need be. Then there is politics, and there is vested interest, and a combination of both along the route of the proposed interconnector.
Some protest has been a parody of Men Behind the Wire dressed up in waxed jackets and sheepskin coats. EirGrid, a public company, supplies the “Armoured cars and tanks and guns, came to take away our sons”.
That’s funny up to a point. The politics less so. The project is as Fianna Fáil as water charges. The party was in government when it was launched as an overhead, as distinct from underground, project. It’s Fine Gael to its fingertips, because it is the Government to which that wholly owned and totally controlled state company has reported to for the past six years.
Whatever about its wider base, and genuine concerns that undoubtedly exist, this anti-pylon protest is well funded.
Perhaps more significant, ultimately, than the shenanigans locally is the DUP. In its February 2016 submission to the Northern Ireland Planning Appeals Commission, MP Jeffery Donaldson, formally writing for his party, said the planning application dating back to 2009, “is arguably the most important currently under consideration in Northern Ireland”.
Cutting to the chase, he explained that power plants in Ballylumford and Kilroot will have to close. “As things stand in the absence of the proposed interconnector, this means that by 2021 Northern Ireland will experience a supply deficit, ie there will not be enough power to meet demand,” he said.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty