TD Sean Conlan quits Fine Gael over power lines plans
A controversial backbench TD has quit Fine Gael, citing the row over plans for high-voltage power lines to link cross-border electricity supplies.
Sean Conlan, who represents the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, announced his decision on local radio and warned about opposition to the 400 kilovolt north-south interconnector.
"I believe it's very important for me personally to be true to myself and go out there and represent the views of the people of Monaghan and Cavan from now on as an independent," he said.
Mr Conlan lives in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, and was elected to the Dail in 2011.
He said senior Government figures have not been listening to local anger over plans for power lines to run from a substation in Woodland, Co Meath, to Turleenan, Co Tyrone, which energy chiefs have refused to put underground.
Some 250 farmers and landowners in Meath and Monaghan claim the project would need 420 giant pylons.
Mr Conlan told Northern Sound FM: "You feel that you should represent your party as best you can.
"My father and my grandfather, they were all involved in Fine Gael and we have always been proud to be involved in Fine Gael and represent Fine Gael but sometimes you feel Fine Gael is not supporting you.
"I'm Fine Gael in my heart and I have been all my life but I believe in this instance the individuals at the top are not listening to us on the ground in terms of what we want to do."
The Cavan-Monaghan constituency is also home to two other Fine Gael TDs, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and Joe Reilly.
Mr Conlan was at the centre of controversy when it emerged he had hired his barrister girlfriend as his Dail assistant in 2012 on 50,000 euro a year.
Last month he was arrested and later released without charge by gardai over a row in his family's pub in Ballybay.
A man in his twenties had allegedly been assaulted in the incident in August and a file on the case is being examined by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Conlan claimed he had been assaulted in the incident and he had voluntarily made a statement to gardai.
Fine Gael gave Mr Conlan best wishes for the future.
"Fine Gael continues to have a strong team in Cavan/Monaghan with Minister Heather Humphreys and Joe O'Reilly TD. The party will run a vigorous campaign in the constituency to allow us to continue our work to keep the recovery going," a spokesman said.