£200m cross-border electricity plan could face disruption from border opponents
Angry groups of landowners in border counties - in the Republic and Northern Ireland - are considering "strong-arm" tactics to block a huge electricity scheme which would economically benefit both regions.
They are furious over a recent Dublin High Court ruling which approved plans for the scheme, after it was challenged by the North-East Anti-Pylon Campaign Committee.
Farmers are claiming the pylons, with the overhead power lines proposed by EirGrid, would pose a huge environmental threat - and would means their property values could take a substantial hit.
The £200m North-South Interconnector project was first put forward for planning approval in 2009 - but, eight years later, it has still not received the final go-ahead
The current plan is for an 85 mile-long overhead electricity link to run from Charlemont, through Co Armagh, crossing the border near Keady into Monaghan and Cavan, ending north of Kells in Meath.
Plans to link the two power grids mean the construction of huge pylons to carry high-voltage cables.
The decision by the High Court in Dublin last Tuesday to reject a challenge by the North East group against An Bord Pleanala's decision to provide planning permission for the €380m overhead North-South scheme, is to be appealed.
But despite the appeals process, it emerged yesterday that several landowners in counties Meath, Monaghan, and Cavan - three of the counties where the pylons are proposed - have now held private talks aimed at disrupting the scheme, with the clear aim of preventing it from going ahead.
It is understood the scheme's critics are planning to act independently, and are not connected to any political organisation or group, although it is believed they may have the support of some angry Irish Farmers Association members in the region.
The landowners have already declared they are not opposed to the cross-border electricity interconnector scheme in principle, but are demanding that the power-lines should be buried underground, rather than be carried on dozens of overground pylons.
Speaking after the Dublin High Court decision, Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy was forthright about his opposition to the erection of the pylons and overhead power-lines.
He said he felt the North South Interconnector "cannot proceed" unless it is underground, and he added he was not in favour of the High Court court ruling.
He said: "The North-South Interconnector is a project of significant importance for the whole island and its energy market.
"However, it will never go ahead unless it is underground.
"Communities across Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Armagh, and Tyrone, have fought the plan to overground this project for a decade, and they will not give up now.
"Since this project was first mentioned, the costs of undergrounding the project have fallen dramatically to the point where it is arguably more efficient that constructing massive pylons while the technology that would allow undergrounding has been hugely advanced."
"Next month I will be hosting a delegation from all the counties involved in the anti-pylon campaign, including elected representatives and energy experts, to visit the Aachen-Liege project, which runs between Germany and Belgium.
"This project is comparable in many ways to the proposed EirGrid line but it is underground."
The MEP concluded: "The government needs to understand how fiercely opposed local landowners and communities are to the project, as it currently stands, and their resolve to resist it."
Business organisations north and south have called for the interconnector to be built as soon as possible.
Speaking at a public inquiry into the project earlier this year, Kirsty McManus, of the NI Chamber of Commerce, said delivering the interconnector was a "top priority" for its membership.
The Northern Ireland section of the interconnector is the responsibility of SONI Ltd, a subsidiary of Dublin-based Eirgrid PLC, which in turn is owned by the Irish government.