Overhead power lines pose serious health risk
The decision taken by the Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, to order a public inquiry into NIE's plans to construct a 400,000 volt overhead line through our countryside is a good example of how devolution is working for the people of Northern Ireland.
Had a Direct Rule minister been responsible, I fear he or she would have rubber-stamped NIE's application, while ignoring those people who have concerns about the potential environmental and health damage such a project might cause.
Reports drawn up by governments throughout Europe and America have advised against overhead electricity lines close to homes, schools or workplaces. The reports cited health effects such as leukemia, brain tumours, miscarriages, depression and motor neurone disease.
The inquiry should look at the evidence that points towards ill-effects caused by electromagnetic fields from the electricity grid.
Although the initial cost of laying the cable underground would be more expensive than building an overhead line, the future maintenance costs would be much less. The best long-term method of connecting the electricity network in Northern Ireland with the Republic's network is a 400,000 volt underground cable.
If the Republic's electricity provider, ESP, can afford to buy NIE for a reported £1bn, it should have the funds to build the proposed interconnector in a way that ensures Northern Ireland's countryside is not spoiled, and its rural inhabitants are not put at the unnecessary risk of contracting a very serious illness.