Cross-border interconnector plan ‘lacked proper scrutiny’, says UUP MLA

UUP MLA John Stewart
UUP MLA John Stewart

Civil servants’ decision to approve a controversial electricity interconnector in the absence of a minister “highlights the difficulties facing Northern Ireland without a functioning Executive”, an Ulster Unionist MLA has said.

While he welcomed the Department of Infrastructure’s decision to give the green light to the £200m cross-border project, John Stewart said it should ultimately have been taken by an elected representative who can be held accountable.

The East Antrim MLA told the News Letter: “This decision was effectively taken behind closed doors and without proper scrutiny.

“It should have been a decision for a local minister and Executive to take. I fully expect Sinn Fein to now come out and criticise the overhead cables, yet had they not walked away from the Executive a year ago they would have still held the infrastructure ministry ensuring they could have blocked any such proposal.”

DUP MLA Gordon Dunne welcomed the scheme linking the electricity grids on both sides of the Irish border, claiming it will ensure security of supply for consumers.

The proposal has been dogged by controversy since planning permission was first sought eight years ago, garnering over 6000 letters of objection.

Mr Dunne said: “It is important that the land acquisition required for the proposed new network construction is carried out with full consultation with the local farmers and the rural communities to ensure the work is carried out efficiently and effectively while assuring a fair return for all parties involved in this huge investment within our energy infrastructure.”

Alliance infrastructure spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA added: “The interconnector is crucial to ongoing energy security, diversification and keeping costs as low as possible for domestic consumers.”