The anti-pylons protest at Bective Abbey, Co Meath, yesterday, organised by the North-East Pylon Pressure Group.
Campaigners opposed to a new power line corridor through the northeast have vowed to step up their opposition in the New Year.
Over 2,000 supporters of the North-East Pylon Pressure Group staged a protest at Bective Abbey in Co Meath yesterday by forming a circle around a giant sign calling for "No Pylons Here".
The group is opposed to EirGrid's plans to erect 400 kV electricity cables on pylons across counties Meath and Cavan, and says the lines should be put underground. They claim high-voltage power lines are injurious to health, sully the environment and devalue property prices.
EirGrid says the €100 million project, and another proposed line between Cavan and Tyrone which forms the new North-South interconnector, poses no health risk and is essential to secure future supplies of electricity to the region.
Colin Andrew, secretary of the protest group, told The Irish Times that, internationally, most new interconnectors were now being run underground and the technology used by EirGrid was "redundant and dangerous".
Mr Andrew said "many" studies showed an increased risk of miscarriage, adult leukaemia, depression and suicide from overhead power lines, even at a distance of 300m; EirGrid plans to run the Meath line as close as 50m from dwellings. He also claims underground lines are only marginally more expensive to install than overhead lines.
However, a spokesman for EirGrid said "nowhere in the world is it standard to put lines underground". Of 100,000km of power lines in Europe, less than 1 per cent was underground.
"Overhead is the international standard as it has been found to be the only way to deliver reliable, secure and economical electricity."
EirGrid says the main problem with underground lines is the difficulty in locating faults when they occur.
The company says it is satisfied "from the totality of studies" and the view of international agencies that the "balance of evidence" is that the extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields caused by power lines do not have any adverse effect on health.
It cites a study published by the World Health Organisation this year which concluded there were no substantive health issues with this kind of radiation "at levels generally encountered by members of the public".
Landowners affected by the project will be compensated for wayleave access and disturbance but no compensation will be paid for loss of property values, according to the EirGrid spokesman. "There are already 6,000km of such power lines in the country, and there is no evidence of any effect on house prices."
However, Mr Andrews predicted the 45,000 householders in the area would see the cumulative value of their properties drop by €3 billion if the project went ahead.
Some public consultation meetings about the project were cancelled, in part because of the large numbers expected to attend. EirGrid said this was a matter for the hotels in which the meetings were supposed to take place.
The company is expected to announce shortly its preferred option from the three currently under examination, and will then seek planning permission from Bord Pleanála under the fast-track scheme provided by the Critical Infrastructure Act.
The Irish Times