Work on one of Ireland’s most vital energy projects is under threat as protesters plan a picket that could spark massive disruption.
Angry residents in Rush, north Co Dublin, will step up their campaign as EirGrid begins routing a high voltage direct current (HVDC) power line through the town.
Some have vowed to block roads during a massive rally as contractors for the State-backed scheme, which will link power supplies between Wales and Meath, move in at dawn on Wednesday.
Rush Community Council said residents are not against the overall project.
“Concern is for the chosen route through the heart of our community,” said a spokeswoman.
“Logic would dictate a very viable alternative route, with little deviation from its original course – which would be far safer for the people of Rush and safer for the integrity of the HVDC cable from damage.”
EirGrid insists the Interconnector poses no health and safety risks and has agreed to fund an independent assessment to ease concerns.
However the company said it could not postpone initial works until the safety study was complete.
“We have repeatedly stated that EirGrid cannot incur the financial penalties that delaying works in Rush would cause as these costs would have to be passed to the electricity consumer to bear,” said a spokeswoman.
“We have managed to hold off works in Rush since July but now works need to commence.”
Campaigners want the £500M East-West Interconnector, which was given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanala last year, to be rerouted through an estuary on the outskirts of the town.
The current plan envisages that the cables will come onshore at North Beach in Rush, before travelling under the main street of the town past residential areas and schools.
The ambitious plan will link Ireland and Britain electricity grids and eventually give greater competition in the electricity market and develop the country’s renewable energy supply.
EirGrid, a state-owned company mandated to develop the interconnector by 2012, said initial works involves putting plastic ducts in the roads.
“There should be sufficient time to complete the safety report before cable is installed,” she added.