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Ex-EirGrid chief faces court action over ‘driving under influence of intoxicant’

Mark Foley, who stepped down on Monday, is due before the District Court in October

The former chief of national electricity grid company EirGrid is facing court proceedings for driving “under the influence of an intoxicant”, in a case ongoing for 16 months before his abrupt departure this week.

Mark Foley stepped down as EirGrid chief executive on Monday, soon after a special board meeting at which his future was the only agenda item. His case was before Dún Laoghaire District Court on Tuesday and is due again before the court in October.

EirGrid did not mention the case when thanking Mr Foley for his work, saying he had “decided to retire” from the role and that “his commitment and contribution” were widely acknowledged. It remains unclear when the company was notified of the charge.

His departure came against the backdrop of rising tension between EirGrid, Government departments and energy regulators over constraints on the power network that have curbed its capacity to meet heavy industrial demand for data centre investments in Ireland.

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Still, the court proceedings against Mr Foley were known to few if any people within EirGrid and the wider electricity sector.

He faces a charge under the Road Traffic Act of 2010 for driving a 2022 registration car at Anglesea Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, while “under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the said vehicle”.

The date of the alleged offence was January 13th, 2023, according to the charge sheet. A summary conviction for the offence carries a fine up to €5,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both.

The case first came before Dún Laoghaire District Court on June 15th. After coming before court on Tuesday, the day after Mr Foley left EirGrid, the case is due in court “for hearing” on October 22nd.

Mr Foley and EirGrid had nothing to say when asked about the case and the circumstances of his departure from the company.

Data from the State Boards branch of the Public Appointments Service suggests his term as an ex officio member of the EirGrid board was scheduled to continue until June next year.

He joined EirGrid as chief executive in June 2018 after senior posts in Coillte, the State forestry business, and Dublin Airport Authority, another State company.

“Mark Foley is a private citizen and EirGrid will not be commenting beyond the statement issued on Monday,” EirGrid’s spokeswoman said in reply to questions.

She had no comment on when EirGrid was notified of the case and whether EirGrid told Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan of the proceedings. Neither had she any comment on the board meeting that preceded Mr Foley’s departure.

Asked about the case, Mr Foley said it was a private matter: “I have no comment to make.”

With demand for electricity rising faster than Ireland’s ability to generate power, he has long been in the vanguard of those arguing for energy-hungry data centres to be given greater access to the grid while generation capacity is built up.

But his stance has rankled with others in the sector who argue the State needs not only new generation but also new electricity transmission capacity, which is EirGrid’s responsibility.

Mr Foley is said to have attended a March meeting on data-centre developments in the Department of An Taoiseach at which there were fractious exchanges. Asked about such talks, EirGrid’s spokeswoman said: “No comment to make on a private meeting.”

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