Thursday, 19 April 2007

McDowell to do a u-turn on waste incinerators

TANAISTE Michael McDowell will today do a public u-turn on Government policy to build waste-to-energy incinerators.

The Justice Minister will break ranks with his Cabinet colleagues and personally object to the incinerator at Ringsend at the opening of a Bord Pleanala hearing into the controversial project.

Mr McDowell denied he was engaged in "nimby-ism" the not-in-my-backyard syndrome.

However,the Government has formally backed the construction of incinerators, including the one planned for Ringsend to deal with waste from the Dublin region.

Mr McDowell, a TD for Dublin South East in which the incinerator will be located, has broken ranks at the Cabinet by coming out against the plan.

He has already voiced objections at Cabinet meetings over the proposal even though incinerators have been given the blessing by the Coalition.

Mr McDowell will today attend the hearing in Croke Park at 11am to outline his objections to the incinerator.

Thousands of residents living in Sandymount and Ringsend, along with the Tanaiste, have objected to the plans.

Residents objecting to the incinerator yesterday held a protest to highlight their fears over the planning hearings.

Angry protestors complained they were worried they were being excluded from the process by An Bord Pleanala.

Anti-incinerator campaigner, Rory Hearne, said residents were annoyed they had not been informed by letter over today's (Thurs) hearing at Croke Park conference centre. The open hearings over the controversial project first proposed in 1999 are expected to last several weeks and attract large crowds.

Over a dozen people gathered outside Dublin City Council offices on Wood Quay to call for the hearing to take place in the evening when more people would be free to attend.

"We held a symbolic protest to highlight the fact the community and many residents felt excluded from the process," Mr Hearne said.

"Over 3,000 individual objections were lodged but very few were responded to and informed the oral hearing was taking place."

An Bord Pleanala confirmed it published advertisements in a number of newspapers on two separate days to highlight today's public hearing at Croke Park.

Under the plans, the incinerator would burn 600,000 tonnes of waste, diverting a quarter of Dublin's waste from landfill.

Thousands of residents from Ringsend, Sandymount, Irishtown and other areas lodged objections to the project on health grounds as well as the extra traffic on the busy streets.

A number of TDs, including Tanaiste Michael McDowell, in whose constituency it would be sited, and environmental groups have also opposed the plant.

Mr Hearne said many would not be able to make the hearing as it fell during work time and was not taking place in an area close to Poolbeg.

He said hundreds more people would have been able to attend the meeting if it had taken place in the evening.

Last July Dublin City Council, on behalf of the four local authorities in the capital, applied for planning permission for the incinerator on the Poolbeg peninsula which would burn 600,000 tonnes of waste every year.

More than 2,000 objections were received by Bord Pleanala, including one Mr McDowell.

The minister caused controversy when he announced that the incinerator would not go ahead because the Danish company charged with building and operating it, Elsam, had pulled out of the deal.

He effectively gazumped the city council which said that negotiations were ongoing about changes to the contract.

As part of the planning application, the council was required to submit a report on the risks posed to the public in the event of a serious accident at the plant.

Treacy Hogan
Irish Independent

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