TÁNAISTE Michael McDowell said the Progressive Democrats (PD) would not go into any Government which supports the building of a controversial waste incinerator in the heart of his Dublin constituency.
The PD leader vowed yesterday to withdraw his party from Government if plans for the large-scale waste- burning facility on the Poolbeg peninsula are not scrapped.
The Tánaiste’s unambiguous opposition to an incinerator in Dublin will raise a doubt about the continuation of the Fianna Fáil-PD coalition if it is returned to Government in the general election.
Speaking in advance of an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into the project, Mr McDowell said the PD would not support Government funding for the incinerator even if it was given a green light by the planning authorities.
“We will not be party to a Government that goes ahead with this project,” he said.
Opposition TDs have accused Mr McDowell of “playing politics” by trying to disassociate himself from official Government policy which has supported the development of incinerators to help Ireland meet official EU targets on waste management and reduction.
However, Mr McDowell argued that the choice of Poolbeg as a location for an incinerator was not part of Government policy.
The Tánaiste, who will be called as a witness at the An Bord Pleanála hearing, said the issue of the incinerator’s location had never been discussed by the Cabinet.
“It most certainly has never been the subject of any Government decision and if it had been I would have made it very, very clear that the Progressive Democrats will not stand for it being built and won’t in any circumstance finance it being built,” he said.
Mr McDowell accused Dublin City Council senior management of engaging in “a fairly shabby attempt” to mislead the public on the issue because it had already admitted to the Department of the Environment that Dong Energy was not willing to proceed with the project as agreed by its predecessor, another Danish firm called Elsam.
However, Green Party TD, John Gormley, said he feared the incinerator would go ahead because the planning authorities usually came out in favour of projects that were official Government policy.
His constituency colleague, Labour TD Ruairi Quinn, said the PD leader should have resigned from Government if he was being honourable about his opposition to the incinerator.
Opposition TDs said it was entirely incompatible for the Government to locate an incinerator on the Poolbeg peninsula while it approved the development of a major, new residential quarter in the same area.