EMBATTLED Environment Minister John Gormley claimed yesterday he was misunderstood when he said the country only needed two incinerators to deal with waste.
But the Green Party TD left the opposition none the wiser on exactly how many incinerators he believes are required.
Mr Gormley controversially said on RTE's Prime Time that the eight planned incinerators were not needed. However, he refused to acknowledge he had mentioned two incinerators, stating instead that the "interviewer had come to that conclusion". He also denied naming the locations of the two preferred incinerators as Carranstown in Meath and Cork.
Mr Gormley also attacked Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who he charged with "quoting me directly, if you don't mind, as making reference to incinerators". He added: "I have not made any statement in regard to the number of municipal waste incinerators which may be developed."
"Such developments are matters for local authorities, in the context of their statutory responsibilities under the Waste Management Acts, and for commercial decision by the private sector," he said.
Mr Gormley said what he said was different to what was reported.
"Let us be very clear about what was actually said. What I actually said was that we would require thermal treatment for 400,000 tonnes of waste. The interviewer then came to the conclusion that 400,000 tonnes was the equivalent of two thermal treatment plants, which it is."
The point he was making in the interview, Mr Gormley said, was that rather than straight incineration, thermal treatment would mean co-incineration or co-firing as the waste could be burnt in cement kilns. He said that he has already had discussions with cement factories about this method of waste management.
The country would be able to reach the target of 400,000 tonnes through mechanical biological treatments (MBT) on between 900,000 and 1 million tonnes of waste.
Fine Gael's Phil Hogan said even if the minister did not mean to, he had mentioned that two incinerators would be sufficient during the RTE programme. The fact that seven incinerators are going through the planning process meant the Minister had "obviously taken the view that incineration is no longer a problem", he added.