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17 February 2005 Edition

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Democracy up in smoke

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

Sinn Féin has stepped up its campaign to prevent waste incinerators being forced on communities throughout the 26 Counties.

As city managers throughout the South, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), continue with their attempts to implement the disastrous Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats incineration waste policy, Sinn Féin councillors have been engaged in battles to have the massive public opposition to incinerators in Dublin, Cork and Meath recognised.

On Monday, Dublin City councillors found themselves once again voting in favour of the Sinn Féin motion opposing an incinerator at the Poolbeg Peninsula in Ringsend.

The Council carried the motion unanimously last year, but that hasn't stopped the City Manager from trying to push through the incinerator plans.

"Basically what they're saying is that the Government's Waste Management Plan supersedes the City Development Plan," Sinn Féin Councillor for Ringsend, Daithí Doolan, told An Phoblacht on Wednesday. "Monday's vote was once again overwhelming, and as far as we're concerned an incinerator here on the Poolbeg Peninsula is dead in the water. That's the democratic decision of this council. We are considering every route, even a legal challenge, if the City Manager now attempts to build an incinerator in Ringsend."

Meanwhile, Cork's Sinn Féin councillors have made a detailed submission to the EPA opposing the granting of a licence for an incinerator at Ringaskiddy.

Midleton Councillor Gina Hennessy presented the report to the group on Tuesday.

The EPA had come under a barrage of criticism for refusing to attend previous hearings on the proposed Ringaskiddy incinerator.

The Sinn Féin councillors argued in their submission that there is overwhelming public opposition to the incinerator and that no consideration has been given to the health and environmental concerns it will bring.

In Meath, the issue of the planned incinerator at Carronstown, Duleek, is set to dominate the upcoming by-election.

The Sinn Féin candidate for the election, Councillor Joe Reilly, said on Tuesday that the people of Meath were watching developments in Cork and Dublin very closely.

The party has lodged a formal appeal with the EPA against the granting of a waste licence to Indaver Ireland to operate the incinerator in Carronstown, and will attend a hearing with the group on 7 March.

"The campaign against incineration has been taken up by people in every constituency where incinerators have been proposed," Reilly said on Tuesday. "I commend the people of Ringaskiddy and Dublin for continuing their campaign. The message is clear; the people are against incineration.

"Incineration flies in the face of any real environmental waste management strategy and has the effect of locking us into disposal as the prime approach to waste management," he said.

"Incineration creates a major disincentive for the reduction and recycling of waste as incinerators need to be fed large volumes of waste to remain viable. We need proper commitment and investment from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government to a waste management policy based on reduction, reusing and recycling guided by the ultimate goal of zero waste."

The plant at Ringaskiddy, if built, will be the country's first hazardous waste incinerator and would handle around 100,000 tonnes of commercial and domestic waste.

The facility at Carronstown will deal with around 150,000 tonnes of non-hazardous material. Both are scheduled to operate from 2007.

The incinerator planned for Ringsend will be the biggest in the 26 Counties.

The anti-incineration group in Cork, CHASE, said in October that the EPA's decision to grant two licences for the incinerators was not a surprise given that the agency's Director General, Dr Mary Kelly, was formerly with IBEC while another Director, Laura Burke, previously worked at Indaver Ireland, the firm which will operate both plants.

Dáil debate

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Sinn Féin Cavan/ Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin accused the Government of trying to "incinerate democracy".

As Taoiseach Bertie Ahern confirmed the Government's incineration plans, Ó Caoláin asked how these could be reconciled with the Minister for the Environment and Local Government Dick Roche's opposition to an incinerator in his own constituency of Wicklow.

Ó Caoláin also pointed out that Minister Mícheál Martin entered an objection to the Ringaskiddy incinerator at the planning stage.

"And what about Minister Michael McDowell, who claims to be opposed to the proposed Poolbeg incinerator in his Dublin South East constituency but wants four smaller incinerators scattered throughout the capital?" asked Ó Caoláin.

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader then asked the Taoiseach to agree that the Dublin City Manager should now drop plans for an incinerator in Poolbeg, given the majority vote of Dublin City Council to oppose the incinerator. "Is the Taoiseach aware that a majority of his party colleagues in Fianna Fáil supported the Sinn Féin motion against incineration?" he asked.

Ó Caoláin told Ahern that the issue was one of democracy and public health.

"When County Louth dissented from the North East Waste Management Strategy because it opposed incineration, former Minister Noel Dempsey incinerated local democracy, took away the power of councils to deal with waste management and now an incinerator is planned for Carronstown, County Meath," he said. "The Government wants to impose a necklace of nine incinerators on communities."

In a stinging conclusion to his Dáil address, Ó Caoláin said: "When he was in China the Taoiseach said he envied the dictatorial planning powers of the Mayor of Shanghai. Are we to have a Shanghai strategy here or will the Taoiseach provide the facilities to the people who want to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, who want a zero waste policy and who want clean air and no toxic incinerators?"

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