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29 March 2001 Edition

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Minister Dempsey incinerates democracy

Sinn Féin Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the Bill published by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey last week as an attack on democracy. The Waste Management (Amendment) Bill 2000 is designed to take away from councillors the power to decide on waste management plans.

Ó Caoláin said the Bill ``fulfilled the threat'' made by Minister Demspey recently to make waste management an executive function - ie a matter for county and city managers alone. Ó Caoláin said:

``Minister Dempsey has stated repeatedly that waste management is a matter for local elected representatives. Regional plans were drawn up according to his Department's blueprint and councillors were expected to approve them. In this region the plan was significantly amended in Co. Monaghan as a result of detailed work by the Sinn Féin councillors. In Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath the Sinn Féin councillors voted against the plan, principally because it relies heavily on the building of a massive incinerator for the region. Plans in other regions encountered similar problems and there is clearly widespread public concern at the prospect of such incinerators.

``What is the minister's response? In his drive to impose waste incinerators on communities Minister Dempsey has decided to attack democracy. He found that all local authorities were not willing to rubber-stamp his plans for incinerators and so now he has taken the power and responsibility for waste management away from democratically elected councillors and placed them in the hands of county and city managers. This is a disgraceful decision.

``This is the minister who promised root and branch reform of local democracy. In May 1999 he promised to `put local government back at the centre of local democracy and put councillors in a pivotal role in the new system'. Minister Dempsey also put forward the amendment to the Constitution, approved by the electorate in 1999, which recognized local government as a key pillar of democracy. Now the minister has ridden roughshod over that principle.

``Minister Dempsey and his colleagues have promised to implement a comprehensive waste management strategy. After nearly four years in office he has failed to deliver that strategy and has instead presided over a growing waste crisis. Now he has decided to incinerate democracy. I and Sinn Féin will vehemently oppose this Bill and as a party which has published detailed proposals on waste management we will continue to work with others to achieve a real and viable strategy based on the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste.''


15p plastic bag levy



Commenting on the section of the Bill which proposes a 15p levy on plastic bags Ó Caoláin said:

``Action on plastic bags which cause such a huge litter problem is long overdue but this measure alone is insufficient. If nothing else is done it will simply mean that retailers will continue to supply excessive quantities of these bags and consumers will pay for them. The consumers will bear the cost of the levy with little benefit to the environment. What is needed is a phasing out of plastic bags for all but essential purposes. Manufacturers of `throwaway' plastic bags should be assisted to convert to environmentally friendly reusable bags and containers. Large retailers should be required to make reusable containers available and there should be a comprehensive programme to educate retailers, their staff and consumers about the need to phase out plastic bags. This needs to be part of a wider strategy to reduce excessive and wasteful packaging of goods.''
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