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26 October 2000 Edition

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No to incineration North and South

This has been a big week for those concerned with waste management in Ireland.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Six-County Assembly, Sinn Féin proposed a motion setting objectives for a zero waste strategy. The plan is people-centred, bringing jobs, community control and conservation.

The party called for a departure from the ``chemico-energy'' approach to waste disposal, so loved by engineers and consultants. In its place they recommended the ``eco-modernisation'' path, towards material conservation and hazard reduction. On all scores: environmental impact, safety, long-term costs, innovation and employment, eco-modernisation is the preferred option.

Sinn Féin's motion was rejected. The Assembly found it was too idealistic. Too many conservatives who don't want to conserve, but prefer to go on in their own idiotic ways.

The day before, yet another county council, Donegal's, voted incineration plans down. It joined with the many other local authorities that have followed Galway's lead and rejected Environment Minister Noel Dempsey's plan to burn up our waste or dump it in landfills where there's no retrieval.

As we go to press this Wednesday evening, Louth County Council will decide its position on the North East Regional Waste Plan - a decision it has been putting off for months.

By way of persuasion, Dempsey has been up in Dundalk cajoling councillors, suggesting vague inducements that the incinerator won't be in their county anyway. But if we don't want it in our own community, then why should we inflict it on someone else's?

For fear that the councillors might still reject his blandishments, Dempsey earlier this week resorted to threats. If the council didn't adopt the plan, then he would cut back their rates support grant, or use his powers under the 1996 Waste Management Act to disempower councillors altogether and transfer the power to decide waste management plans to the council executive.

The Fianna Fáil minister passes himself off as the ``strongest advocate of local decision making'', but his commitment to local democracy doesn't seem to go very deep when the ``local decisions'' don't go his way.

22,000 people asked their councillors in Louth to reject Dempsey's plan. His bullying response is a blatant attempt to subvert the democratic process.

People are becoming more aware of green issues in Ireland, north and south of the border. And as this awareness grows, Dempsey and his ilk will have to realise that they can't be selective about what the public should and shouldn't hear.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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