Dáil debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to raise this matter which is of great importance in my constituency. It is also significant for the people of Dublin and nationally. It relates to the implications of the decision by Dublin City Council, through public private partnership, to commence the construction of an incinerator in the Poolbeg area on 14 December.

I am more than disappointed with the Minister, Deputy John Gormley's behaviour concerning this proposed incinerator in the past two years since he entered the Department of the Environment. When he took up office, I had high hopes and expectations. The high standards he set for his predecessor in Government in our mutual constituency, the then Minister, Michael McDowell, made it very clear that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, expected nothing less from Mr. McDowell, as a member of Cabinet, than to put a stop to the proposed incinerator. In March 2005, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, said the time had come for the Minister to stop bleating and deliver to his constituents as promised.

It is clear to me there is more than one sheep in Dublin South-East because there has been plenty of bleating from this Minister over the course of the past two years and many years prior to that when he was a very vocal and outspoken Opposition Deputy who was clearly opposed to this incinerator. It is a pity that the high standards the Minister set for the former Minister when he was in office appear not to apply to him in his high office now.

He has had two opportunities. The first was in the original programme for Government which was negotiated in 2007. I put it on the record then and I called on the Minister to seek agreement from his colleagues in Cabinet to commit to stopping the incinerator at Poolbeg. He failed to do so, but he had a second opportunity some months ago. Again, I hoped and expected that something would be achieved on that occasion, but, yet again, no agreement was secured at Cabinet level. On two occasions the Minister has failed the people of Dublin South-East and has failed me as his colleague because I held him in very high regard.

On 26 November, the company which was contracted to build the incinerator, Covanta Europe, lodged a notice with Dublin City Council to begin construction. The plan is to start on 14 December. I would like to know what the Minister plans to do about this. There were plenty of reports in the media in recent weeks stating that Dublin City Council has threatened legal action against the Government if it acts to interfere with the process as set out by the council. Has the Minister given any consideration to whether there is an opportunity for the Government to initiate legal proceedings, for example, with an injunction to prevent this preposterous monstrous incinerator from going ahead? Has he consulted the Attorney General?

I reiterate my point. The approval to build this incinerator will create a monster. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, was very vocal on this issue until 2007 when he became a member of the Cabinet. It is intended that the incinerator will have the capacity to burn 600,000 tonnes of waste on an annual basis. That is far too much. The report carried out by An Bord Pleanála inspector recommended to the board that the capacity of this incinerator should be reduced and, at very minimum, that it should not go ahead as a 600,000 tonne-eating furnace in its proposed format. That was ignored by the board of An Bord Pleanála.

If we are to take the Minister seriously in his role, both as a constituency Deputy for Dublin South-East and as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, surely the blatant and flagrant ignoring of the recommendations of the internal inspector's report to An Bord Pleanála merited investigation by him. The Minister had the power and authority to do this but failed to act. I am very disappointed by that. The Minister is in the process of appointing somebody to initiate a review under the powers afforded to him by section 224 of the Local Government Act. Clearly, however, this is an investigation that will be carried out after the horse has bolted. According to a response the Minister gave less than two weeks ago to a parliamentary question I tabled, he had not appointed anybody to carry out the review at that point. I am not aware that he has appointed anybody since then. He may enlighten the House now. Does the Minister propose to appoint somebody after the trucks have trundled down to Poolbeg to begin construction? Will it be in January after the foundations have been laid?

I do not understand the Minister's motive or purpose, which appears to be futile. If something is not done before 14 December, we can hang up our boots and regard the development as going ahead. That the Minister has failed to address this is a shocking indictment of him, bearing in mind that he has been in one of the highest offices in the land for more than two years.

The Irish Waste Management Association agrees with my point on this matter. Any objective observer will see quite clearly that, by having an incinerator of this magnitude, we are disincentivising recycling and waste reduction and negating all the values the Minister's party and he, as its leader, have espoused for many years. That is very disappointing.


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