Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Private Members' Business

Waste Management: Motion.

6:00 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I move:

That Dáil Éireann,

noting,

the electoral success of candidates in the Dublin area opposed to the Government's plans to build an incinerator at Poolbeg;

that over 300,000 Dublin voters supported such candidates;

that the vast majority of the TDs elected for the Dublin region are opposed to the plan; and

the stated policy of the elected members of Dublin City Council;

concludes that no electoral mandate for this project exists and calls on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, using his powers under section 24(c) of the Waste Management Act 1996, to require the managers of Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council to vary the replacement waste management plan for the Dublin region, made by them on 11 November 2005, by the deletion of paragraph 18.8 and the exclusion of the siting on Poolbeg Peninsula of a 'waste to energy (incineration)' plant.

I wish to share time with Deputies Creighton, D'Arcy, McEntee, Mitchell and Varadkar.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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This is a most important debate as this country faces a crisis in waste management. Part of the Government policy to date has included the foisting of incinerators on communities around the country. In County Louth, the county council vehemently opposed siting an incinerator in our community. The then Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, changed the law and planning permission is now in place for an incinerator.

Tonight's motion deals with a proposed incinerator for Poolbeg. It is clear from the motion that the electoral success of candidates in the Dublin area was linked to opposition to the Government's plans to build an incinerator at Poolbeg. More than 300,000 voters in Dublin supported such candidates and the vast majority of Deputies elected for the Dublin region are opposed to this plan. The elected members of Dublin City Council also oppose it. There is no electoral mandate for this project and we call on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to use his powers under the Waste Management Act to require this plan to be changed.

One of the most important statements I read in researching this debate was made by the Minister, Deputy Gormley, who said:

I make the strongest possible statement of my total opposition to this proposal. It is my view, and the view of the Green Party, that this proposal will set back progress on sustainable waste management in Ireland by decades. It will damage the health and amenity of local communities, and it will benefit only those private companies who are associated with it.

This is the Minister's first test in office. His first real challenge is to stand by the word he gave to the electorate to adhere to his party's policy on incineration and to explain to the House the price of his seat on the Government benches. Is he copping out on his commitment? Will he oppose the installation of the incinerator in Poolbeg and at the other proposed sites around the country, as local communities expect?

In the amendment the Minister has tabled to the motion, it is clear he is signing off his policy to the Fianna Fáil Party and the only thing he has brought to the table of Government is the Fianna Fáil manifesto. There is no fundamental change in what is before the House now and was the subject of a Private Members' motion that was debated here some months ago. At that time the Minister proposed a Private Member's Bill to oppose the incinerator at Poolbeg.

The facts speak for themselves and the truth will come out. How many incinerators has the Minister sold out on? How many incinerators has he agreed will be built as part of his deal with the Government? Is it one, two, three or four? Will the one at Carnstown in County Meath go ahead? I challenge the Minister to reveal to the House his plans in this regard. I accept the proposed incinerator in Cork may be sub judice, but what about the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg? What is the price of the seat the Minister currently occupies? Where is his determination? Where is the fire in his belly to stand up to Fianna Fáil and tell it, as his party's policy states and as people believe, that he is opposed to incineration and that he will fight tooth and nail against an incinerator in Poolbeg? That is what all his constituents want him to do.

I have campaigned in County Louth against the incinerator it is proposed to build beside my home. I work closely with members of the Green Party in trying to achieve that aim. Unless the Minister stamps his authority on this issue and delivers to his constituents in the way he campaigned so forcefully in the past, his term in Government will be a washout and a cop-out. It is a strange state of affairs when the first statement from the "green" Minister with responsibility for energy is about nuclear power and a debate on same rather than debating alternative energy and cutting back on wastage of fossil fuels. It is clear the Green Party's deal in Government has included selling Poolbeg down the river.

Following his recent trip to Europe the Minister stated he had secured a change in policy to the effect that incineration is considered as disposal rather than waste to energy. I support this and acknowledge the progress made by the Minister. The motion states the Government has no mandate to proceed with the incinerator at Poolbeg. In June 2006 the Minister tabled a motion in this House stating that his predecessor, Deputy Roche, should use his powers under section 24(c) of the Waste Management Act 1996 to require local authorities in County Dublin to vary the replacement waste management plan for the Dublin region. What exactly has changed, what miraculous thing has happened to make this call unworthy of his support? What does the Minister intend to do about this matter? People are waiting for him to take action. He should use the power of his office to fight the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg and ensure it does not proceed.

I pay tribute to my colleague, Deputy Creighton, who tonight keeps her promise to the people of Dublin South-East by continuing her strong campaign to prevent this unnecessary monstrosity being foisted upon them. I suspect if the voters in the constituency knew that Deputy Gormley was about to sell out so spectacularly, he might have limped home behind, rather than just a whisker in front of, the former Deputy, Mr. McDowell.

If one builds an incinerator, it is necessary to feed it. While incineration has worked in Europe, it has worked in tandem with recycling rates of over 40% and 50%. I do not believe we will ever reach such rates of recycling if we build incinerators in this country before the recycling, reuse and repair technology is in place. In County Louth we got our first recycling centre approximately three years after planning permission was granted for the incinerator. We are using the wrong approach. We want to know what the Minister, Deputy Gormley, will do about this issue. The famous phrase, "Where's the beef?" was used in America to comment on a presidential election there.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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It will be a veggie burger in this instance.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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It might even be a genetically modified veggie burger. Where does the Minister stand on this matter? To where has his 25 years in political life led him? He has reached a powerful position and he can act and show his true green colours and not raise the white flag, which is what he has done in his amendment. How many incinerators has he sold out on? Is it three or four? The Minister was rightly prominent in his party's negotiations on a programme for Government. Perhaps he will tell us how many incinerators it has been agreed to put in place. That is critical to the credibility of his party and his personal credibility as a politician.

The main reason for opposition to incineration is the impact on health. What new regulations will the Minister insist are put in place, especially given that the environmental impact assessment does not include a health impact assessment? Critical to any future legislative change must be, fundamentally, an assessment of the impact on health.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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It gives me pleasure to speak on this issue that is critical for both my constituency and the country, namely, waste management and specifically the proposed incinerator for the Poolbeg Peninsula. This evening the Opposition is offering the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, the opportunity to stop the Poolbeg incinerator. He need only support the Fine Gael motion by voting with those parties in the House which oppose incineration. It is as simple as that. It should be easy for a Green Party Minister to vote against the unnecessary burning of 600,000 tonnes of waste per annum. This constitutes waste that can otherwise be disposed of in clean and safe ways. It should be easy and natural for a Green Party Minister to support such a motion and I hope the Minister agrees with me when the time comes to vote on the motion tomorrow evening.

The proposed incinerator facility is to be one of the largest in Europe. It will be a mass burn incinerator, the scale of which means that it will require increasing quantities of waste to remain commercially viable. In other words, the proposed incinerator will not be a facility of last resort, as it ought to be, to deal with waste that cannot be disposed of by other means. On the contrary, it will become a massive waste burning monster that will provide a disincentive to reduce and recycle waste. In simple terms, it will become an alternative to environmentally friendly waste management options.

A total of 2,000 residents in my constituency of Dublin South-East, myself included, lodged objections with An Bord Pleanála to the proposed incinerator. While the voice of the people should count for something in a democracy, it appears the Minister disagrees. On agreeing a programme for Government in recent weeks, he had the opportunity to make the incinerator in Poolbeg a make or break issue. Unfortunately, however, he failed to so do. On the contrary, there is no reference to the incinerator in the programme for Government. How quickly power hungry Ministers forget the concerned residents who voted them into office in the first place.

The Minister's silence on this issue in recent weeks since becoming a Cabinet member is deafening. Although he is in the Green Party's dream Ministry with all its attendant powers, he has failed to set out his stall. He shied away from this issue when he negotiated the programme for Government, which was probably the best opportunity to stop the incinerator he was likely to have in the Government's lifetime. Since then, he has sheepishly avoided the issue. Can the prospect of power have caused him to sell out on the single issue that matters deeply to the constituents of Dublin South-East? I hope Members will find out tomorrow when the division on this motion takes place.

Fine Gael's position on this issue is clear. It has opposed the Poolbeg incinerator consistently. It is the wrong policy and the wrong solution to a dire waste management issue. It is the wrong facility at the wrong location at the wrong time. Those who are genuinely opposed to the imposition of an incinerator in Poolbeg will support Fine Gael's motion during this debate.

It does not take a rocket scientist to work out the health dangers and implications that pertain to incineration. All Members are familiar with the health issue and aware that children and the elderly are particularly at risk. The World Health Organisation has issued clear studies of the impact of dioxins and their link to the risk of cancer, respiratory diseases, etc. In 2003 a study published in the British Medical Journal showed that living near an incinerator increased the risks of a baby being born with spina bifida or congenital heart defects by 17% and 12%, respectively. The Health Research Board report commissioned by the Government states: "[a]t present, Ireland has insufficient resources to carry out adequate risk assessments for proposed waste management facilities ... Irish health information systems cannot support routine monitoring of the health of people living near waste sites".

As for the environment and ecology, it is clear that the proposed Poolbeg incinerator is close to natural resources that are valued highly by Dublin's citizens and those of the south east, in particular. I refer to Sandymount Strand and Irishtown naturepark. It is beside a special protection area and a special area of conservation in Dublin Bay. The River Liffey risks being endangered from the emission of biocides from the plant and the existing threat to salmon stocks will increase. Moreover, it is clear there will be an impact on the climate through CO2 emissions which will take place in the face of Ireland's failure to fulfil its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The location of the incinerator is wrong. While it has been argued that it will be located well away from the densely populated areas of Dublin South-East, this is untrue. It will be located in the immediate vicinity of parts of my constituency, including Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend. The nature of this residential area has changed dramatically with the granting of planning permission for further development on the Poolbeg Peninsula. Moreover, more planning permission is likely to be granted as planners flout and ignore the wishes of councillors in the local government system.

As for the visual impact of the proposed incinerator in one of the most precious and beautiful parts of Dublin city, it will be as big as Croke Park and almost as tall as Liberty Hall. Do Members really wish to see such a development beside an area of conservation? In respect of the impact on traffic, the area is log-jammed; access routes are limited and few proposals have been made to improve them. The proposal for an eastern bypass has fallen by the wayside. The catchment area of Dublin South-East is bound to be affected by this development. On Dublin City Council I fought to extend the cordon for HGVs around the area to prevent them from trundling up and down Beach Road and Strand Road. Were this incinerator project to proceed, those arterial routes would lead to it.

The Minister is familiar with the policy arguments in this regard. The Dublin city development plan has a stated objective, on the part of the planners, to which no councillor on Dublin City Council agreed. In the process of amending and creating a new development plan for the city two and a half years ago councillors created a new zoning that excluded thermal treatment, the euphemistic term for incineration. However, this is being ignored by the Government in its promotion of its incineration policy.

There are many alternatives to incineration and I am sorry to state that when the Green Party was in opposition, it was the party which propounded many of them. I agreed with it at the time and it is a shame that it appears to have performed a U-turn on so many of them. Fine Gael has set out to achieve a goal of zero waste, the correct objective when dealing with waste management. Recycling facilities must be rolled out nationwide, while waste separation laws to prohibit the disposal of mixed wet and dry waste should be introduced.

The Minister's powers should be used. He should have the courage and conviction to so do during his tenure of his elevated post. He has the opportunity to bring forward regulations under the Waste Management Act 1996 to give effect to obligations on producers which I hope will happen to promote reusable, recyclable and biodegradable products. He also has the power to establish regulations to require producers and distributors to operate deposit refund schemes. Such schemes operate in most European countries but still not in Ireland. Moreover, the Minister should repeal sections 4 and 5 of the Waste Management Act to provide that the making of a waste management plan should become a reserved function of democratically elected councillors. This should happen and I hope it will.

The motion presents the Minister with an enormous opportunity. Less than eight weeks ago the Green Party was ardently demanding the complete abolition of the incinerator project. Now, however, it appears it has claimed that a watered down, somewhat neutered approach to the issue of incineration will suffice.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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The Deputy has one minute remaining.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister claims that by an agreement not to raise landfill fees "in such a way as to give competitive advantage to incineration", the incinerator will be stopped. Pull the other one. Either the Minister is naive or this is a blatant attempt to hoodwink us into believing the Green Party will do something about incineration. We will not be fooled by these tactics. We have our own solution, which will result in the incinerator in Poolbeg being scrapped.

The matter is in the Minister's hands through section 24(c) of the Waste Management Act 1996. The Minister stood on this side of the House and challenged the former Minister, Mr. Michael McDowell, to exert pressure on the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to use those powers to stop the incinerator going ahead by requiring the managers of the four Dublin local authorities to vary the waste management plan in the Dublin region and to exclude the siting of the incinerator at Poolbeg. The current Minister asked for this action to take place, but the opportunity is now his because he has the power. Will he accept his responsibilities? The Minister must support our motion, the reasons for which are clear. Today's edition of The Irish Times quotes a Green Party spokesman alleging that the Minister could not interfere in the planning process. Why then did the Minister urge the former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to do just that? Was the Minister lying or did he believe in what he was asking? Alleging the former Minister had the power to intervene would suggest that the current Minister now has the power to intervene. Was the Minister correct, as I believe he was, last year in saying Mr. McDowell had such powers under section 24(c)?

I hope the Minister would not be happy to do a complete U-turn on the incinerator proposal, that the waft of leathery upholstery in his new Mercedes has not gone to his head——

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I do not have one.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Did they not give the Minister one?

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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——and that he has not abandoned his former staunch commitment to the people of Dublin South-East.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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The Deputy is using her colleagues' time.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Fine Gael is offering the Minister a life raft, namely, the opportunity to stand by his principles.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I appreciate it.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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As Fianna Fáil will not offer him the same opportunity, I hope he grasps it and brings his Green Party colleagues with him.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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I wish the Minister well in his term as the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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He has many contacts in north Wexford and Gorey, from where I come, but I must admit to my colleagues that I feel sorry for him because he does not believe this is the correct action to take. He argued passionately against the development when he was on this side of the House. I believe those were true feelings and not expressed for political gain.

We must try to achieve a level of zero waste and put recycling centres in urban areas as soon as possible. My colleague, Deputy O'Dowd, spoke about a centre in County Louth, but there is none in any of Wexford's urban areas despite the county's population approaching 140,000. There are three centres in Wicklow's urban areas, but the previous Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government hailing from Wicklow would have helped.

Incineration via a PPP is a cheap and easy option for the Government. It begs the question of why, when we are flaithiúlach with funds, we are choosing PPPs.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is expensive.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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We must deal with waste, but there are sectors of waste with which we are not dealing at all. For example, bio-degradable waste is not being considered, which is a significant problem at landfills in terms of leechate and methane gas.

I was shocked to hear of a gaping hole in the EIS, namely, that it did not account for health risks. I am speaking as a commercial dairy farmer, of which there are few remaining. We have long been lectured by the Green Party on the potential risks of GM foods. The Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, was one of those lecturers. The concern regarding GM foods is chemical-resistant weeds, known as superweeds. The Minister's constituency is going to get the largest superweed in the history of the State in the form of the incinerator. That it will be the size of Croke Park is crazy.

On the Green Party's road to Damascus-style conversion or U-turn, the Minister does not believe that this is the right way to go. He did not believe it eight weeks ago. He must do whatever is politically expedient. To quote Groucho Marx, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them, well, I've got others." Unfortunately, this seems to be the case here.

The site selection process bothers me greatly. Speaking as a rural Deputy from a rural county, if someone sought planning permission in an SAC or special protection area, the environmental section of the planning department would come down on him or her, as would the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, State agencies and other groups and organisations. In no way would he or she get permission, but here comes something the size of Croke Park that is being brought through the planning process like a baby.

The matter is being reviewed by the petitions committee of the European Parliament and some MEPs have been to Ireland to discuss it in recent days. The removal of local democracy has also been discussed. It is of concern that we are removing the democratically elected members of local authorities for the issue. We will destroy the niche market. Ireland produces the best foodstuffs anywhere in the world. We produce it from grass and the cereal products we feed to livestock. It can be marketed well, but we will sell out the niche market and the organic production market that is just starting up. The Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, has spoken passionately in this respect.

I will conclude with a reference to Alanis Morissette, a singer. I do not know whether she is of the Acting Chairman's vintage.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Give us a song.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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She wrote a song entitled "Ironic", in which there is a line, "Isn't it ironic, don't you think?" This sums up the Green Party's position on the incinerator at Poolbeg perfectly.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion to oppose the proposed incinerator at Ringsend. There are other plans to build an incinerator at Carranstown, outside Duleek in County Meath. Like those living in Dublin South-East, I have serious concerns about Indaver Ireland's proposal to operate an incinerator in east Meath.

Ireland is a food-processing country and has a reputation for the excellence of its food products, but the scale and location of the proposed incinerator in a region in Meath with a significant output of dairy, beef and vegetable produce will threaten Ireland's reputation for quality. We in Meath are concerned about the possible impact of emissions of oxidants on the food chain.

I wish the Minister and his colleague behind him well in their new jobs. On behalf of farmers, I have great admiration for the Minister of State.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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During the election campaign, when the Fianna Fáil machine was scandalously giving out about Fine Gael going into government with the Green Party, I was proud to be able to defend the latter. The Minister of State will be able to repay the likes of myself in County Meath.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I owe the Deputy.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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We will be collecting.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I am genuine in what I say. The Fianna Fáil machine worked. I do not doubt that the Minister of State will protect Meath's farmers by taking the route of having no incinerator there or in Dublin.

Like at Ringsend, the raw material for the Meath incinerator site will entail a massive transport operation to and from the site. Located close to the M1, the incinerator will attract heavy goods vehicles from across the north east, probably from the Dublin region and possibly from Northern Ireland. The existing road network of the north east, particularly in Meath, is not capable of coping with the amount of waste brought by road to and from the incinerator.

The incinerator will be built on an aquifer. The supply of water to service current and future development needs is a significant issue in parts of Meath East. Any possible threats to water supplies posed by a proposed incinerator must weigh heavily when considering that development and its capacity. This issue demands consideration, given the significant population growth envisaged for Drogheda and its environs of Duleek, Dunore, Stamullen and the east coast towns of Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington, Donacarney and Julianstown.

Significant cultural changes have been achieved in recent years, including the smoking ban, control on the use of plastic bags and the elimination of smog from dirty coal. The same could be achieved with a national recycling campaign. To date, however, the Government and its agencies have not been serious about recycling. A minimum of €100 million will be spent on this incinerator. It is not difficult to imagine what could be achieved if that amount were put into a clear and focused national recycling campaign.

Before entering Government, the Green Party was totally opposed to the incinerator plans for Ringsend. Its general election candidate in Louth, Mary Deary, and Councillor Tom Kelly from Meath, whom I know well, are on record in their opposition to the incinerator outside Duleek. What is the party's position now that it is in Government? Incinerators are a potential timebomb. We do not know the long-term health implications they may have. It seems the Government is content to play Russian roulette with the health and well-being of the people of south-east Dublin and Meath. We are of the view, however, that we do not need these incinerators in Ringsend, Meath or anywhere else. My great concern is that the incinerator site in Meath will be turned into a national facility for waste. This will be the reality if the incinerator project in Ringsend does not go ahead.

There is a general recognition that we must turn to other activities to maintain the boom of recent years. I have no doubt we will return to agriculture, in view of the quantities of food we are importing and the inadequate quantities of food being produced across Europe. I hope Ireland will follow the example of New Zealand and forget about incineration. That country took the route of mass production and many Irish farmers went there and attained the satisfaction of being able to produce food. I defended the Minister, Deputy Gormley, as a farmer's man, and I expect him to defend the farmers of Ireland by ensuring there is no incineration in Meath, Ringsend or elsewhere in the State.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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With Deputy McEntee's help.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I too wish the Minister well in his new position. He has had a tough beginning and it is undoubtedly very embarrassing for him to take charge of delivering an incinerator to which he was so vociferously opposed in the past.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Not at all.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I have heard him speak in this Chamber many times about how incineration would discourage recycling and be a source of possibly harmful emissions. The Green Party previously refused even to accept the role of incineration as set out in the EU hierarchy. Nor did it accept the notion that there is any energy saving in terms of the waste to energy function of incineration.

Whatever about past utterances, what I am interested in now is action. The Minister must make a decision on this and we ask him to do so according to what we propose in our motion. There cannot be drift, postponement and claims that this is a matter for local authorities. We are all carrying major costs in terms of waste disposal. This is particularly so in the case of the business community, which seeks clarity and certainty on this issue. If incineration is not employed, there must be information in terms of the what, when and where of other methods. These matters must be decided quickly.

I have limited time in which to speak on this multidimensional issue, so I will concentrate on two particular aspects. The first relates to the location of the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg. All traffic into Poolbeg must travel via the M50 and the Dublin Port tunnel. This is true even of waste collected in Ringsend itself because it must first be sent for baling. The only two baling stations in Dublin are on the south of the city, at Ballyogan and Ballymount. Some 80% of all local authority waste will be baled in one of those locations. This baled waste will then have to be delivered to Poolbeg via the M50 and the port tunnel. This is madness both logistically and environmentally.

Since the ban on five-axle vehicles in the city centre, Ringsend is probably the most inaccessible location in which to place an incinerator that will be serviced by heavy-duty freighters. It was originally selected in the context of a proposed eastern bypass of the M50 that would allow waste to be delivered from both directions. The current situation, however, is that it can only be delivered from one direction. There is no eastern bypass and it is my understanding that the Green Party is not in favour of such an bypass. Unless that infrastructure is delivered in tandem with an incinerator, there could hardly be a less suitable location from a traffic perspective.

For that reason alone, the site must be revisited, just as the port tunnel route should have been revisited when the proposed eastern bypass was dropped. Instead we have an infrastructural white elephant that will always be underutilised. With 80% of rubbish originating in the two baling stations on the south of the city and access to the incinerator only possible from the north side, it will be a nightmare to transport the same rubbish first south, then north and back south again via the M50.

The second issue is even more problematic and must also be addressed immediately. This is the security of supply of waste, not only to incinerators but to all our waste infrastructure, whether in Ringsend or elsewhere, since the introduction of higher standards of disposal and recycling. Charges to the consumer have become the norm, which is necessary to comply with the polluter pays principle. This has attracted the private sector in competition with the local authorities to collect, process and dispose of waste. These private companies also offer recyclables for sale.

Competition is good for the consumer so long as it is effective. However, an unintended result of the competition in waste management is that the public facilities that were used heretofore by local authorities to collect, process, bale and transport waste to landfill, as provided for out of the public purse, are no longer being utilised by the private sector. We now have extra capacity in publicly provided facilities in Dublin. Large private sector waste disposal companies, such as Greenstar, are collecting both waste and green bins in competition with the public sector and are making their own arrangements to dispose of that waste. This is perfectly legal but it does not represent effective utilisation of resources.

The Minister must bring certainty to the issue of who has control over waste. Before spending money on any more public facilities, whether through public private partnership or direct public provision, there must be clarity as to the control of waste and who is responsible for its disposal. It is a waste of public funds to provide any facility for which there is no demand. This is not confined to incineration but is something that applies to all waste infrastructure.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I thank Deputy O'Dowd for putting forward a motion on this important issue. I acknowledge the presence of the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent. I was concerned last week when we were debating the plans for co-located hospitals that the Green Party Members had forgotten the location of the Parliament. I am glad to see they have rediscovered it at least on this issue. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Gormley, on his new role. Notwithstanding the comments I will be obliged to make later, I have greats hopes for him as Minister.

My constituency of Dublin West is being ravaged by poor planning and the indifference of a series of Fianna Fáil Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The resulting problems include unsustainable development and massive sprawl, both exacerbated by car dependency. We have seen the development of housing without any associated facilities, including schools, open spaces, parks and playgrounds. Public open space is held back for years by developers, while housing developments go unfinished. Cases regarding half-built apartment blocks can take years to resolve. There is a ridiculous situation in terms of enforcement and planning retention whereby people can build whatever they like and simply apply for retention. In addition, there is a cumbersome taking in charge process and an unregulated property management sector.

I hope the Minister's appointment represents a clean break from Fianna Fáil policies. He is in the tent now. It remains to be seen whether that is the tent of Government or merely the Galway races tent. I warn the Minister that we expect results on these issues. If he fails, either through his own weaknesses or because he is unable to overcome his coalition colleagues, he should be warned that we are here and willing to replace him.

I would like to introduce the House to the Ghost of Deputy Gormley Past in order to remind him of some of the comments he has made on this issue. Last February he stated the planning case against the incinerator was unanswerable, the site selection process flawed, the traffic impact disastrous and, most importantly, that there was no need for this massive facility. He noted that there had been instances where An Bord Pleanála inspectors had recommended against projects on planning grounds, only to have the recommendation overturned by the board on the basis of Government policy. Is that still Government policy? In April he told the Taoiseach that Green Party policy was different, with a zero waste strategy which did not allow incineration. Now that he is Minister, is that Government policy?

Referring to Deputy Chris Andrews, the Minister stated: "These candidates have done absolutely nothing to reverse the Government policy which has landed the people of Dublin South-East with the proposed incinerator, but they will take the opportunity afforded by the oral hearing to paint themselves as the project's greatest opponents." Does he now fall into that category? Did he just use the hearing as an opportunity to practise the glib and oily art of speaking and purposing not or was his contribution genuine?

I remind the Minister of his campaign launch on 1 March, entitled: "Get Fianna Fáil and the PDs out", when he stated: "Bertie Ahern can't quite decide whether he's St. Paul or St. Augustine. Last year we had his Pauline conversion to socialism, but when it comes to the environment it's a case of 'make me green, but not yet Lord'." I do not think the Taoiseach has ever undergone any conversions. The question we ask tonight is whether the Minister has undergone a conversion. Does he remain the campaigner and politician of principle he used to be or has he been assimilated and subsumed into Fianna Fáil? The answer will come tomorrow night at 8.30 p.m. when he casts his vote on the motion.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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On a point of order, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we do not have a quorum.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Quorums are not required during Private Members' Business.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

"—noting the very significant investment which is provided for under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 in further developing modern integrated waste management infrastructure and services so as to meet national and EU policy objectives and targets;

noting also the record levels of recycling now being achieved and resulting in EU targets being met ahead of schedule and welcoming in particular the significant funding already made available by the Government to co-fund the dramatic expansion in recycling infrastructure which has facilitated the achievement of these targets;

recognising the strong commitment in the Government's policy programme to a waste management hierarchy based on the cornerstones of reduction, re-use, recycling and marketing of recycled products;

further noting the Government's commitment to a broader approach to identifying the technologies best suited to achieving a more sustainable approach to waste management rather than placing a heavy reliance on incineration as an alternative to landfill for final disposal, and in particular the commitment to carry out a review of the existing statutory waste management plans;

taking cognisance of the legal restrictions which the Oireachtas has necessarily imposed on Ministerial involvement in projects which are before the independent statutory physical planning and environmental licensing processes;

reaffirms the national commitment to the waste hierarchy and endorses the Government's commitment to supporting the development of the recovery and disposal technologies which produce the most positive environmental outcome, while in particular achieving the targets set by the EU landfill directive".

I thank the Deputies opposite for their good wishes and acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of residents of Ringsend and Sandymount. I live with my family in Ringsend and my position as a public representative for Dublin South-East and a local resident in regard to the Poolbeg incinerator project is well known, entirely consistent and second to none. However, I address the House as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and in that capacity must act under and be respectful of restrictions placed on me by primary legislation enacted by the Oireachtas. The motion tabled by the Fine Gael Party cites one of the statutory provisions under which I operate but conveniently ignores another. Notwithstanding the power available to me under section 24(c) of the Waste Management Act, there is also a very clear limitation of my powers under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 which states: "the Minister shall not exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned". In the light of this provision it would not be appropriate for me to comment on or interfere with this case which is before An Bord Pleanála. The Opposition knows this.

I have been critical of a certain former Minister on this side of the House but he was not the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I am.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Exactly; therefore, the Minister has the power.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I have set out for Deputies the exact legal position. The Poolbeg project is the subject of an application by Dublin City Council to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission and an oral hearing in that regard has recently concluded. It is also the subject of an application by the council to the EPA for a waste licence and the legislation governing this process has a similar provision. These restrictions on ministerial involvement were put in place by the Oireachtas for good reasons. Many of us are old enough to remember the controversies which surrounded past political involvement in the planning process. An Bord Pleanála and the EPA exist in the independent statutory form they enjoy in order that the public can be assured decisions in respect of physical planning and environmental licensing are made independently of the Government. It is easy to suggest an À la carte approach, according to which interventions that are benign or well meaning are all right but others are not. In the real world of due process such an approach is a nonsense. These bodies are either independent or they are not. While we as individuals may not always agree with decisions made by independent regulators — it would be remarkable if we did — we nonetheless can see that the balance of public interest rests in their independence.

While I cannot comment further on the future of the Poolbeg project, I would like clarify my Department's involvement. I do so to demonstrate the limited nature of that involvement and the considerable legal autonomy which attaches to the existing statutory regional waste planning system. The facility is provided for in the Dublin regional waste management plan——

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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This sounds like a speech by the former Minister, Deputy Roche.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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——for which the four Dublin local authorities have statutory responsibility under the Waste Management Acts. As the procurement has been by way of a public private partnership, the role of my Department has been to certify that the procurement was conducted in accordance with public policy. The Department in a letter dated 14 September 2005 advised Dublin City Council which acts as lead authority for the project that having considered the submissions received in respect of the procurement process, there was no objection to the council proceeding to enter into contractual arrangements with the selected private partner. In the normal course this would have quickly ensued. However, due to a corporate restructuring on the side of the selected private partner, I am advised that it was not until 14 May 2007 that the project board which is chaired by Dublin City Council and supervises the project was in a position to sign off on the contractual arrangements in line with the process concluded in 2005.

The regulatory authorities will ultimately adjudicate on this project. That is their preserve. It is the duty of Government to set the legal and policy framework within which the public and private sectors can deliver an economically and ecologically efficient system of waste management. The Government's programme sets out how this can be better achieved. We do not start from scratch. I acknowledge that much has already been achieved in bringing our waste management infrastructure and services into the 21st century. I commend those local authorities which have led the way and, in particular, the tens of thousands who routinely take responsibility for the waste they generate. Leaving out the green bin or visiting the local bottle bank or recycling facility is now a matter of course for large numbers. There is no lack of willingness on the part of the public if they are provided with the means to properly deal with their waste. The introduction of pay-by-use charging systems has also provided an incentive for people to act responsibly.

There is already a significant commitment to developing a world class approach to waste management on the basis of the internationally accepted waste hierarchy. It is not to devalue these efforts to assert that the challenges we face demand even more of us. The programme for Government rededicates us to this goal. The EPA has already done some work in improving our ability to prevent waste arising in the first place. This effort must intensify. Waste prevention is at the top of the waste hierarchy and considerable changes are needed at all levels of society and in all sectors to achieve our goals for preventing and minimising waste. Similarly, in the area of recycling we must move much more rapidly in developing markets for recyclables. The EPA-led market development group will play a key role in that regard. This will be particularly important in a context in which we are making further significant progress in driving up our recycling rates. Simple measures such as more bottle banks and extending opening hours of recycling centres will play a role in this continuing improvement.

We have seen progress in developing producer responsibility initiatives. Ireland has been a leader in implementing the WEEE directive. We also have put in place initiatives dealing with farm plastics and end-of-life vehicles. I want to see greater engagement with the productive sector. One of the reasons behind the polluter pays principle is the need to ensure producer responsibility operates as an effective incentive for reducing waste generation and ensuring the reusability and recyclability of waste. We need to do much more to minimise the waste we have to deal with and the resultant demand for recovery and disposal infrastructure. In other words, we need a much greater focus on the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy where both the challenge and the environmental pay-off are greatest. It is easy to bury or burn and disposal technologies will continue to be necessary for some time but they must be seen as methods of last resort and their importance should diminish as we better develop our approaches to waste minimisation.

There is evidence that we are potentially capable of much greater. Already the EPA data show that we have achieved our national recycling target of 35% set for the year 2013. This is up from 9% in 1998 and eight years ahead of what was regarded as a very ambitious target, but maybe we need to increase the extent of our ambition. On the recycling of packaging waste, we also have a good story to tell, having already reached 60% of the EU target set for 2011, but even here we can do much better.

I acknowledge these achievements and the work of those whose efforts made them possible but I am determined to go further towards being a world leader in the drive for a recycling society. Ireland has led the way in tackling the scourge of plastic bags and environmental pollution from smoking. and we can do so again in the way we manage our waste. One could argue that we are limited only by the limit of our ambition. In the context of the commitments in the programme for Government I want to drive that ambition. I would prefer to see us falling short of world class ambitions than comfortably meeting less demanding ones. This should not be about scoring political points with soft achievements but about showing real leadership.

Progress on recycling has been greatly assisted by my Department's scheme of capital grants in support of local authority recycling facilities. A sum of €100 million has been allocated since 2002. In the context of the provisions in the national development plan I am determined to maintain this effort. I shall also further roll out, in the years immediately ahead, the recently established programme of financial assistance to local authorities to help remediate certain of the historic landfills which are a relic of the way we once dealt with our waste.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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What about incineration?

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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All our current landfills are properly regulated and that is as it should be.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, the Minister is not dealing with the issue before us.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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However, a reliance on landfill is not the solution to our waste management problems.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is not addressing the issue.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is not dealing with the motion.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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We face a major challenge in reaching our targets under the EU landfill directive. This directive, as a first step, will entail reducing our reliance on landfill by a further 700,000 tonnes. My ambition over time is to go even further than this and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill to no more than 10%. Once again this should be about ambition.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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What about our ambitions for incineration? Will it be 15% or 20%?

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Meeting our EU obligations is important but our mission should be to take such objectives in our stride as we reach for the highest standards.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is not dealing with the motion. He is not even addressing his amendment.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I do not underestimate the difficulties involved but I am determined to create a new context in which the challenges I have mentioned can be met and our achievements built on. In this regard the Government is committed to carrying out a review of the regional waste management plans. This will be respectful of the statutory position of the local authorities and of the reviews of the existing plans which they have concluded. However, I want to bring fresh thinking to bear to better inform the waste management planning process. I want us to think outside the box in looking at the full range of technological and behavioural solutions which are potentially available to us.

In particular I believe that there has been too much emphasis on incineration to the exclusion of other technologies. The Government programme has identified mechanical and biological treatment solutions as having a real potential to help us more sustainably manage the waste we cannot prevent, reuse or recycle.

There has, perhaps, been a tendency to advance stock solutions in circumstances where a more creative approach could ultimately lead us to a better outcome. Ireland is well advanced in terms of segregating our waste at source. The green bin service is already being supplemented in some areas by a brown bin service for compostable waste. While I may have certain concerns regarding the approach to waste management taken in Dublin and elsewhere, I commend the approach being taken by a number of local authorities in piloting the segregation of biological waste. In Dublin, my Department will co-fund two significant biological treatment facilities which will allow for the roll-out of brown bin services. Funding is also being provided for the regional materials recovery facility. This demonstrates what can be done in combining source segregated collection services with the infrastructure to properly process the waste collected.

I shall examine the responses to the recent public consultation on the future regulation of the waste management sector. I appreciate the contribution which local authorities and the private sector are making in the area of waste management but I am concerned that waste management services should be structured in such a way as to meet our overall environmental and social objectives. I shall identify the legislative or policy initiatives that may be appropriate to this end.

I am determined to significantly advance our national capacity to manage our waste in the most environmentally sustainable way that is economically feasible. In this context, the review of the existing waste management plans will prove very valuable in orienting local authorities towards optimal solutions both in terms of the technologies which they promote and the targets they set.

I thank Deputy D'Arcy for his good wishes. I wish to share time with Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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When will the Minister cut the ribbon on the incinerator?

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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The Deputies opposite keep saying that we have agreed to incinerators and they want to know how many we have agreed to, but we have agreed to none.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Why did the Minister not demand, in the programme for Government, that the incinerator be stopped? Why did he not make it a crunch issue in the programme? That was his opportunity and he failed.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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That is it. There is the answer. The Deputies do not like direct answers.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has let us down.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)
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The Deputies do not like direct answers.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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I am a constituent of the Minister and he has let us down.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party agreed to waste plans in the programme for Government. It is on his party's website.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Fergus O'Dowd as deis a thabhairt dúinn díospóireacht a bheith againn. Is díospóireacht an tábhachtacht í, agus tá áthas orm deis a fháil í a phlé.

As the Minister said and to put Deputy O'Dowd out of his misery, the Minister has not agreed to a single incinerator and I hope that continues to be the position because that is our objective. Let me set the record straight for Deputy O'Dowd and his colleagues. In Dublin South-East, Deputy John Gormley campaigned for years against the Bio-burn incinerator on Hanover Quay.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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That is somewhat similar to Deputy Sargent protesting against the prison at Thornton Hall.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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He was brought to the High Court for contempt of court, so strongly did he campaign, and he was issued with a gagging order. Meanwhile, the Deputies opposite were content to sit back and watch him go through the difficulties of a court case. Nonetheless, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, and the campaign against Bio-burn were successful and an environmental blight was removed from Dublin South-East. The Minister is the same man who lodged a comprehensive objection to a proposal to build an incinerator to burn hospital waste on the Poolbeg peninsula. The appeal to An Bord Pleanála, which he jointly took, was successful.

On Dublin City Council he spoke repeatedly against the idea of including incineration in a waste management plan. At every stage of this process he spoke out publicly against the proposal to build an incinerator on the Poolbeg peninsula and he continues to do so.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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It is all talk.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Unlike members of other parties, his words have been matched by action. He has organised public meetings, inviting experts from overseas to speak on the issue of incineration.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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He has done nothing.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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We must put the record straight because the Deputies opposite are distorting it.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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It is a roll-over and a cop-out.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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His submission to An Bord Pleanála was one of the most comprehensive, and this was backed up by an oral submission on the last day of the hearing. He also made a comprehensive submission to the EPA on the application for a waste licence.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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What is he doing as Minister?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Contrast the actions of Deputy Gormley with those of the Deputies opposite.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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What is he doing?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I did not interrupt Deputy O'Dowd, tempting as it was.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I urge the Deputy to interrupt me now. What is he doing as Minister?

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Order, please, Deputy O'Dowd.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I thank the Chair for his advocacy of the rights of Members. I wish to contrast the actions of the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, with those of the Deputies opposite. Fine Gael and Labour Party councillors have ensured that the incineration proposal for Poolbeg made steady progress. In 1998, Fine Gael and Labour councillors voted for the Dublin regional waste plan, which included incineration as an option. Where did they think the incinerator would be located? That is my question to the Deputies opposite. The Green Party voted against it. Perhaps the Deputies are not aware of this but Fine Gael councillors, in particular, stated clearly that they favour incineration as one of the primary means of dealing with waste.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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If we are setting the record straight——

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Deputy Creighton needs to have the record set straight and I can give her chapter and verse.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Sargent is propagating lies.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is not lies. I can get the quotes for the Deputy.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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It is absolutely untrue.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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The Deputy has not been around a long time but I will tell her a little about what her party has done.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Fine Gael voted for an amendment to the Dublin city development plan which removed the incineration option.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Unlike Deputy Gormley, none of the Fine Gael or Labour Deputies bothered to make an oral submission to the An Bord Pleanála hearing. Does the Deputy disagree?

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

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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The Deputy needs to check her facts. That, more than anything else, shows the insincerity of her posturing here today.

Fine Gael was clear in its policy in another democratic forum as recently as February. The issue of the Poolbeg incinerator came before my local authority, Fingal County Council, only four months ago, when Dublin City Council asked their colleagues in Fingal to support their opposition to the incinerator. They included some Fine Gael colleagues in Fingal, I have to say.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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Ouch.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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The Green Party councillors proposed that Fingal County Council would show solidarity with Dublin City Council and join them in opposing the incinerator. What did Fine Gael do?

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister of State give way?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I will not give way because the Deputy knows the record.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State will not give way because he does not want to know why.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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There is no need to give way.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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He does not want to know why the persons behind him voted that way too.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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The record shows that Fine Gael voted for the incineration proposal to go ahead. That is the truth.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State will get the truth if he gives way.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Unfortunately, the Labour Party was not much better — split down the middle, with one voting for and another against. It is only fair to acknowledge that Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party have been consistent on the issue, including backing the Greens on this vote. The vote was split evenly; very interesting times. The Green Party cathaoirleach of the council, Councillor Joe Corr, came under trenchant criticism from none other than Fine Gael for using his casting vote to oppose the incinerator. One Fine Gael councillor called him a "disgrace" to the chair for opposing the incinerator at Poolbeg.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister of State oppose this one now?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Regardless of what the Opposition is saying tonight, just for the record, Fine Gael has also voted in support of the proposed new landfill in the Nevitt.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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That is totally untrue. It is a total fabrication.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is absolutely true and we know it.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State is making it up as he goes along.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I will give the information to the Deputy afterwards, in case he is not reading his minutes. In Fingal County Council, they had an opportunity to block the financing of this proposed major investment in simple disposal but they voted to ensure the funding for the landfill would be made available. I do not know where Fine Gael stands, but let me make it clear: the Green Party is in favour of the EU waste hierarchy——

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should therefore tell his new leader to cancel funding.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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The Minister of State without interruption.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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——which prioritises reduction and recycling, and places incineration and landfill at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Fine Gael and Labour are in no position to lecture anybody in this House on this issue.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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And the Minister of State is?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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To my mind, it is an exercise in hypocrisy, although I am glad of the opportunity to debate it.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State is not.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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They know the impeccable record of the Minister, Deputy Gormley, and his commitment on this issue.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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This is ridiculous.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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They know he has stated at the Bord Pleanála hearing that he does not want a 600,000 tonne incinerator on the Poolbeg peninsula. They know the reasons he has given for this and they know he cannot legally speak on the issue here this evening, as he would like to do.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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That is what he is elected to do.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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The Minister, Deputy Gormley, negotiated a Programme for Government with me and others, which contains significant commitments on waste management.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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What sort of fiction will he bring in?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I do not know if the Deputy has read the programme for Government, but it contains significant commitments to reduce the waste crisis. It signals a new approach. The programme states there will be no guaranteed waste stream for incinerators and that there will be a new emphasis on mechanical biological treatment. This is welcome and means that biological waste will be diverted from landfill by being converted into useful products such as biogas, compost, fertiliser and soil conditioner.

Not only is the Fine Gael motion hypocritical, it is also cowardly. Fine Gael knows it can hit the Minister but the Minister cannot hit back because he is precluded from doing so.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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That is the most ridiculous thing to say.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I have no doubt, however, that the Minister, Deputy Gormley, will be vindicated and, as with so many other environmental issues, he will be proven correct. Deputies may recall that he campaigned against the serious smog problem in the 1980s and when he called for the banning of bituminous coal it was regarded as somewhat odd.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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He is odd.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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We do not hear that today, but it happened and we can see the results, including fewer bronchial problems, improved air quality and a better quality of life. For many years, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has spoken out on issues like climate change, when nobody else — apart from the Green Party — was listening. Now, nobody, except the extremely deluded, questions the science behind climate change. I do not think anybody, including Fine Gael, would disagree with me on that, although at the weekend I did hear Deputy Michael Ring question the need for carbon levies. Deputy O'Dowd ought to check what his colleague is saying.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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He was referring to the hot air in the House.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am not sure if that reflects Fine Gael policy, but it is certainly not environmentally sustainable.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to a major change in Ireland's waste policies. Some achievements have been made by previous Governments but they do not go far enough. The Green Party's goal — and I am glad to hear Fine Gael repeating it here — is for a zero waste society. It is still a long-term target, but with this new Minister we are now moving in the right direction. The international review of waste management in Ireland will lay out the road map for the necessary changes. We have a long way to go. We have seen the success of recycling facilities introduced by local authorities over recent years. When Green Party councillors, including Deputy Gormley, were proposing the door-to-door collection of waste for recycling during the 1990s, they were ridiculed by their colleagues from other parties, including Fine Gael I am sorry to say. Now, the kerbside collection of recyclables is something people in many Irish towns look on as their right, as part of the normal running of a civilised society. Those, and they are still many, who do not yet have recycling collections are rightly annoyed at being left with a second-class service. No one doubts that it is the right thing to do, but it is time to go further than recycling; we need to prevent and minimise waste. The best instance of this so far in Ireland is the plastic bag tax, which has been widely heralded internationally. I am not sure if Deputy O'Dowd realises it, but I proposed that tax back in 1994 when Fine Gael and Labour were in power. Unfortunately, however, it was actually a Fianna Fáil-led Government that implemented the tax. That is the record from Fine Gael's point of view. As that party knows, the long-term guiding principle behind the Green Party's waste policy is the objective of zero waste. It is not an instant solution, but a long-term strategy for achieving long-term sustainability. The implementation of zero waste resource management systems are arguably amongst the most important steps needed to ensure our transition to a sustainable society, to prevent further environmental deterioration and damage to the earth's atmosphere and ecosystems. Zero waste confronts the whole idea of endless material consumption by assisting those who are locked into the system to challenge, in a positive way, their own behavioural patterns.

Within the zero waste model the community must maximize reuse, repair, recycling and composting. Industry, for its part, must redesign objects the community cannot reuse, repair, recycle or compost. Both industry and the community need to reduce wasteful practices like over-packaging and over-consumption. Government has to provide leadership and the appropriate fiscal and financial systems which reward waste elimination, reuse, repair, recycling and composting, while penalising the creation of unnecessary or difficult wastes. I hope Deputy Ring will take that on board. The potential rewards from the implementation of a zero waste model will include saving raw material resources, creation of employment, retention of wealth within local communities and within the country, and a reduction in the need for new landfill sites or the building of incinerators.

I took it upon myself to visit an area that was implementing the zero waste strategy, without incineration obviously, as incineration would be an impediment to a zero waste strategy.

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

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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We can all agree on that, hopefully, but Fine Gael Members had better tell their councillors that they have agreed on it here.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Obviously the Government has not. What about the 600,000 tonne incinerator in Ringsend?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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In Ontario they separate everything, wet and dry. The wet material goes for composting, while the dry material is all segregated. There is no grey bin and that should be our objective. I hope we can all come together at local authority level to implement it. That is the way to achieve zero waste. This critical shift would signal an end to the unsustainable approaches to waste management that we pursue at present. It will significantly reduce the environmental damage that our waste practices have caused to the environment and will enhance our ability to live in a low impact and responsible way in this country and on the earth generally. The Green Party is committed, in Government, to providing the political leadership to allow this to happen.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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I wish to share time with Deputy Ciarán Lynch.

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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This should have been a happy occasion for me to congratulate my constituency colleague on achieving ministerial office. I wanted to do so because Deputy Gormley and I go back some time, but I am quite appalled. The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, would have given more passion than Deputy Gormely did to the single transferable speech that came from the Custom House.

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

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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I never thought I would see the Minister reduced to such capitulation so soon. I never believed that the passion that animated his 25 years in public life would be so run over in such a short time by the mandarins of the Custom House. All the bluster and flak from his acting leader will not provide the mudguard or bioguard for his craven submission to what is happening. I respect the legal cover that has been given to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, in his speech and I recognise the mission of any good civil servant is to protect the Minister and the Department. I have benefitted from this in my time but there are times when one must think outside the box. Deputy Gormley must ask himself, as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, whether the policy direction to An Bord Pleanála to provide for incineration still stands or can be retrieved. One cannot simply say there is a statutory legal planning process that cannot be interfered with. When the planning inspector in Ringaskiddy recommended that an incinerator there should not go ahead An Bord Pleanála, having regard to the policy direction that was legally given to it by the then Minister acting in his official capacity, said there was a higher instruction.

This issue will not go away and the Minister, Deputy Creighton and I all share a proximity to the voters of the area. They will find the Minister's explanation tonight unbelievable. Forget about Tara and the Minister's declaration of impotence on the matter due to Deputy Dick Roche signing the order as he exited office. Has the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, asked that the policy direction given to An Bord Pleanála be reviewed? If he has not the probable strong recommendation of the planning inspector against the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg will be waved aside because of the policy direction that is seen by An Bord Pleanála to have a higher order.

Had the Minister examined the economics of a public private partnership he would have had some fans in Merrion Street. This would not involve a legal intervention in the planning process or an undermining of the Minister's statutory requirement, under both Environmental Protection Agency legislation and local government and planning legislation not to interfere in statutory areas of the planning process. The Minister is ultimately responsible for the Vote of money that will come from his Department, sanctioned in this House, to all local authorities. The economics of this incinerator are crazy and Mr. Joe McCarthy will bring this to the Minister's attention, if he has not already done so. So-called "Crazy Joe McCarthy" was, as officials of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will realise, the person who, along with others, eventually blew the whistle on the nonsense of e-voting.

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

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Based on various calculations required under law, the economics of public private partnership are built on a foundation of sand. The waste management planning regulations of 1997 require a waste management plan to include systems for monitoring the before, during and after of any changes made by the plan. The waste management plan agreed by the elected members of Dublin City Council in point 11.3.2 on page 77 require city officials to record such statistics but they will not make that information available to the public.

There is a dispute among officials at local and national levels regarding the legal and statistical basis upon which certain formal calculations are made. We are told that for reasons of commercial sensitivity details of the new contract negotiated by the Danish Oil and Natural Gas Company, DONG, which bought out the collapsed Elsam firm, cannot be revealed. What kind of nonsense is this? Who invented this rule?

We will be paying the money for this project. There was a time when public projects were put up for tender and, under the laws of public procurement, the lowest price did not automatically win the contract. The best suited contractor, when price and experience were taken into account, would win the contract but every other competitor in the public procurement process would be informed of the outcome of the tendering process. Suddenly this information is secret and cannot be obtained due to commercial sensitivities. That was the explanation Mr. Matt Twomey, assistant city manager, gave the public when the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, and I were both on this side of the House and queried Deputy Gormley's predecessor on this matter.

Who else is bidding to build an incinerator in the Dublin area and what commercial sensitivity applies? What legal advice did the Minister take from lawyers in the Green Party regarding his manoeuvrability on this issue? The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, correctly says that our former constituency colleague, Mr. Michael McDowell, did not sit in the Custom House as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law reform and did not possess the statutory powers of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in this regard. Mr. McDowell was merely a Cabinet colleague and he could ask and make requests, but the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, has executive powers which he is failing to implement in terms of value for money and the legal constraints on the contract that has been agreed.

Nobody knows the terms of the contract agreed with DONG. We do not know if they are compliant and we do not know if they are costed. I am sure Merrion Street would like information in this regard. Earlier today we were told that public scrutiny by the Opposition in this House is being eroded systematically. We can no longer ask questions about the Health Service Executive and prosecutions of people who do not pay the television licence fee. I thought the Green Party went into Government to avoid the shackles of impotence that are being imposed on the Opposition. I thought the purpose of having the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Trevor Sargent, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, at the Cabinet table was to allow them request this information. I thought they could use their extensive powers to get a second opinion and to review the commercial viability of the Poolbeg incinerator, because we are ahead of our targets for waste reduction and the volume of incinerable waste is falling.

Can the Minister examine the change in circumstances regarding access to the site? In case he does not know I can tell the Minister, as one of his constituents, that from 4 p.m. until around 7 p.m., from the Merrion Gates or the Martello tower to the toll bridge, traffic is back to back. The Minister knows, from living in Ringsend, what traffic is like. Now we are to be asked to allow more trucks into the area, though we cannot get the precise number calculated from Mr. Matt Twomey. Deputy Olivia Mitchell is recognised by all in this House as a person who knows the traffic statistics for the greater Dublin area and she points out that the traffic implications of the location of the Poolbeg incinerator may be serious.

The acting leader of the Green Party has given the Minister plenty of cover for tonight but when he has time he might tell the people in Ringsend Park, Sandymount and O'Rahilly House not what he did in the past, not how he saved the world from bio-burn and so on, but rather how he consciously compromised his principles to go into office. On balance, the Minister felt he could do some good inside the tent and I can accept that logic and have applied it to myself previously. Now the Minister must deliver and must find every instrument of power and ingenuity open to him. He must not take no for an answer.

I once received no for an answer when I was told that under EU law I could not ban the importation of South African fruit. The Attorney General of the time said it was not possible but, because I wanted to find an answer and would not take no for an answer, we ultimately found a legally viable solution to the conundrum. If being a Green Party member in Cabinet means anything the Minister must start finding answers soon. He can start by tearing up the ridiculous script he read into the record of the House.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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When he was Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn told me he could not introduce a plastic bag tax. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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The Deputy has made a good attempt at distracting the House but it will not work.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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It is the truth. Deputy Quinn was wrong and should eat his words.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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As regards matters about which Deputy Sargent feels passionate, his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, with the able assistance of the then aspiring TD, Deputy Chris Andrews, promised his neighbours and constituents he would make the difference. He hounded a Cabinet Minister and promised to stop the Poolbeg incinerator. He now has his chance to do so. Will he override the policy instructions on incineration issued to An Bord Pleanála? Will he examine the economics, statistics and volumes in the contract for the public private partnership? Will he discard the cover provided by Matt Twomey of Dublin City Council and others regarding commercial sensitivity by publishing details of the contract? Let us see how we will be ripped off under the PPP, as has been the case in some of the motorway contracts where a multiple of the real cost will be paid in interest above and beyond the Euribor rate. I will leave the debate on the reason this is not necessary for another day.

As a Government Minister, Deputy Gormley can no longer hide. He must examine the steps he can take rather than give legal reasons for failing to take them.

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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The sentiment expressed in the motion could be applied directly to Cork South-Central where a similar issue of major concern to residents of the Cork Harbour area has emerged. The people of the area will watch this debate with interest because, to use a pun, it is an opportunity to read the temperature in terms of determining the Green Party's position on incineration. I call for a clear statement setting out the position of the new Government. Specifically, I call on the Green Party leadership to make a clear statement showing that it still reflects the views of communities and groups, including its party members, it claimed to represent on the issue of incineration.

This debate could be sidetracked and become a debate on waste in general. The motion is about incineration and debate on it offers an opportunity to determine the Government's stance on the issue.

Members of the public are justifiably sceptical about waste management policy. Over the years, policymakers have failed to meet their commitments on waste management and neglected to inform members of the public about developments in this area. The reduce, reuse and recycle approach — known as triple R — has failed with massive teething problems, of which I can cite many examples, still to be ironed out. The triple R approach arose from the hierarchy concept used in an EU directive. It referred to reaching sustainability by introducing a waste management programme based on approaches other than disposal. Unfortunately, disposal remains our primary waste management policy. The failure to introduce waste recovery creates the rationale for incineration.

To cite one example of the lack of joined-up thinking on waste management, five different companies collect waste in a single corner block in my constituency of Cork South-Central. As the block straddles the city and county boundaries, two municipal authorities provide waste collection services. Three private companies also collect waste in the area. Two years ago, Cork City Council decided to establish sites to which people could bring paper, bottles and other recyclable materials. At the same time, the county council introduced a pay-by-weight system under which waste charges are calculated according to the weight of the waste collected. This led to people in one local authority area bringing their recyclabes to another local authority area, with the result that Cork City Council removed its recovery facilities. The joined-up thinking needed on waste policy failed to materialise.

Councils are actively engaging in strategies aimed at eliminating their role in waste management, specifically collection. The result will be a democratic deficit in which local authorities have no role or monitoring function in waste management. This became clear in the Indaver case in Cork when local authorities and planners were overruled.

Recent television pictures of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, holding an umbrella on Sandymount Strand brought to mind an image of Mary Poppins. Perhaps we are seeing how a spoonful of ministerial sugar can make the medicine go down. While it was easy for the Minister to take certain positions on the Opposition benches, to continue with the sugar analogy, he must take it or lump it and it appears he will lump it.

The motion presents an opportunity for the new Minister and his party colleagues to put daylight between themselves and the Minister's predecessor who, it is generally agreed, has a poor record in the area of waste management. It is a chance to take a new direction and demonstrate that new thinking has arrived in the Department. We will see over the lifetime of this Dáil whether this is a new Administration.

Speaking to people in the Cork region who have dealt with the Green Party on the incineration issue for more than a decade, it became clear that the Dáil's decision on this motion will set the tone for the Government's approach to waste management for the next five years and determine whether incineration remains on the agenda. I hope the Green Party will take a clear and consistent position when the House divides and that having taken ministerial office, its position on incineration will not go up in smoke.