Monday, February 08, 2016

“Behold the turtle who makes progress, but only when it sticks its neck out.”

It is time to stick the neck out in regard to what is happening to “the second most beautiful natural harbour in the world,” which is in danger of losing that claim to fame as the latest stage unfolds in a 14-year battle against toxic waste incineration in Cork Harbour.

One of the signs in Ringaskiddy opposing Indaver's plans for a waster incinerator.

One of the signs in Ringaskiddy opposing Indaver’s plans for a waster incinerator.

I like the quotation about the turtle because I have personally, ‘stuck my neck out,” several times reporting on the marine scene and it was revealing to hear residents of Cork Harbour do so at a public meeting in Ringaskiddy Community Hall where the level of anger was palpable.

This is all to do with the third attempt by Indaver to get permission to build an incinerator in the village, described by residents as “an affront to democracy,” a description endorsed by senior politicians, ranging from the Minister for the Marine to the leader of Fianna Fail, at the meeting. Micheal Martin, his colleague Michael McGrath, Jerry Buttimer on his own behalf and for the Minister and several other political representatives, said they are opposing the project.

Councillor Marcia D’Alton said Indaver wants the incinerator to serve the Southern Region, bringing toxic waste from Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Wexford, into Cork Harbour. There were calls for an investigation into Bord Pleanála as to how it has treated Cork Harbour. Twice on major issues – the incinerator previously and the development of Ringaskiddy Port – after lengthy public hearings Bord Pleanála inspectors rejected those projects, but were over-ruled by their own Board.

“It cost the community over €1m and we won our case, but there is no justice for local people,” the organisers said. They pointed out, in case anyone raises the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issue, that the vista of Cork Harbour now includes three huge wind turbines used by the several chemical factories at Ringaskiddy and an increasingly noisy port where stacks of containers will be part of the scenery.

The Beaufort Centre, a world leader in marine energy research and the National Maritime College, are across the road from where Indaverwants to build its hazardous, toxic waste incinerator, as well as a non-hazardous incinerator, claiming that they are needed to deal with waste disposal.

The role of a columnist is to provide comment and opinion, raising issues of public concern of which there are many in the harbour area. The Government has undertaken to remove the waste dump left by Irish Steel at Haulbowline Island off Cobh which is accepted as a danger to public health. It has announced plans to make Spike Island a major tourism centre and to put an international marine development on Haulbowline. At the public meeting residents from communities around the harbour asked: “What hope for these projects to succeed if toxic waste is processed alongside them?” Figures were given that 45,000 people live within 5kms of the site.

I don’t know the answer, but driving out of Ringaskiddy I saw the Minister for the Marine’s election poster proclaiming: “We’ll make Cork Harbour great again.” It seems to me that a new ‘battle’ for the future of “the second most beautiful natural harbour in the world” is underway.

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