Westmeath Examiner – 28-01-06
Readers of our notes will remember that for some years past I have been saying that the large, private, and profit-driven, waste companies have had far too much influence on the present government’s waste strategy. Indeed, I have said that, in my opinion, they seem to be able to dictate the strategy. To all our cost and to the Irish environment’s loss.
So, may I draw your readers attention to an article in the Irish Times of Monday January 16th? And may I thank Mark Hennessy, their political correspondent, prior to citing his excellent work? Just look at the following points Mr Hennessy reveals:
1. Civil servants in the Department of Environment (D.O.E.) spent eighteen months trying to find ways “to accommodate incinerator company Indaver’s objections to rules that prevented the transportation of rubbish over regional boundaries”. In plain words, civil servants searched for ways to bend the rules on behalf of a private company!
2. They even tested some of their ideas with D.O.E. lawyers.
3. They claimed that their efforts were to protect poor little Indaver (a private, profit-seeking company) from a potential cartel of other (private, profit-seeking) waste companies in the region.
4. Their expressed concern was that “such a situation would render the development of the plant commercially unacceptable”. The ‘plant’ is, of course, the incinerator of Carrinstown.
5. D.O.E. officials told Mr. Cullen (the Minister at the time) that “Indaver remains fully committed to the regional approach to waste management”. That is, apparently, committed apart from the many bits that they don’t like!
6. Dick Roche, obliging man that he is, has made the changes that Indaver required.
7. Indaver general manager John Ahern said, “we are not trying to undermine the regional plan”, as long as we are allowed to rewrite it to suit ourselves.
8. The D.O.E. officials even considered whether it could force waste collectors in a region to send their rubbish to a particular plant. Guess which one? But their lawyers rules this idea out.
9. The briefing note prepared for Mr. Cullen “made clear that Indaver’s opposition to the transport ban was shared by the E.P.A.” (The Environmental Protection Agency). Should we be surprised when Ms. Laura Burke of Indaver has been appointed to the E.P.A. board (and by whom, I wonder?).
10. All the work done by these civil servants is done at the behest of the Minister and, supposedly, for the good of the state, not for the benefit of a particular business. All this work, and the time of the officials, is paid for exclusively by us – the taxpayers. And we pay for all the advice sought from the lawyers.
Are we allowed to question how all the work outlined in Mr. Hennessy’s article was justified and paid for? Not one political representative, to my knowledge, has asked any questions about those matters, about the responsibility of successive Ministers in the D.O.E. and about an apparent abuse of taxpayers’ money. So be it. I am seeking the questions and I am asking for an explanation as to how a company, so recently established in our country, can have our public servants running eagerly to see to its wishes and desires. Mark Hennessy and the Irish Times may have done us all a favour in opening the can, but who will empty out the worms and sort out the final truth?
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment