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Irish Examiner - 17-01-04
Martin 'washing his hands of incineration'

By Mary Dundon, Political Reporter – Irish Examiner

OPPOSITION parties called on Health Minister Micheál Martin yesterday to stop "washing his hands" of incineration after An Bord Pleanála gave the go-ahead to the country's first toxic waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork.As Minister for Health and Cork's most senior politician, Mr Martin must use his position in Cabinet to change Government policy that favours incineration, Green Party deputy Dan Boyle said.

"It is ironic that Mr Martin is promoting a ban on smoking in public places and he does nothing to stop a huge smoke pollutant being constructed in his own constituency," Deputy Boyle added.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell has said he will challenge the setting up of a new National Infrastructure Board that could give the go-ahead for an incinerator in his Dublin South constituency.

"If Mr McDowell is prepared to challenge Minister Cullen why is our local minister not prepared to do the same?" the Cork South Central deputy said.

Fine Gael Deputy Simon Coveney called on Mr Martin to question how a Government-funded body can ignore the advice of its own senior inspectors.

"The minister cannot wash his hands of this decision the Government must now review how An Bord Pleanála functions and makes its decisions," Deputy Coveney said.

But Mr Martin rejected claims that he was "washing his hands" of incineration and said he did not believe the hazardous waste incinerator will pose a health threat to local residents.

"There is no evidence to date to show that the existing five incinerators in Ringaskiddy have had an adverse impact on people's health in terms of higher incidences of cancer in the area," Mr Martin said.

The Government cannot influence An Bord Pleanála's decision because it is an independent body, he added.

He said the country is facing significant difficulties in waste management disposal and our EU colleagues cannot be expected to receive and treat our hazardous waste forever.

But the minister added: "I've always had reservations about this particular site, Ringaskiddy is home to 60% of the country's pharmaceutical industries and the residents have borne their fair share of industrial development."

Meanwhile, Green Party Deputy Dan Boyle accused An Bord Pleanála of caving into political pressure from Environment Minister Martin Cullen because of his threat to give some of their powers to a new National Infrastructure Board.

Labour councilor John Mulvihill said the decision is a kick in the teeth for local democracy when 10 faceless people in An Bord Pleanála can overturn councillors' decisions.

Fine Gael's Environment spokesman Bernard Allen called on Mr Cullen to examine An Bord Pleanála's decision and said the board must come before Cork County Council to explain its decision.

But Mr Cullen said he could not overrule An Bord Pleanála's decision because it was an independent body. Now the EU has put Ireland under severe pressure to stop exporting its hazardous waste, we must take responsibility for it, he said.

"Incineration is part of the solution to our waste management problem a lot of myths and legends have been put out about it that are totally without foundation, the old mass burners are gone and now we have cutting-edge technology," he told RTÉ.

Mr Cullen rejected claims that the toxic waste incinerator would be a threat to public safety or health.


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