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Irish Examiner - 20-04-07
Incinerator vow - Why not your backyard Mr McDowell?

This political kite was floated by the Minister for Justice as he launched anti-stab vests for gardaí, before headed off to the opening day of An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the proposed incinerator at Croke park, which the board decided on after more than 3,000 objections to the project.

By any standard, the McDowell stance on the incinerator is a blatant example of the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) syndrome.

The Planning Board will decide on the bid by Dublin City Council to locate an incinerator at Poolbeg, which they say will take 25% of Dublin’s waste and provide heating for tens of thousands of homes in the capital.

It is opposed by most local representatives in the constituency, including TD’s Ruairi Quinn (Labour) and John Gormley of the Green Party.

In a war of words, the Tánaiste has accused his political opponents of engaging in rhetoric while, in turn, he is charged with blatant opportunism in a bid to regain credibility in this controversy.

By making the incinerator a pre-condition of PD involvement in any future government, McDowell has pulled off something of a political stroke.

This echoes his much-publicised PR stunt in the last election campaign, when he famously scaled a pole to remind voters that the PDs, who like to see themselves as guardians of the high moral ground, were necessary to rein in the worst excesses of Fianna Fáil, a pledge long since diluted.

In characteristic fashion, Mr McDowell does not mince his words. Financially, he says, the project has collapsed.

Claiming the Danish developers are being kept on a “life support machine”, in pretence that the 600,000-tonne incinerator can go ahead, he states Dublin city council will have to seek a new public-private partnership.

Politically, he argues that such a large incinerator is in breach of policies agreed between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats five years ago.

Rejecting that he is going against government policy, the minister says the Poolbeg venture was never discussed at a Cabinet meeting.

Drawing a fine distinction, he argues that mass burn incinerators of this kind had been ruled out in the programme for government whereas thermal treatment, based on prior extraction of all recyclable materials, was agreed.

This would not cut much ice with the anti-incinerator lobbies of Meath and Cork.

Not surprisingly, the attempt to tie Poolbeg into a future government package has been greeted with open scepticism by Green Party chairman and Dublin South East TD John Gormley.

Accusing the minister of opportunism, he claims the PDs are busy stealing clothes from the Greens and emphasises that the Government voted down a Green Party motion to stop the incinerator going ahead.

Every politician in Dublin South East has come out against this incinerator.

With pollution, safety and traffic congestion the burning issues of this controversy, the public consensus that it is too big and in the wrong place appears to hit the nail squarely on the head.

Though it is now an election issue, with four local authorities arguing that the plant is both safe and necessary to fulfil a European Union directive on reducing landfill, Bord Pleanála’s hands may be tied.

© Irish Examiner


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