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Sunday Tribune - 7 November 2004

Cabinet split on incineration
Minister for Environment will go ahead with incineration plans, despite opposition

Stephen Collins
Political Editor

Environment minister Dick Roche is determined to press ahead with the introduction of incineration, despite the opposition of some of his cabinet colleagues to specific projects and the out-right opposition of the Greens to any incinerator.

The minister told the Sunday Tribune that it was not honest of anybody to suggest that Ireland could have a coherent waste management policy that did not include incineration.

Roche said it was quite understandable that the public would have concerns about incineration but he said that politicians should stop stoking people’s fears and engage in a full and open debate about all the issues involved.

On Friday the Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea, came out against a proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork while the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Micheal Martin, has also opposed the same project. The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, is on record as opposing an incinerator in the Dublin docks area.

Green Party TD Dan Boyle, from Cork, condemned double standards on the part of some ministers. “As long as the government’s policy remains the promotion of incineration, this type of Pontius Pilate-like hand-washing by ministers cannot go unchallenged. Not wanting an incinerator in their own political strongholds is the ultimate hypocrisy,” he said.

Roche said that the government’s approach to incineration was firmly grounded on the internationally accepted standards which placed most emphasis on waste prevention and minimisation, followed by re-use, recycling and energy recovery so as to leave the least possible amount for disposal in landfill sites.

“Those European countries which are recognised as among the most environmentally advanced, such as the Netherlands and Germany, combine high rates of recycling with the extensive use of modern, highly-regulated thermal treatment facilities,” said the minister.

He added that even if the government achieved its very ambitious targets for waste management by 2013 – which involve diverting 50% of household waste from landfill, recycling 35% of municipal waste and 85% of construction waste – incineration would still be necessary.

“The big issue is how we conduct the public debate on incineration. If we can have a debate in which all the facts are put before the people and considered in a calm fashion, I believe it will be widely accepted that there is no way of dealing with the waste issue without using incineration”.

The minister said that public health was a prime concern of the government. “It is insane to suggest that any government would set out to damage public health.”


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