I go to my seat at the table on the eleventh day of the hearing, Thursday 5th, to be asked to move by the first speakers of the day because they wanted my chair. I’m polite; I say it’s fine, the chair’s all yours, and I find myself on the Indaver table. I say to myself, it’s grand, when they’ve finished speaking I can have my regular chair back.
The first speakers were an elderly retired couple – Kevin Mulcahy and his wife. Kevin was an architect before retiring, and is a fellow of the Royal Institute of The Architects of Ireland.
He began by referencing the news we all heard that morning, about the wildfire near a town of 88,000 people in Canada. The people all had to be evacuated, he said, and some of their cars didn’t have enough petrol to retreat to a safe distance. He added that there was only one road in and out of the town.
Kevin then went on to speak of their lovely house in the bay. He later said he welcomes the wind turbines, calling them “a work of art”. Turning to the proposed site in front of us, he called it an “insane location for such a development.” He also said it was patently unfair to have such little time to prepare, after Indaver had three years with An Bord Pleanála.
His wife then read out their objection, which made some very good general points. When she mentioned the possibility of an explosion at the site, Kevin interrupted to say, “This was prophetic,” in reference to the explosion at Indaver’s facility in Antwerp, Belgium, where there was the incident involving a pre-heated truck on the 26th of February.
The next objection we heard was from Rob Bateman, Passage West, who spoke while showing us many photos of yachts sailing in the Harbour, giving a bit of commentary on each one.
One of the first photos was of a beautiful sunrise on the water. Rob told us his dad used to work on a combined military and rescue helicopter, and was also a contract photographer. Rob said he used to play on the docks where the ships were being built, as that’s where his dad was most of the time.
We saw a picture of a Brittany Ferries liner; “our most regular visitor, in and out every Saturday from March to October … And that’s one hell of a lot of cabin windows, looking at the Harbour.”
Rob gave credit to Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Defence. (Now former Minister in those departments as I write this.)
Rob mentioned that Simon was brought out on a boat to see the Harbour, and he said that Simon then got the ball rolling for the recent positive developments we’ve seen in the area.
We saw pictures of Rob’s kids on a yacht; he told us that for his son’s thirteenth birthday he got to drive dad’s boat – Rob joked that although he is antagonistic, he prayed a little anyway.
“If Curlane Bank was a football pitch, this application would be handed right back.” (Curlane Bank is a sailing area adjacent to the Indaver site.)
On the topic of rescue helicopters, Rob told us that he often seems them flying by at speed high above, and hopes that whoever’s inside is okay. But when the helicopters are barely crawling along, very close to the ground, they’re looking for a missing person. It is essential they get there in time; he added how difficult it is to fly a helicopter through a plume such as what we’ll see from the incinerator.
Rob told us a story of when his son stormed out the house and cycled down to the Harbour to take the boat out. He described the search for his son, and said how he called the network of sailors in the area and asked that they keep an eye out. He drove down to where he knew his son would be sailing, and waited in the car with the keys to the rescue boat.
“We need that chopper,” he stated.
Rob told us about the Kinsale Road Landfill; in the right conditions you can smell it from the Harbour. He went on to say that incineration should be run by private companies, expressing no faith in the local authorities being in charge of it – but that the private companies need strict regulation.
Rob told us he couldn’t find the R1 formula on the EPA website, although he could find something similar on the British Environmental Agency’s site. He said that the EPA not being at this hearing is a matter of concern, and it means one thing: they’re not interested.
“I hate this company, I hate Indaver.” You can argue all day about whether you think incineration is good or bad, he continued; but they want to build something that impinges on the Harbour I love. Rob asked us to replace “need” [for incineration] with “market”. “There isn’t a need for incineration, there’s a market for it.” Using chocolate as an analogy, he said we don’t need chocolate, but we buy it because it’s there.
“If they build it, the waste will come.”
Following Rob, we heard from Dina Dwyer from Monkstown. She asked why we’re even here at this hearing; we have enough incineration capacity, and if Indaver start importing from Europe the other countries will see Ireland as the “ideal dumping ground for waste”.
She also said the new motorway is not viable until the Jack Lynch Tunnel is upgraded. In the event of accidents and long-term health effects, any more hospital cases would put serious pressure on our health services. If you want to take action because of ill health against these huge companies it is often lengthy and costly, she said.
In her conclusion she referenced the objection of Mark Elmes last week, who spoke of the Hanrahan v Merck, Sharpe and Dohme case. The case followed John Hanrahan’s cattle becoming seriously ill and dying from air emissions from the Merck on-site incinerator. Dina spoke about a friend of hers whose mares often either aborted their foals or gave birth to deformed ones, as a result of living too close to an incinerator.
We had a break in the mid-morning, following which we were to hear a document from Indaver responding to the submission from the then Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Here’s the background:
The Department on the 22nd of April were responding to a question from Cllr Marcia D’Alton, regarding the effects of nanoparticles on aquatic species. The Department in their submission referenced a number of articles which examined the issue.
They concluded that although “the supposition that engineered nanoparticles have adverse effects in marine ecosystems … is not scientifically verified” from the articles cited, there are known physiological effects and a study of this should be part of the NIS. They also recommended that a review of the literature looking into this matter be done, and it too form part of the NIS.
Indaver then came back, on the 5th of May, today, with a response compiled by their expert witnesses Carl Dixon, Dr Edward Porter, and Dr Fergal Callaghan. (The “Dixon Brosnan” report.)
They introduced the document immediately after we returned from the break. The solicitor for CHASE, Joe Noonan, stated clearly his objection to being given more documentation from Indaver, and said he was leaving – he wouldn’t stay to listen to it. Mary O’Leary, chairperson of CHASE, concurred in reiterating that we don’t have the time or resources to go through every bit of paper and respond to it. She asked again that we be referred to the EIS where possible.
My dad pointed out that to ask questions about the document (which my dad and others want to do) there wouldn’t be time to prepare properly. The Inspector replied that he was going to let the document be read into the record anyway; adding that the NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Services) may want to respond. I believe Joe left at this point.
Mamie Bowen, Monkstown, suggested that the Inspector read the document over the weekend and then make a decision. The Inspector seemed to agree with that – before Rory Mulcahy, SC for Indaver, said that Indaver want to respond to concerns from the Department, and the only way they can do it is through providing documents like this one. The Inspector then decided the document should be read “on the basis of consistency” as all other previous documents have, and said that the NPWS would be notified.
Fiona Patterson, one of the Indaver expert witnesses, began reading the document. As she started, everyone else left the hall almost in unison, as a mark of support for Joe. There were only four members of the community left.
We stood chatting in the corridor outside, occasionally checking to see if she’d finished and the next objector had begun speaking yet. Gertie O’Driscoll kept the door open so Indaver could hear the chatter outside – to annoy them.
Here’s what the Indaver experts said in the document: They started by reviewing an extensive piece of literature on effects from engineered nanoparticles on wildlife. They concluded that there is “no clear scientific evidence” indicative of “a significant risk to birds”. (Birds tie into this as some species eat fish.)
They then discussed the production of nanoparticles from incinerators, which of course they said was very small. They define nanoparticles as being between 1-100 nanometers big, and then quoted a paper saying everything above one micrometer is “almost completely eliminated”.
A micrometer is 1,000x the size of a nanometer. My dad says this is like saying, “Don’t worry about a grain of sand, because our filters take out everything bigger than golf ball.” The quote they gave also wasn’t about nanoparticles at all, it just used reassuring words.
The rest of document seeks to confuse, or at least has that effect. It remains to be seen whether this response will to be enough for Indaver to overcome this issue.
The document was read into the record to an empty hall.
When Ms Patterson finished speaking we returned to hear John Twomey’s submission. He said he was born in Shanbally in 1946 and has lived here all his life; has seen all the changes to the Harbour. He spoke of how our neighbours are jealous of how beautiful the area is.
40 years ago, he said, I was the chair of the Ringaskiddy Residents Association, and I called for a baseline health study into the Harbour area. He said he’s seen the cancer rates go up, and that the health of the people is of no consequence to the EPA or to the dirty industries.
John said Indaver are applying for a facility which is a “smoking bomb ready to blow … In Ringaskiddy we have experience of this.” We’ve heard what to do in an emergency, he continued; we phone the Gards in Carrigaline, they’ll sort it out – well I phoned about a passport inquiry and got referred to the station in Cork.
John concluded that we need to say No to Indaver, to cancer, and to explosions; and Yes to a clean Harbour and healthy people.
The hearing adjourned early at a quarter past three. I immediately went to Boots to treat myself to a new eyeshadow.
Elizabeth Hourihane was scheduled to speak but she didn’t arrive. Also, I got the name of the councillor who spoke on Wednesday’s evening sitting – she was an independent councillor for Cobh Claire Cullinan.
Schedule for next week:
Starting Monday it will be all questioning; on Monday we’re to have questions on policy matters, suitability of the site and possible alternatives, plus landscaping and visual impacts.
If that can be rounded up in a day, then on Tuesday we will have questions on infrastructure (traffic, access to the site, and flooding) and possibly issues on coastal erosion and geology generally.
Wednesday is scheduled to be for health, air quality, and other impacts on humans. The next issues will be impacts to nature and cultural heritage.
That’s just a preliminary agenda; issues will be dealt with in that order but not necessarily on the day stated, depending on how long everything takes to debate. My dad Gordon Reid will be taking part in the questioning on health and air pollution. Also, I’ve been asked to remind you that anyone can ask a question, you don’t have to be an expert!
Submissions are now over – please do contact me if I wrote about your submission and there’s something you want changed or added. There is an archive being set up, so if your submission is in digital format please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
If it is written longhand, if at all possible try and pass on a copy, thank you.