The day began with a protest march in the car park of the Carrigaline Court Hotel. A good 200+ people attended with home made placards and printed t-shirts. Myself and my parents were there in our theatrical protective clothing, as well as Dan, Lorna, Eithne, Cormac, and Justin [of the Cork Greens]. In fact it was myself and my dad and Simone O’Flynne who put up the posters around Carrigaline advertising the march.
At 10:30 the hearing started. There was an interjection from CHASE’S solicitor Joe Noonan right at the start; he was stating that the hearing should be adjourned immediately as there was no valid application in the first place. He explained: the application was put in by Indaver Ireland Ltd, to build on land owned by Indaver Ireland – they’re two separate companies. Indaver Ireland is a registered business name of Indaver Belgium, and Indaver Ireland Ltd is thus a separate legal person.
Mr Noonan also stated that the application shouldn’t be for an energy *recovery* centre as the evidence that Indaver’s Meath incinerator meets energy recovery targets is lacking. Indaver says the EPA is satisfied their Meath incinerator meets targets; the EPA says only that Indaver has told them it does meet said targets – (the EPA does not check this). Doubts too were raised during Indaver’s last application as to whether the Ringaskiddy facility could meet the targets, and despite CHASE’s requests no response had been given by Indaver in all these years. Mr Noonan concluded to deafening clapping from the audience.
The next gentleman to make a legal point was Allan Navratil representing East Cork for a Safer Environment. Alan has a degree in environmental sciences. He was speaking on behalf of Attorney Allan Rosenberg, who passed away three weeks ago. I understand that part of Mr Rosenberg’s submission argued that proceedings were against article 45(2)(3) of the Constitution.
The decision to define the incinerator as strategic infrastructure development had been announced on 23 December and had an 8-week window to apply for judicial review, but the relevant documentation only arrived near the end of this 8 week period making an application for review impossible. In addition, Indaver had been given three years of consultation with ABP to perfect a 35kg application, with only a few weeks for objections and preparation for the oral hearing. The people had no time to read 35kg of documents, to organise fundraising and to write submissions and objections.
If you take clean air as a commodity, this unfair process put that commodity out of the public’s hands – and that’s what was unconstitutional.
Because he couldn’t be there all day, Seán Sherlock TD spoke his objection, which focused on concerns on tourism and how the incinerator would affect investment in Cork Harbour. Apologies were given to the Inspector by Cllrs Seamus McGrath and Mary Rose Desmond on behalf of TDs Michael McGrath and Micheál Martin respectively – both men will be speaking at a later date. Cllr Deirdre Ford said the same for Simon Coveney TD.
What followed was a roll call of all objectors: state bodies notified of the application, local organisations, public representatives, and members of the public. This was so that a detailed timetable could be laid out. Included were the HSA, HSE, Irish Water, TII, Southern Regional Assembly – nobody was present from these organisations.
Following this small local organisations – golf and tennis clubs, environmental actions groups, residents associations, nature associations – had their names read out. Ringaskiddy Residents Association (RRA) secured 40 speakers – “for the third time”, their rep reminded the Inspector, to loud applause. My dad – Gordon, Cork Greens representative to the Board – requested 90 minutes for 5-6 speakers from Cork Greens.
It was at this point that Finbarr O’Flaherty from RRA stood and requested that the proceedings be transcribed and posted online. This would allow people who cannot be present at all times to have something to refer to if they wish to comment or reply to something said previously. The audience gave a round of applause and he gained strong support from Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, Ken Curtin, and Gordon. A deal of back and forth between them and the Inspector ensued, with the Inspector insisting he couldn’t give a guarantee as to whether a transcription could be supplied.
The point was raised again when it transpired that there is no independent body publishing proceedings in any way. There was outrage I’d say when it was claimed that the website for the application – www.ringaskiddyrrc.ie – is independent. It is of course owned by Indaver.
The head of the NMCI Student’s Union read their objection before the hearing adjourned for lunch at one.
At two, after lunch, the hearing continued with an opening statement from Rory Mulcahy SC on behalf of Indaver, followed by a PowerPoint presentation from John Ahern. There was opposition to Indaver being allowed to lay down their case (essentially repeating their application), when written objections weren’t allowed to be read out because objectors were not allowed to repeat themselves. The Inspector argued that he had already considered written statements. There was also opposition to Indaver’s experts speaking at all as we hadn’t seen a list of who they were and what their area of expertise was.
Allan Navratil asked us to remember that Indaver are only thinking about money – they are a commercial company there for profit. He spoke forcefully and the inspector tried twice to stop him speaking. A man from RRA said there should be a boycott of the hearing if CHASE’s experts couldn’t question and cross-examine Indaver’s experts, so the inspector stopped proceedings so that at least a list of experts could be made (although he is still not allowing questions).
After a 10 minute adjournment for Indaver to compile and hand out a list of their experts, we began to hear their witness statements. First was David Coakley on land use planning. Then we had Fiona Patterson on site suitability – when she concluded solicitor Joe Noonan pointed out that only half of her statement had been read out, and the part she had omitted included an appendix looking at the WHO guidelines the incinerator would break. He pointed out that an earlier application had been rejected because it broke most of the guidelines, and the previous Inspector had queried whether Indaver had ever seen the WHO guidelines when they bought the site, as it was so unsuitable.
Niall Harte spoke on traffic and transportation; Denis Crowley on the L2545 road upgrade; and Ken Leahy on flood risk assessment.
It’s worth noting that, as of Tuesday night, on the section on the aforementioned website where you find the expert witness statements (http://ringaskiddyrrc.ie/witness-statements-additional-materials/), John Ahern’s presentation and the flood risk assessment from Ken Leahy were not listed.
The hearing concluded at 5:15pm. Dad spoke with a member of An Bord Pleanála who said tomorrow would begin at 10am, continuing with expert witness statements from Indaver, and the day would conclude (early) on completion of the remaining Indaver expert statements to allow everyone to digest the information. On Thursday I understand we’ll hear objections from TDs and councillors.