Now I don’t know who put flowers in my glass on the evening sitting of Wednesday 4th, but that was truly lovely of you, thank you!
I arrived a little late for the evening session of Wednesday 4th. Jennifer Hayes was talking about the psychological effects of the proposed incinerator, from two angles: firstly, the neurotoxins that can affect the developing brain, and secondly the emotional and psychological effects that people can experience when they are threatened and decisions are made without their participation or consent.
Firstly the neurotoxins. Jennifer described conditions that can be caused by toxic substances that affect a child’s developing brain both before birth and when the child is very small. Although “tolerable daily intakes” have been defined there is really no safe level for many of these substances. It is hard to get definitive proof of their effects because, to get that proof, you’d have to take a number of babies, expose them to known doses of toxins and see what happened to them – you just can’t. So we should never assume that absence of evidence is the same thing as evidence of absence.
Next the mental health effects. Apart from physical environment acting as a stressor (noise, etc), the feeling of threat caused by the incinerator (even before it’s built) can lead to depression and can worsen already existing conditions. People can feel powerless when decisions are forced on them from afar; already people’s lives are being negatively affected by industrial development.
She quoted a few submissions from Ringaskiddy residents, including when the GSK emergency plan was read from – “the GAA hall will be used as a morgue … An Garda Siochána will make arrangements for the dead…” etc. Further, she quoted the gentleman who listed houses in his locality where neighbours had died of cancer. Later she quoted lines such as, “we can no longer see the sea”, “we can’t cross the road for mass”, and “we feel dumped on”. Jennifer said this was all evidence of “chronic stressors” [the threat of the incinerator, feeling of powerlessness, fear of being poisoned, etc]. The existing industry in the Harbour is also putting the people under real stress from noise levels, pollution, and the heavy traffic industry.
The EIS has only 56 words on mental health and these words largely dismiss it. Under the UN convention on human rights, the State has a duty of care to us, and we have the right to enjoy the best achievable standard of health.
I was reminded of the words in the witness statement from Indaver’s medical expert: “In reality, if there could be an impact on health, it is only by emissions of some manner that this could occur”. Jennifer had described the multiple other ways that the incinerator damages health.
Most of the speakers in the evening were Ringaskiddy residents, speaking of their personal experience, much of which underlines what Jennifer had said.
Mark Kennedy is a father, of three children, with a fourth on the way. He questioned how the process could allow this application to go ahead for the third time, then said it’s happening because incineration is profitable. He posed questions that many want answer to: who is this application serving? who has been spoken to (meaning, in secret)? what lobbying has taken place? who gains from it? who is on the Board, and how are they accountable for their decision? The oral hearing process is documented but it’s only a box-ticking exercise; “the people have spoken, but they have not been heard.”
The next speaker Patrick O’Mahony lives near the western boundary of the Indaver site. He queried a number of aspects of the EIS, not least the fact that his and his son’s houses, among the closest to the site (near Rock Farm), are not mentioned in the EIS! (Only Rock Farm is.) He questioned how the “experts” could overlook some of the people closest to the site. The east boundary of the site, supposed to be the cliff, actually doesn’t correspond with the real line of the cliff. The EIS states that Ringaskiddy is not a tourist destination, but that doesn’t match to the reality, where a lot of tourism development is taking place in the Harbour and Ringaskiddy is the place to reach it from.
He reminded us that ABP ruled against a shopping centre in Ballyphehane, in Cork City, because there was no adequate road; surely the same could be done here?
The next speaker was Claire Cullinane, independent councillor for Cobh. She listed the rich connections of the harbour with the wider world, and moved on to politics. The process has not changed but one way to stop the incinerator is through political change. Former Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan had spoken some time before of “putting people first”, but this third application made this a joke. Not one councillor or TD agrees with the application. The people are not being listened to and there is no transparent process.
She quoted the Constitution and the Proclamation. It’s our harbour, she added, and we have the right to live and raise children and play here. She mentioned the protection given to other species when developments are considered, then said (to approval from the audience) “we are an important species, and the harbour is our habitat”.
The incinerator would change the concept of pure air forever, Claire said. Sydney Harbour used to have incinerators around it from 1930-1971, then they were closed down and the Art Deco buildings made into cafes and museums. Cork Harbour is paired with Sydney as the must-see harbour in the world. She spoke of the “soft, beautiful coastline” of this “coastal magnet for sailors”, and echoed others in describing it as “the maritime paradise” of Ireland.
Claire described Indaver as a bully who keeps coming back until they get what they want, before finishing with another quote from the Proclamation to a standing ovation.
John Howard followed, and he began by saying that Ringaskiddy must be “the most generous community” he’s ever seen, because it keeps giving and giving without receiving any of the benefits. “I did a lot of walking in my childhood,” he said, going on to describe to us the route he used to walk to school – including the landmarks like a very high wall, a pub, and several farms. He said these landmarks have gone and been replaced by factories and pharmaceutical plants, and you can no longer see Cobh from Ringaskiddy.
The beneficiaries of this industry are from outside Ringaskiddy, he said. John mentioned his parents too: his father served the country for 25 years, before working 25 years in the steel industry. My mother, he said, motioning towards her as she stood up, just survived cancer. But, he went on, eight people out of the ten houses near us have either survived or died from cancer, before calling for a baseline health study into the Ringaskiddy area.
He said that there is no profit in monitoring [air emissions, etc], or in looking good in that respect; the attitude is that if it does the job, that’s enough. He also reiterated that the small L2545 road is now our trump card [in terms of blocking it].
John received applause when he said how ironic it is that we fought against the British 100 years ago, but now we fight against our own traitors.
Aida O’Sullivan from Monkstown spoke following John; she began by saying she plays golf, and has played it all over the world, but there is no place more picturesque than Cork. “It is of unparalleled beauty.”
But, she added, Cobh has a 40% higher cancer rate than the rest of Ireland – and she asked, what if it rises if this incinerator is built? will An Bord Pleanála be proud?
Speaking of the chosen site she said it remains unchanged – it is still at the end of a cul de sac. On possible accidents, she said one can be guaranteed, and asked that if we knew the chance of one was only 1%, would An Bord Pleanála be willing to take that chance? Aida finished by asking that the wool not be pulled over our eyes, and stating that the application is wrong on all levels.
Michael McGrath, local TD for Fianna Fáil, began his submission to the hearing by wishing to reaffirm his opposition to the development. In the non-technical summary of the EIS, he continued, the proposal is described as a “resource recovery centre” – and he said, “I will refer to is simply for what it is – an incinerator.”
Michael went on to express how unfair it is on the community that they’ve had to fight this fight three times – calling it a classic David v Goliath case. He also said it was no wonder Indaver could afford to come back a third time, bearing in mind their income in 2014 was over half a billion euro, and their profit pre-tax was €45 million.
He called the application an “abuse of the planning process”, echoing many other speakers, and said that the Strategic Infrastructure legislation needs to be overhauled because of how it is being misused.
On planning, Michael said that this proposal is not compatible with the recent development of the Harbour, going on to say the context has changed completely since 2011, as the Harbour is now being reinvented as a place of education, research, and clean energy.
He later said the proposal would constitute overdevelopment of the site, would injure the amenities of the area and nearby property, and would not be in accordance with planning or development of the area. Michael was quoting from the conclusion of the Board’s reasons for refusal following the previous application.
He received applause when he asked what the incinerator would do to the value of property in Ringaskiddy or Shanbally.
On the N28 road upgrade, he said he will believe it when he sees it – to agreement from those listening. We heard that there is no timeline for the construction, the land has not even been bought, and there isn’t a commitment for the capital needed.
Michael also said he was struck by the objection from the Defence Forces, and asked whether we’re seriously going to let through a development which would inhibit the use of our Naval Base.
He finished with a sporting metaphor: comparing Ringaskiddy to Leicester City as a big-hearted community taking on a powerful interest with deep pockets. “But sometimes the little guy does win. This local community has won before and can do so again.” He also received a standing ovation.
The next speaker was Ken Curtin, resident of Cobh and election candidate with the Social Democrats for Cork East. He began by quoting a tweet posted by Patrick Coveney on the opening day of the hearing, which read: “Given recent investments in Cork harbour cleanup and innovative maritime research hub is incinerator not ‘madness’?”
Patrick Coveney is the chief executive of Glanbia, a company with 6,000 employees and a turnover of €2.8 billion.
Ken went on to analyse and criticise the expert witness statements from the Indaver tables, as well as the opening statement of Rory Mulcahy and John Ahern’s presentation. On the statement of Dave Coakley, Ken said it is laughable to say that the colours and shape of the building will help it integrate into the surrounding landscape. He also questioned part 3.6 of the statement, which details Mr Coakley’s response to concerns raised by many people in relation to the tourism impact this will have on Cobh.
On the statement from Fiona Patterson, Ken looked at some of the WHO exclusionary criteria for a facility like this. As part of this he reiterated the concern raised previously by him, for which I have not seen an answer, of the issue of explosives and armaments being stored on Haulbowline Island. There would surely be a danger associated with having a toxic waste facility in close proximity to such materials.
“Flooding is flooding,” he said, in response to Ken Leahy’s witness statement, which acknowledges that pluvial flooding occurs on the site, but claims this doesn’t reach the criteria for a flood zone. Ken asked if that criterion needs re-examination, as flooding is flooding, and even Indaver have admitted the site floods.
On the submission from the Department of Defence, Ken considered it “the most important document to emerge in this oral hearing.” He further said the possibility of a no-fly zone around the nearby islands should be reason enough for no such a development to be built on this site.
In his conclusion, Ken says it sends out a clear message that all TDs and councillors in the area are unanimously opposed to this, bearing in mind they can rarely agree on anything. He gave the example of spending four meetings discussing whether a comma in a document should be kept or removed. In the end they wrote two documents, one with and one without the comma.
When you put all the submissions and everything else together, Ken finished, it should be easy to find the answer to Patrick Coveney’s tweet: yes, this proposal is madness.
The final submission of the sitting was from Bruce Hannah, from the National Space Centre, which I understand is a satellite ground station with staff in the Beaufort Institute and IMERC. (When I was small I used to want to be a “solar system scientist” – of course I meant astronomer.)
Bruce said that if the proposal went through, staff already there would have to decide on whether they wanted to continue working there. The NSC would also have to inform new staff of an incinerator being literally across the road, which may make the recruiting of staff difficult.
He pointed out how Indaver describe their incinerators as “well run”, and asked if Antwerp was “well run”. He also described incineration as an “industrial jack-in-the-box, with the spring being wound tighter and tighter, and no one knows when it will pop.” That fantastic metaphor rounded up the evening.
I’d just like to remind you of the 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 issue 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 email@example.com
If it is written longhand, if at all possible try and pass on a copy, thank you.