CALL FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION
Information provided in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from CHASE seeking information on meetings and correspondence between Indaver and its agents or representatives and the Department of Environment indicates that meetings took place between Indaver and the Department of the Environment in 2011 for which no minutes or notes are to be found on file.
Two incidences of meetings in 2011 were referred to in letters provided in response to the FOI request, with no notes or minutes in respect of those meetings included even though the meetings fell within the period requested and the scope of the request.
Information was requested for the March – September 2011 period, a time frame which saw a change in Government (Feb 2011), a refusal of planning for the Ringaskiddy Incinerator (9 June 2011) and the abolishment of the incinerator levy (September 2011). Information provided shows it to be a period of active lobbying.
An appeal by CHASE on the basis of an incomplete response and requesting actual detail of the meetings confirmed that on “examination of the available records within the Department and the relevant section, no records could be found in relation to either of these, despite a fresh search of all of the existing files.”
Letters included in the original FOI grant refer as follows to two instances of meetings for which no notes or records were attached, despite those meetings falling within the requested timeframe:
1. In a letter from Mr John Ahern, Indaver to Mr John McCarthy Assistant Sec Department of Environment, dated 1 March 2011, Mr Ahern refers to “our upcoming meeting on 9 March next”.
2. In a letter from Mr John McCarthy, Department of Environment to Ms Jackie Keaney, Indaver dated 24 August 2011, Mr McCarthy refers to Ms Keaney’s letter of 20 July 2011 (also not included in response) and to their meeting on 15 July 2011, with the opening line “Thank you for your letter of 20 July 2011 in follow up to our meeting on 15 July 2011”.
CHASE PRO, Linda Fitzpatrick said “It is of serious concern to us that a company with such vast vested interest in legislative change can hold undocumented meetings with a Government Department and/or it’s officials. It is completely contrary to all best practice guidelines and naturally raises questions.
We believe that further investigation of why notes for these meetings are not on file is merited, as well as investigation of how widespread this practice is. We believe this is necessary to ensure public confidence in the operation of the Dept of Environment and in the transparency of Department dealings with Indaver.
We have no hesitation in stating that we do not trust Indaver. The incredible errors in their dioxin information exposed only by community experts on the final day of the hearing are just one highlight of why this lack of faith is justified. But we need to be able to trust the Department of the Environment.
Our community has been fighting this proposal for over 17 years now, on a site that fails miserably to fulfill siting recommendations for such waste facilities. We have engaged in this process as it is set out before us at every opportunity, but are very concerned at the behind the scenes access which Indaver appear to have at all stages of the process, whether with County Council, with Bord Pleanala via a 3 year pre-consultation engagement before lodging planning, or in this case with the Department of the Environment.”
CHASE has provided a full file of documentation to the 4 Dail representatives for the Ringaskiddy area with a request for assistance via any avenue within their scope in seeking further investigation of Department Environment practice of not keeping notes of meetings.