We began day eight by being given some aerial photographs showing alternative access routes to Haulbowline Island – instead of continuing along the L2545 until you reached the left-hand turn, you could turn left before the proposed incinerator site and through the car park of the NMCI. My dad wasn’t listening to what the senior counsel for Indaver Rory Mulcahy was saying, and instead was scribbling a whole A4 sheet of concerns about the new route.
We also saw the same route from a different angle, and another showing the Beaufort Building superimposed on an aerial map.
The first submission was from Michael Martin, Cobh businessman who set up the Titanic Trail, who has written three books on the history of the area. He goes around the world promoting Cobh to potential investors, but how can he do that with an incinerator in the middle of it? No manner of PR could achieve that, he said, later asking who in their right mind would take a vacation next to a toxic waste facility? “Lush green landscapes and thousands of years of history next to an incinerator? I don’t think so.”
Christine Brownlow, a nurse and CHASE member, spoke on the already high pollution levels in the Harbour area, and how toxic steam from the stack would come down as rain eventually. She told us of the fishermen who rely on the waters for their living – they catch cod, mackerel, small brown crab, lobster, haddock – and the waters they fish in are known to be clean, so having Indaver next door would be a complete disaster for the fishing industry.
She said we shouldn’t trap the people working at our only naval base at the end of a cul de sac, and letting the incinerator be built would be complete lunacy because of what it would mean for our reputation.
Sue Walsh, a civil engineer, mother, and resident of Crosshaven, began by showing us a rare map of the Harbour in the 1900’s, and said that the tourism potential of the area could even be seen before then. She went on to speak of the people of Crosshaven putting a stop to the asbestos dump at Camden Fort, and how the builders had to leave by boat.
Later she referenced San Francisco and their waste policy, which includes a recycling target of 80%, and how Sydney are moving in the same direction and have already closed down two incinerators – “Why are we not following international best practice?” Sue asked.
She spoke about the proud tradition of sailing in the Harbour, and how her children sail with the RCYC most weekends. But due to shipping lanes and water streams, the only safe place for dinghy sailing near Crosshaven is the Curlane Bank area, situated right next to the proposed site. But if there was an accident at the incinerator, it could take up to an hour to get back to shore.
She said she felt privileged to hear the residents of Ringaskiddy speak on Tuesday night, and requested that the audio recording of that night be made available as a history document. (I second that.)
We then heard a submission from Ian Lumley of An Taisce, the latter part of which focused on sea level rise, stating that that Ireland was asking for dispensation from the climate change targets, but we couldn’t get away from the effects of the rising tidal levels. The spokesman added that Ireland has an increased exposure to variable Atlantic storm conditions, and that that plus the rise in sea levels would result in an increased risk from storm events.
An Taisce, he said, endorses the concerns from many other speakers on the incinerator’s impact on tourism, heritage, and amenity, when the Harbour, Spike Island, and Camden Fort are all being promoted.
Following that we heard Dominick Donnelly, a secondary school teacher who has lived all over the Harbour area, was elected to Passage West Town Council for one term, and served as Mayor of Passage West for a year. He said he is a member of the Green Party but that this is his personal submission and is not coming from the Party.
He began by stating simply that we do not need another incinerator to add to the one in Carranstown and Poolbeg – we have quite enough capacity. Even ardent fans of incineration would say that this is premature, he added; in Sweden overcapacity lead to a reliance on the importing of waste, but at least they had the good sense to add district heating to their facilities, something which will not happen in Ringaskiddy.
Next he spoke on overdevelopment, recognising that the development on the peninsula has contributed enormously to the country’s economy, but the same can’t be said on a local level. We have the port, the NMCI, our only naval base, Spike Island, iMERC, he said, but the town has only one road, an inadequate bus service, and no rail link. How is it appropriate to add an incinerator to that?
The community have zero acceptance of this facility, we heard. Dominick said that he has canvassed all around the Harbour, and met a huge number of the locals, and that this incinerator going ahead would be the final straw, as the people would lose faith completely in the bodies there to make their decisions.
Dominick then got about halfway through part five, which focused on policy and politics, before being interrupted by the Inspector. Dominick managed to tell us about incineration becoming a theme 20 years ago with Fianna Fáil, when we saw many proposals for incinerators coming through, then dying down in the Fianna Fáil-Green coalition of 2007-11, and now we’re seeing it back on the agenda with Fine Gael-Labour, including “Minister against the Environment” Phil Hogan abolishing the incineration levy.
The Inspector asked Dominick not to get party political, as this hearing isn’t the forum for it; he should stick to the specifics. Rory Mulcahy added that he had read ahead to the rest of part five and it did not relate. The Inspector concurred; saying that although he hadn’t read ahead he believed Dominick was going down a path not taken by others and it was not appropriate. Dominick went on to part six, on Ireland missing its emissions targets, before reading out a poem he’d written about the hearing, finishing to applause.
After a tea break we heard objections from secondary school pupils at Colaiste Mhuire in Cobh. In fact I didn’t notice anything until I saw most of the table had been vacated for the students.
Introducing them was David Muldowney, from the Board of Management, who said the school has 600 students immediately downwind of the proposed site, and that there is an underlying fear of cancer in the area, considering the rates are 40% higher than in other parts of the country. He said the school has seen two beloved teachers dying as a result of cancer, and that his own daughter, who didn’t smoke and participated in sport, died of lung cancer at thirty. He referenced a paper that described incinerators as “particulate generators”.
The first student we heard was Scott Fitzgerald, a member of the Green Schools committee, who stated that our aim should be zero waste, and that we can reach that if New Zealand can. He described incineration as a “quick fix”, and that adults are the ones in a position of power but it’s his generation that will live with their decisions.
Mikey Whelan started by saying how proud he is of Cork Harbour, but that from the committee meeting room window they can see the proposed site. He wished to express opposition to the incinerator on behalf of all generations.
Jason Morey questioned why Indaver wanted to build in the Harbour, and said he objected to it. He also called out the EPA, stating that they’re supposed to be protecting the environment and that they’re not doing their job.
Stefano Girasole began by asking whose responsibility it is for the deaths of those two young teachers. He said that it is a tradition in the Harbour to study at the NMCI, but who would want to if Indaver were next door? In referencing the master plans for Haulbowline Island and Spike Island, he said that tourism was what kept Cobh going during the recession, but who would want to visit with an incinerator there? “Indaver are not welcome,” Stefano told those at the table opposite.
While listening to the students speak, I looked across to the senior counsel, and I wondered if he would still be doing this job for Indaver if that were his son or daughter objecting from across the floor?
We then heard from Abbie Mackessy, who stated in no unclear terms that she should be living life, and it shouldn’t be her job to worry about this incinerator. She told us about parents of her friends who had died of cancer very recently, and reiterated that her school had lost two teachers in that way. She finished by saying she never wants to worry about opening her classroom window, and called for a study of the Cobh cancer cluster.
Matthew McCarthy said that Cork Harbour is beautiful, but it has been tainted by previous generations. He compared the long-term effects of incineration – particles in the air leading to cancer and other illnesses – and the short-term effects, which would be an explosion or accident. “Are we willing to let our future be put at risk?” he asked, finishing by claiming back the right to breathe clean air whenever we want.
Caitlin Durnin spoke on safety risks to be had, pointing out that the incinerator would be at the end of a peninsula near a heavily populated area, and that accidents do happen – “if it can happen in Belgium, it can happen here.” She questioned if Indaver could guarantee the safety of the students, and if the emergency evacuation plan would really work. She told us that it’s estimated that parts of Cork Harbour will be underwater in forty years, and referenced the WHO guidelines on site suitability the incinerator would break. Addressing the Inspector: “Please consider what we’ve said.”
Euan Laffan, from the Green Schools committee, reminded us that when Indaver’s Meath facility breached the licence, the EPA just changed the rules. He told us this is a huge concern, and asked, “Why should I trust the EPA?” He also spoke on Indaver’s track record, and went on to ask why we need more incinerators when we already have two?
The final student to speak, Laura Stafford, said that she is on the student council, which she described as being like a little government within the school. (I could identify with that: I was elected to the school council in sixth class. I only remember one election promise: I would bring back show and tell.)
Laura said that when she pictures her future life, she pictures living in the Harbour, and she doesn’t want that picture to be ruined by Indaver. She said she doesn’t want the incinerator to be the reason for a family loss, and, becoming visibly moved, she asked Indaver, “Do the honourable thing and leave us alone.”
The teacher accompanying them, Mary White, who coordinates the committee, explained her concerns to us. She said she’s been working in Cobh since 1995, and she has previously taught in Cork and in some of the poorest countries in Africa, but in Cobh was where she found the highest cancer rates. As a teacher, she said, I have a duty of care to people and to my students. She called on the relevant authority to make it their absolute mission to protect the health of young people and to conduct a baseline health study into the cancer cluster.
She also called the proposed site unsuitable, adding that it defies logic, and the technology that would be used is outdated and has been outsmarted by new technology.
The audience had applauded every student individually, and the applause continued as they left the hall.
FF councillor Seamus McGrath then gave his submission to the hearing, and he began by stating that he’s not in favour of incineration for the reasons that it’s outdated and it reduces recycling rates. He added that the health impacts are “disputed”, but that we can’t take that gamble. He also called out Indaver’s attitude of “we own this site, so we’ll make it work”.
He discussed the reasons for refusal following the last oral hearing, reiterated points on the recent improvements of the Harbour, and called Indaver’s plans for only driving their HGVs at off-peak hours unworkable.
Seamus then spoke about the Cork County Development Plan, calling it a “daring move by the Minister” to overrule the councillors on the wording of the plan. He went on to say that the councillors were not told about Indaver’s plans to dump bottom ash in the Bottlehill landfill, and so they didn’t have a chance to debate it in the chamber. He asked that serious consideration be given to the matter.
Seamus said he’d read many articles about air pollution in preparation for this hearing, and he’d concluded that we could put up with increased traffic and with the visual impact of the incinerator, but air is sacrosanct: it is everything.
Rosie Cargin, Kinsale Environment Watch, began by stating that her group and similar ones share a 21st century vision for the Harbour, and continued on to say they endorse and support the objections made by many public representatives and CHASE, adding that the reasons for refusal are stronger now than they were then [in 2009].
Rosie asked if we remembered the chanting and singing that took place during the protest outside the hotel on April 19th, when the hearing began. She quoted: “Have care for our nation; say no to incineration.” And later, “We don’t want incineration … Because we know there’s a better way.” Rosie said she disagrees with everything in Indaver’s glossy brochures, and said we’ve been blinded by complicated graphs and figures that we’re not meant to understand.
The final submission was from a quiet man by name of Martin Murtagh. He told us that he’s never protested before, and never spoken previously at an oral hearing, but that he is here now for his family and his children. Martin told us about the high court case in 2014 – An Taisce v An Bord Pleanála, I believe? – the result of which was that the Board now has to make sure that the EIS provided by a company is in compliance with the relevant EU directive.
He also said how concerned he was on the emergency egress issues for Cobh in the event of a serious accident at the plant, and went on to ask the hearing, “Am I putting my children in harm’s way by living here?” He then asked who is looking after our health, if the EPA and the Department aren’t doing it?
That concluded the eighth day. The hearing will not be sitting on Monday, although it will start on Tuesday at ten.