Private Members Business Speech in Dáil

 

I wish to speak in support of the government motion. We have made major strides as a society in relation to the recycling of waste. The Irish public have enthusiastically embraced the process of recycling, they want more and more ways to recycle and this government has responded and will continue to show leadership in this area, providing funding to expand our recycling infrastructure.

The National Development Plan will ensure that we exploit new technologies to deal with our waste so that we don’t have to rely heavily on incineration as an alternative to landfill for final disposal.

The Programme rules out adjusting the landfill levy in such a way as to give competitive advantage to incineration and also commits to ensuring that for any further projects, neither the State nor local authorities will be exposed to financial risk through clauses in contracts for waste facilities.

The Programme does not include a legislative prohibition, as such, on incineration, nor would this appear to be consistent with EU legislation.

As Members are aware, the Poolbeg project is the subject of an application by Dublin City Council to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission and an oral hearing has just recently concluded.

As Members are also aware, this project has had a long, fractious and difficult history.

But the signing off on the public private partnership, which will be delivering the project, constitutes the extent of the Government’s involvement – and this took place before Minister Gormley even took office!

In tabling this motion, Ceann Comhairle, the Fine Gael deputies knew very well, that the siting of an individual installation is not a matter in which the Government plays a role- it has been taken out of the political sphere because site selection is a planning issue, a matter for the planning authority, not a matter which is either cleared or promoted by Government.

It is this Government’s policy to support local authorities in implementing the internationally accepted approach to waste management.

Minister Gormley’s position on incineration is well known to all of us, as is indeed, that of my party colleague, Deputy Chris Andrews.

The Minister lodged a comprehensive objection to a proposal to build an incinerator to burn hospital waste on the Poolbeg Peninsula.  The appeal which he jointly took was successful at An Bord Pleanála.

He made a comprehensive submission to An Bord Pleanála, backed up by an oral submission on the last day of the hearing.

He also made a comprehensive submission to the EPA on the application for a waste licence!

  • Fine Gael on the other hand, seem to be convenientlyignoring the fact that it has stated clearly in the past, that it favours incineration as one of the primary means of dealing with waste.  
  • Both Fine Gael and Labour deputies voted for the Dublin Regional Waste Plan in 1998, which included incineration as an option. 
  • And only just four months ago, when the issue of the Poolbeg incinerator came before Fingal County Council, it’s worth noting that Fine Gael voted for the proposal to go ahead, the Labour Party were split down the middle, with one voting for and the other against!

Fianna Fail and the Green party negotiated a Programme for Government which contains very significant commitments in relation to waste management.  It signals a very new approach.  The Programme states that there will be no guaranteed waste stream for incinerators and that there will be a new emphasis on Mechanical Biological Treatment.

So goading Minister Gormley into reacting now, is just sour grapes politics from TDs who have decided to exploit the issue.

This motion is clearly a cynical exercise when you know well that the Minister cannot exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority is concerned.

This is not even clever politics – those who are monitoring this debate know exactly what is going on here!

Fine Gael’s motion is not motivated by concern for the environment, or for the people of Dublin South East sadly, but by blatant opportunism.

So often in the past we have seen negative tactics being pursued by Fine Gael. I am disappointed that this new Fine Gael Parliamentary Party with its injection of fresh blood, increased members, would choose not to come forward with fresh thinking and ideas on waste management, but rather stoop to personalising this motion and attacking an honourable man who has a long track record in environmental protection, both locally and nationally.

Thank you.

ENDS.