31 July 2004

Taxpayer to foot €30m bill for clean-up of steel works site

By Dan Collins
Irish Examiner 31/7/04

THE former owner of Irish Ispat in Cork, who recently bought a house in London for £106 million, should pick up the €30m tab for the clean up of the steel works site, according to the former chairman of Cork County Council.Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, who is remembered for leaving 450 workers high and dry when he closed the plant in June 2001, should not get away free from obligation, Labour's Cllr John Mulvihill said yesterday.

A bid by the State to have the liquidator of Irish Ispat, formerly Irish Steel, meet the estimated costs of making the Haulbowline Island site environmentally safe were dismissed by the High Court yesterday.

Ms Justice Carroll granted an application by the liquidator, Ray Jackson, to be allowed disclaim an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licence requiring a number of environmental safety conditions to be observed at the Haulbowline site.

The cost of cleaning up the site, where hazardous radioactive waste and toxic scrap materials are dumped, will be funded by the Irish taxpayer "unless Mittal is somehow held responsible", said Cllr Mulvihill, who lives near the old plant.

Referring to one of Britain's wealthiest residents, who recently spent €50m on his daughter's wedding bash, Cllr Mulvihill said: "He took over Irish Steel, asset stripped the place, laid off 450 workers and paid minimum redundancy. He also left an environmental mess behind which the Irish taxpayer is expected to pay for. This is absolutely crazy."

Cllr Mulvihill has requested a full report on the matter be brought before next September's meeting of Cork County Council.

In related proceedings brought by the State against Irish Ispat, the judge dismissed the State's proceedings. She adjourned her decision on costs.