30 June 2008


Dan Boyle, Senator (Green) 30/6/08

Haulbowline is an issue that I've commented on a lot in my time as a local politician.
Last week I trawled through my files on the subject and came up with dozens of pages of press releases, Dáil speeches and submissions to Bord Pleanala and Environmental Protection Agency oral hearings.

I must admit that I am surprised that many now appear to be surprised. Haulbowline has long been the most contaminated site in Ireland. It has been known how much and what type of hazardous material is there. I have referred to these statistics in the speeches, submissions and press releases I've made over the years.

Many of those who are seeking to make political capital on this have been until now utterly silent on the environmental hazards of Haulbowline, and sometimes have even defended the worsening of those hazards such as through the shameful Irish Ispat deal in 1995.

Much spinning has been going on. The sub contractors whose work went beyond where they were meant to, were creating an environmental risk. I have no confidence in a company that has a judgement for illegal dumping against it, and I question how they were ever allowed to work on the island. Hazardous material was being removed without any containment structures being in place. I believe the Department of the Environment was correct to ask this company to leave the site.

There is no cover up and with a Green Party Minister for the Environment there cannot be. We did not approve of this waste being dumped here and we are more than aware of the need to have waste cleared safely. The inference I took from the Minister’s statement on the health risks that exist, was in relation to the immediate risks as the polluted materials are contained. There is, of course, a long term environmental health risk while the material remains on the island. Getting cabinet approval for this will be the John Gormley's biggest test. This clean up will cost several hundreds of millions of euro. It is a cost that has to be met.

Justifiable cynicism continues to exist among residents of the Cork Harbour area about how officials of several State agencies have colluded in creating and then sought to minimise the threat posed by inaction on Haulbowline. They deserve better and the Minister for the Environment has a huge responsibility to show that things can be done better and far differently. I am encouraged by his action on Friday to appoint consultants to assess the present risk caused by removal of material in an unsafe manner. This Tuesday he will be meeting with local residents, the Minister has told me that he will make all necessary information available. I further believe that a consultative committee with local participation should be put in place. This committee should have full and regular access to whatever subsequent information becomes available about the monitoring of the site, and what materials are being removed how and when.

Reassurances to Cork Harbour residents have to go beyond this. The Minister has further told me that not only will his department do all it must do, but also he will seek to convince the government in general and several of his cabinet colleagues of other confidence measures that are needed. Chief among these would be to finally prepare a Cork Harbour base line Health Survey, as was once suggested by Dr. Rory O’Hanlon when he was Minister for Health in 1989.

If there is one outstanding benefit of the issue of Haulbowline coming to the fore again, it is that it gives an opportunity for once and for all to deal with this scandal fully, effectively and in ways that public confidence can be properly restored. I am confident that only a Green Party Minister for the Environment in these circumstances can help to achieve that.


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