Explosive Information On Incinerator Decision
Conflict Of Interest In Bord Pleanala Decision On Incinerator
Writes Derry Chambers
Cork Environmental Alliance
According to a report by Eoin English in the Irish Examiner (2nd June, 2018), a memo written by the Chairwoman of An Bord Pleanala, Dr. Mary Kelly, showed she was satisfied that no members of the Board had a conflict of interest in relation to Indaver’s proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy. In fact, she went so far as to exclude two Board members to ensure that there could be no perception of a conflict of interest or of any form of bias.
Board member John Connolly was not among those excluded by Dr. Kelly, the apparent implication being that she did not believe him to have either a genuine or perceived conflict of interest in relation to the case.
For the 14 years prior to his appointment to the Board in September 2017, Connolly had been a director of the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), a trade association and lobbying group that includes the applicant, Indaver.
Connolly, who was appointed to the Board on the nomination of IBEC, had also been the Chairman of the Waste and Resource Management Working Group of an IBEC Committee that had written to An Bord Pleanala in March 2016, just weeks prior to the Oral Hearing, lobbying in favour of the Ringaskiddy incinerator.
Furthermore, the IBEC Committee in question, the Environmental Policy Committee, is chaired by none other than Indaver’s Executive Chairman, John Ahern. Connolly remained on the Committee with Ahern until his appointment to the Board.
Under An Bord Pleanala’s code of conduct Connolly was bound to disclose relationships that are of relevance to the work of the Board. Since Dr. Kelly stated that no board members had a conflict of interest it would appear to leave just two possibilities, either Connolly failed to disclose his involvement in lobbying for the development and his relationship with Executive Chairman of Indaver, John Ahern, or he did disclose and Dr. Kelly failed to highlight the matter and address it as a conflict. This would make her memo a potential breach of the Board’s Code of Conduct, which states that ’employees shall take care to ensure that all accounts, reports or statistics relating to the business of the Board are accurate and are not misleading’.
Connelly recused himself from the case on the 3rd of May 2018, the day the Board met to the decide whether to grant planning and over two years after the oral hearing had taken place. If it is the case that Connolly withheld his involvement in lobbying for the development and his relationship with John Ahern, there are serious questions to be answered as to why he did so.
An Bord Pleanala were aware of Connelly’s work with the Irish Waste Management Association and his role within the Environmental Policy Committee as details of both are included on the Board’s website. The Board were obviously aware that they had been lobbied by the IBEC Committee in relation to the application. If Dr. Kelly, who was responsible for environmental policy during her time at IBEC, was aware of the conflict and failed to exclude Connelly from the case, there are possibly even more concerning questions for An Bord Pleanala.
Given that Connolly was involved in attempts to influence the Board in relation to the proposed incinerator prior to his appointment, it is deeply disturbing that he was put in a position where he would have unfettered access to potential continue lobbying for the development as a Board member. It is unclear to what extent Connolly had access to the case files but from the available records it is apparent that he, along with the other board members, was briefed on the case. Having any dealing with the case in any capacity would be a further breach of the Board’s code of conduct.