Toxic Waste Facility Danger To Irish Navy
Opinion Piece by Paul O’Mahony
Building a toxic waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy in Cork makes no business sense and would destroy recent improvements made in the tourism sector in the Cork Harbour area. The supposition that an incinerator is needed to deal with Ireland’s waste is completely false. There is already an incinerator being built in Poolbeg in Dublin, which according to Green Party member Oliver Moran is, “more than capable of dealing with Ireland’s needs… so there is no need for an incinerator in Cork”. In view of these circumstances, the idea of destroying the beauty and wonder of Cork Harbor and its tourist related businesses is inconceivable.
The recent scuppering of a Pfizer merger deal with Allergan also highlights a new reality within the international pharmaceutical industry. Ireland’s position as a low tax haven for international conglomerates may be coming to an end. Tighter restrictions by the U.S. government have led to a crackdown on tax avoidance schemes by American companies. Hillary Clinton welcomed the abandoning of the Pfizer-Allergan deal, stating that the U.S. needs to “close the loopholes that let corporations escape paying their taxes”. If this current policy is continued, as it is expected to, there is every reason to believe that corporations, in the long term, will eventually abandon Ireland and return to their home countries or move elsewhere.
This being the case, and given the fact that we have already established that the facility in Poolbeg will be more than big enough to deal with all of Ireland’s waste, then we can only assume one thing; the facility in Cork is being built, not with the goal of dealing with the country’s own waste, but rather with the goal of importing waste from around Europe and burning it in Ireland. This would, in essence, turn Cork into a dumping ground for toxic waste from all over Europe. This cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances.
What is startling is the manner in which this application flies in the face of accepted realities. Cork has invested heavily in environmentally friendly research and tourism. Business in the harbour area has been boosted heavily, with thousands flocking to see the rejuvenated Spike Island as well as the beautiful Camden Fort in Crosshaven. As well as this, the proposed site of the incinerator is almost directly opposite the state of the art Beaufort Research Laboratory, a UCC run facility, dedicated to maritime and sustainable energy research.
What must also be strongly highlighted is that any serious accident at the proposed site of the incinerator could physically trap hundreds of navy men and women on Haulbowline Island naval base. The Irish Naval base in Haulbowline is on an island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Given that the proposed incinerator site is at the other side of that bridge, a serious incident blowing toxic fumes into the air could render the bridge unusable and put the men and women in the naval base at risk, as well as families with women and children still located on the island. The probability of this occurring cannot be overstated, given that the Indaver factory in Belgium suffered an explosion only weeks ago, resulting in panic in the area, as locals were advised to close all windows and doors. As well as the risk to those who would be trapped on the Island, there is of course the danger it poses for the local communities in Ringaskiddy, Cobh, Carrigaline, Monkstown, Crosshaven, Passage West and Rochestown. In 2011 the National Cancer Registry of Ireland stated that Cobh already had a cancer rate 40% higher than the national average. Such figures show why there is already a deep distrust by local communities towards multinational companies dealing with such highly toxic and cancerous materials.
Any argument made for the necessity for a toxic waste incinerator in Cork does not hold weight. It is neither in the short-term nor the long-term interest of the country to allow such a facility to be built in one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. Robert Kennedy once stated “too much and for too long, we have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things”. Any decision made now by unelected officials that puts the lives of the many at risk for the financial gain of the few must be challenged strenuously and fought vigorously.