Funds boost for Indaver incinerator challenge

Donations are pouring in to help fund a possible legal challenge to the controversial decision to grant planning for a €160m incinerator in Cork Harbour.

The GoFundMe account launched by the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) group reached more than €20,000 inside 24 hours.

The single largest donation so far was a €1,000 personal donation from Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath and his brother, county councillor Seamus McGrath.

As campaigners try to raise up to €200,000 to fund a possible judicial review, Indaver revealed it has invested up to €20m on the project to date.

Mr McGrath said it is proof that the “odds are stacked against local communities” seeking to challenge projects under the strategic infrastructure process through which this incinerator proposal was lodged.

“It’s time now for a review of this process,” he said.

“The people in this community have had the equivalent of a suspended sentence hanging over them for the last 17 years. These are ordinary people leading busy lives, raising families, and working; it is incredibly unfair to impose a battle like this on them.”

“It angers people who invest so much in oral hearings and the complaints process to find an inspector can be overruled by board members who could not have had as much experience of the issues as the inspector.”

Seventeen years since Indaver’s first planning application on this site, three oral hearings and several judicial reviews later, An Bord Pleanála finally decided on Thursday to grant planning for the 240,000 tonne-a-year waste-to-energy facility — against the advice of its own inspector. A spokesman for the 10-person board said this happens in about 13% of cases which come before it.

The Irish Examiner has also learned that while board chairwoman Mary Kelly was satisfied that no board members had a conflict of interest in this case, she took extra steps to copper-fasten that position. A memo on the file, dated May 3, 2018, shows how she shortlisted eight board members to take part in the final consideration of the case “to ensure that there can be no perception of a conflict of interest or of any form of bias”.

Paul Hyde and Phil Jones, who chaired the first oral hearing into the project in 2001, and recommended it be refused, were not on the list.

A third board member, John Connolly, recused himself from the process on the same day because of a “potential conflict of interest arising from his former employment” before his appointment to the board. He was a director of the Irish Waste Management Association for 14 years and was also a member of Ibec’s environmental policy committee.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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