THE High Court liquidation of five Whelan group companies has ended the quarry group’s 11-year long battle to construct a contentious €10 million explosives plant on the Shannon estuary.
Planning permission was granted last year for the project at Cahercon, Kildysart, Co Clare, by An Bord Pleanála in spite of strong opposition over a 10-year period from An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment and local groups.
However, the Whelan Group company that secured the permission, Shannon Explosives Ltd, was one of five companies that was liquidated on Friday after the Whelan Group withdrew its petition for court protection.
The group made the move after the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) — which took over €50 million of debts owed to Anglo Irish Bank — opposed examinership because of the proposed large write down of secured debts.
One hundred and twenty jobs have been lost with the winding up of the companies.
In recent months and weeks, Shannon Explosives has been in regular correspondence with Clare Co Council attempting to meet the conditions attached to the permission prior to commencing construction work on the scheme.
The project was to employ 50 in construction stage and when operational was to employ up to 45 people.
The group’s most recent accounts lodged with the Companies Office confirm that the group spent to the end of 2007 €4.7m relating to the licensing and planning of the explosives plant.
Friends of the Irish Environment opposed the plant throughout the planning process over the past 11 years. Last night spokesman Tony Lowes said that while regretting the human cost of jobs lost at the Whelan Group companies, the winding-up “demonstrates how much more powerful economics had become in protecting the environment than environmentalists themselves”.
Mr Lowes said: “The explosive factory was a prime example of the wrong project on the wrong site.
“The local community spent 10 years and many thousands of euro trying to protect their environment.
“Virtually overnight NAMA has done it for them.”
Paddy Whelan, the man that established the Whelan Group 40 years ago and who built up the group to achieve annual revenues of €70 million, has declined to comment.
Mr Whelan comes from a family of entrepreneurs that has its roots in the rural west Clare area of Shragh.
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