An incinerator in Cork Harbour would be similar to the notorious nuclear power-plant in The Simpsons, an oral hearing into the proposed application by Indaver Ireland in Ringaskiddy heard yesterday.
The submission was made by a student from Coláiste Muire, Cobh, on behalf of his fellow schoolmates, who won a standing ovation from the public gallery as they argued passionately against locating the incinerator near their school.
On day eight of An Bord Pleanála’s hearing into the proposed incinerator, the students, aged from 13 to 17, were joined by board of management members and teachers, arguing that the disproportionate rate of cancer in Cobh’s recent history was reason enough for the State planning authority to reject the proposal.
First year student Euan Laffan said the proposal gave him flashes of Mr Burns’ nuclear power plant in The Simpsons and that made him fear Cobh could be turned into the “Springfield of the south” — a reference to the US city where the Simpsons live.
Green Schools committee member Scott Fitzgerald, aged 17, said that the incinerator would be an eyesore from the school’s view over the harbour, arguing that Ireland should follow the lead of New Zealand in its ‘zero-waste’ approach. An incinerator would be a quick fix, he said.
“My generation is increasing its awareness,” said Scott. “Yet adults are considering the lazy way out.”
First year student Jason Morey said it seemed to him that the Environmental Protection Agency was not doing its job.
He added: “Why are adults trying to destroy the environment when students are trying to preserve it?”
Second year student Stefano Gerasole said two beloved teachers in the school had succumbed to cancer and that Cobh had cancer levels 43% higher than the national average. He added that Indaver was not welcome and that the community was still united after 15 years of fighting against an incinerator.
“You would not let a three-year-old smoke a cigarette. Why would you let a child breathe this?” Stefano asked.
Transition year student and vice-chair of the student council, Matthew McCarthy, said Cobh was “tainted by the scars” of previous generations.
“We are beginning to sort the mess out,” he said. “This would be yet another wound in our harbour.”
Second year student Caitlin Durnan said that if there was an explosion at an Indaver facility in Belgium, which occurred in February, then it could happen in Cobh.
“Can Indaver guarantee the safety of students? Can they exit safely?,” she asked. “If it happened in Belgium, then it most definitely can happen here.”
Laura Stafford left the public gallery in hushed silence as she broke down wondering what her life would be like as she started a family in Cobh in the future.
“The people of my area have suffered enough. We don’t want to live in fear. I love Cobh and don’t want to be forced to move away,” she said through tears.
Teacher Mary White said she had worked in a poverty-stricken area of Africa for two years, yet the incidence of cancer “did not even come close”. An incinerator would “laugh in the face of hope” of the students and defy all logic, she said.
A spokesperson for Indaver said: “Indaver is confident that modern incineration is a well-proven technology, suitable for its site in Ringaskiddy and which will have no negative impact on the environment. Currently, there are more than 450 incinerators operating safely throughout Europe, many of which are located in busy, urban areas including Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, and London.”
The hearing, chaired by An Bord Pleanála inspector Derek Daly, continues next week at the Carrigaline Court Hotel.
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