Former defence minister Willie O’Dea last night sounded a Churchillian battle cry against €10m plans by Irish Cement Ltd to phase out the use of fossil fuels at its factory in Mungret, Co Limerick, in favour of used tyres and solid recovered waste.
Yesterday, An Bord Pleanála announced it had granted planning permission for the controversial plans.
Opponents to the plans, especially those living close to the factory, have expressed outrage at the decision, but Mr O’Dea, who has been a constant loud voice of opposition to the plans, said that “a number of options” still are open to residents, which he said he “will help them pursue”.
He said the matter now lies in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who could decide not to grant Irish Cement a licence to carry out its proposed development.
“There are still options. I’m pinning my hopes on the EPA, who are not concerned with planning, but they are concerned with environmental aspects,” he said.
Mr O’Dea, paraphrasing a quote from Winston Churchill’s 1942 speech on the Allied forces’ victory over the Axis powers in the Second Battle of El Alamein in the Second World War, added: “It’s not the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. Perhaps, it’s merely the end of the beginning of our fight.”
Mr O’Dea said he was “absolutely stunned and gobsmacked” by the granting of planning permission.
Limerick City and County Council initially granted permission for the development in March 2017, despite a number of public protests.
This was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by a group of local residents, as well as Limerick Against Pollution, which led to an oral hearing.
Irish Cement has always maintained its plans do not pose any threat to the local environment. It said the development “is essential to ensure the long-term viability of the Mungret factory, which is currently the only cement factory in Ireland not using alternative fuels and one of the last in Europe not to be availing of these fuels”.
It said the development would protect its current workforce of 80 and create further jobs.
Welcoming the An Bord Pleanála decision, Irish Cement stated: “Replacing fossil fuels in cement factories is standard practice throughout Europe, and is in line with European, national, and regional waste management policy. Irish Cement already uses alternative fuels in our sister plant in Platin, Co Meath.
“The development will reduce the company’s dependence on fossil fuels, will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40,000 tonnes per year, and will help recover valuable resources. It will also make the factory more competitive, and support existing and future employment.”
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