The Tánaiste has effectively ruled out any hopes of the Government invoking new planning powers to block the development of a €160m incinerator in Cork Harbour on grounds of national security.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said it is unlikely that the Government would get the kind of security briefing required on the proposed Indaver incinerator to allow it intervene using the new law.
However, he said he is hopeful there will be a successful application for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission for the incinerator in Ringaskiddy, against the advice of its own inspector.
He was responding to calls from anti-incinerator campaigners who urged the Government to explore the possibility of intervening using the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 which was passed in the Dáil last week. It included a specially introduced amendment which allows the Government to intervene in a planning decision if it believes it compromises or undermines national security.
That decision is arrived at following a detailed briefing from An Garda Síochána and/or the Defence Forces, said Mr Coveney.
Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) said the law should be considered in the context of the Ringaskiddy incinerator, given that the Defence Forces have raised concerns about its possible impact on helicopter operations into the Irish Naval Service headquarters at Haulbowline.
Chase chairwoman Mary O’Leary said: “We hope that if this new legislation provides the potential for exploration that it appears to, that it will be pursued alongside the judicial review that we are currently preparing for.”
Mr Coveney yesterday said the Government would only intervene “on the back of quite significant advice” from the Defence Forces or the gardaí that there was an issue of national security.
“And I suspect the bar would be very high for that,” he said. “There was a particular reason why that amendment was introduced — nothing to do with incineration or anything — that I can’t really go into.
“I’m not surprised that people have raised the question but I think there would need to be very strong evidence from An Garda Síochána and/or the Defence Forces to suggest that national security would be compromised.”
I spoke to @simoncoveney about concerns of residents in the area of the planned M28 motorway, the controversial Ringaskiddy incinerator and Cork firefighters who have voted in favour of industrial action. More @RedFMNews @CorksRedFM across the day pic.twitter.com/uHJUKe1NCe— Fiona O'Donovan (@FionaRedFM) July 9, 2018
When asked if he felt it could be explored in the incinerator planning decision, he said it is unlikely. He said such significant national security issues are very rare and are based on detailed briefings from gardaí and the Defence Forces.
“I think we are unlikely to have that kind of briefing which would result in a recommendation to change this planning decision using that particular law,” he said.
“I have been involved in helping to raise some money to make sure that that is professionally done, because I think a lot of people are struggling to understand how and why this decision was made given the fact that the Bord Pleanála inspector was so clear in terms of his recommendation to refuse, and so I think many people want to see this tested in terms of the process by which the decision came about, and really the only way we can legally do that is to go through a judicial process.”
Chase’s preparations to apply for leave to take a judicial review are at an advanced stage.
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