EU Commission

The objectives of the mission to Ireland were to investigate and respond to several petitions submitted by Irish citizens, while at the same time allowing the Committee to consult the authorities at national and local level about ways in which certain issues raised by the petitioners might be best resolved. These issues include the Dublin Bay Incinerator at Poolbeg; the M3 motorway project at Tara and Lismullen; issues related to drinking water in Galway, Carreroe (An Cheathrú Rua) and Kilkenny; fundamental rights of EU citizens living in Western Gardens Limerick; problems related to the possible discontinuation of water distribution from Bleach Lough; problems of waste disposal and pollution from the Aughinish Aluminium Plant; impact of the N8 toll road on the community of Watergrasshill; illegal quarrying near Carrigtwohill and West Cork; retired farmers' pension schemes; Bio-fuel initiative; respect for fundamental rights and problems of the Irish Mental Health Act; problems related to acquisition of property for non-local residents and people with MS; problems with the Milk Quota regulation as a license or an asset; rest periods for Irish truck drivers; the dramatic situation at Dan Brennan's farm and his shrinking cattle; fluoridation of water and effects on health.


Introduction:

 

The objectives of the mission to Ireland were to investigate and

respond to several petitions submitted by Irish citizens, while at the

same time allowing the Committee to consult the authorities at national

and local level about ways in which certain issues raised by the

petitioners might be best resolved.

 

The members of the delegation were pleased to be able to count on the

support and advice from Irish members of the Committee who, as our

guidelines preclude members from the country visited forming part of

the official delegation, joined at various points in an ex officio

capacity: Kathy Sinnott - 3rd Vice-Chairman of the Committee, Mairead

McGuinness, Proinsias de Rossa and Marian Harkin.

 

The timing of the visit, which took place shortly after the appointment

of a new government in Ireland, allowed members of the delegation to

meet with Dick Roche TD, Minister for European Affairs, and John

Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment and very constructive

exchanges concerning the rights of European citizens were held with

both. Prior to these meetings, in depth discussions with senior

officials from several ministries, coordinated by the European Affairs

ministry, allowed members of the delegation to obtain comments and

explanations on all the topics which had been chosen by the Committee

for investigation.

 

Members of the delegation wish, from the outset, to place on record

their sincere thanks to all the officials involved who devoted a

considerable amount of time and effort, and indeed patience, in order

to respond to the many questions and issues raised by members on behalf

of petitioners. The assistance of the Irish Permanent Representation in

Brussels and the European Parliament Office in Dublin was also most

valuable.

 

Locally, the delegation met with the Mayor of the County of Galway and

senior county officials and with senior members of Dublin City Council

and Kilkenny Council. At both of these meetings the delegation was

impressed with the courtesy and helpfulness of all concerned,

demonstrating a real spirit of cooperation with the Petitions Committee

in the interests of local citizens.

 

Most of the issues raised in the course of the visit had already been

the subject of discussion in full Committee and members therefore had

not only the Committee's preliminary findings in mind, but also the

contribution made by the European Commission on many of the petitions

submitted. In addition however, the delegation was able to avail itself

of the opportunity, while in Ireland to meet with many people who were

able to submit new petitions as well as meet with and talk to members

of the delegation. Meetings in Galway, Cork and Dublin allowed this.

 

Thus, in the course of three full days of meetings the following

substantive issues were investigated with petitioners and local

associations, often explaining directly to members of the delegation

the extent of their concerns and requests: the Dublin Bay Incinerator

at Poolbeg; the M3 motorway project at Tara and Lismullen; issues

related to drinking water in Galway, Carreroe (An Cheathrú Rua) and

Kilkenny; fundamental rights of EU citizens living in Western Gardens,

Limerick; problems related to the possible discontinuation of water

distribution from Bleach Lough; problems of waste disposal and

pollution from the Aughinish Aluminium Plant; impact of the N8 toll

road on the community of Watergrasshill; illegal quarrying near

Carrigtwohill and West Cork; retired farmers' pension schemes; Bio-fuel

initiative; respect for fundamental rights and problems of the Irish

Mental Health Act; problems related to acquisition of property for

non-local residents and people with MS; problems with the Milk Quota

regulation as a license or an asset; rest periods for Irish truck

drivers; the dramatic situation at Dan Brennan's farm and his shrinking

cattle; fluoridation of water and effects on health.

 

The number of petitions considered and the complexity of several of

them set this particular visit apart from previous fact-finding visits

which have, generally, tended to focus on one or two key petitions.

 

The Poolbeg Peninsula, the proposed Incinerator Plant and the Dublin

Waste to Energy Project. (Petition 495/2006)

 

For a very long time the Poolbeg Peninsular has been the site of

various facilities linked to the Port of Dublin and has also included

an electricity generating power station - soon to be decommissioned, a

water treatment plant as well as small factory units such as for bottle

production. It also contains the Irishtown Nature Park which is an area

notable for Brent Geese and water fowl. Above all it houses a very

tight-knit local community of 70,000 people within 3km of the site. The

local community is particularly opposed to the site, according to the

petitioners - the Combined Residents against the Incinerator - for a

number of reasons, the most prominent being the disruption caused by

the eventual construction of the site itself, the additional heavy

lorry traffic which will be generated by the delivery of refuse for

incineration1, the impact of a substantial new eight-story series of

buildings for additional housing, and the fact that the incinerator

will pollute and contaminate air and water and be an eyesore on the

Dublin Bay skyline.

 

If the incinerator plant is built it will be one of the largest in the

EU, burning 760,000 tonnes of waste each year and local people fear

that the smell from the chimneys would seriously compound existing

odours about which they have already complained in relation to the

existing water treatment plant and the sludge it produces. It remains

to be confirmed that an incinerator project of this magnitude would be

in conformity with EU Directives on Waste Incineration (2000/76/EC) and

on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (96/61/EC). There is

also some doubt as to whether all the provisions of the EIA Directives

have been complied with given the timing of the original impact

assessment in 1999, its original scope and the change in circumstances

since then, in particular as regards transport and access to the site

area.

 

Dublin Bay itself is an area of high conservation importance and is

legally protected under both the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds

Directive. Specific sites of conservation importance include the Liffey

and Tolka Estuaries, and Sandymount Strand, all immediately adjacent to

the proposed development. This fact, although acknowledged by the

developers has not been an element which has been included in the

environment impact assessment which focussed only on the Poolbeg

Peninsular itself.

 

The delegation met with Matt Twomey and Eileen Brady, representing the

management of Dublin Council as well as the consultants involved in the

public/private partnership which will develop the site if it goes

ahead. The meeting was held in the Community Liaison Office which was

set up in order to provide information for residents in the area. Chris

Andrews TD, one of the petitioners was present, with the members of the

delegation for the duration of the visit, including the site

inspection.

 

For the Dublin City Council and the developers, the objectives of the

site will also lead to an improvement in recycling of waste (for which

they say Dublin already has a good record) and a reduction in landfill

requirements for the Dublin area. The thermal treatment facility which

will be built as part of the incinerator plant will supply heating and

electricity for the local community. As a compensation measure for the

local community the national Planning Board imposed a Community Gain

Fund which will finance improved social facilities in the area of

benefit to the population.

 

The visit to the proposed site by the delegation, accompanied by the

Council management team and the petitioners demonstrated why the site

had been chosen as it was clearly a brown-field development within a

former and current urban industrial area, with access to dock and quay

facilities for sea transport (facilitating the export of the solid ash

residues from the plant for example).

 

Yet, the exiguity of access, the proximity of the housing estates and

residential areas, the lack of roads adapted to heavy lorries and the

potential for an alternative style of local development designed to

improve the quality of life of the local population also showed without

doubt just why so many serious and largely unanswered questions have

been raised - including within the Dublin City Council and the Dail,

about the suitability of Poolbeg, at a time when incineration as a form

of waste disposal is being discarded completely by many of Europe's

regions - or at least relegated to the last possible waste disposal

option.

 

The delegation therefore considers, and recommends, that further more

serious consideration should be given by the Irish Environmental

Protection Agency, by the National Planning Board, by Dublin City

Council and by the Department of the Environment to these issues and to

their level of compliance with the EC Directives mentioned. The

European Commission should further review these findings.

 

Water.

 

For a country which manifestly has no shortage of water, and is blessed

with many beautiful rivers and lakes, it is nothing less than a

remarkable anomaly and a great shame that Ireland should have such

difficulty in ensuring the provision of "wholesome and clean" water to

so much of its population.

 

In several counties of Ireland, generally in rural areas, there is a

failure to fulfil the country's general obligations under Article 4 of

the Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC).

 

This concern has been widely expressed by petitioners to the European

Parliament which had already investigated the matter during a previous

visit of the Petitions Committee to Ireland in 2003 which focussed on

Kilkenny's Troyswood water treatment plant. (Petition 661/2000 by Pat

Grogan) A number of discussions in Committee followed which also led to

a protracted infringement procedure initiated by the European

Commission to ensure Ireland's compliance with the Directive.

 

On this occasion the delegation was given a firm commitment by the

Minister for the Environment, John Gormley TD, that priority is to be

given to this matter. He told the delegation that, regarding the

problems of water and its supply, that there is "a need to be rigourous

and thorough - the citizen must have access to clean drinking water.

This is a matter of urgency and a priority".

 

Senior officials of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and

Local Government, made a presentation to the members of the delegation

pointing in particular to the 27% increase in planned investment to

upgrade water services infrastructure in the period 2007 - 2013. (€4.7

billion) The rural water programme however, they admitted, only

receives €142 million for the whole of 2007.

 

The delegations concerns were directed in particular to the ongoing

situation in the Galway area which has been the focus of a number of

petitions and complaints and where, in addition, since the beginning of

2007 a serious outbreak of the cryptosporidium parasite in the water

supply has entailed a ban on the drinking of any tap water that has not

been previously boiled. The delegation was briefed on this personally

by the Mayor of County Galway, Sean Kenney, and senior county

officials. It also heard the views of a number of directly affected

local people and the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.

 

The delegation had not, unfortunately, scheduled a meeting with the

city authorities of Galway and is therefore unable to reflect their

position in this report.

 

The Committee reported following its previous visit in 2003 about the

unacceptable situation regarding the water supply in An Cheathrú Rua

(Carraroe), the main community in the South Connemara area in Galway,

and was told on this occasion by the authorities that significant steps

had been taken to remedy the situation and the sewage system had

finally been upgraded earlier this year. Local residents remained

dissatisfied however with the quality of the water and the Chairman of

the Parish Council told the delegation that water, which is sourced

from the nearby lake, is still undrinkable. (This was not contested by

the County authorities.) He added that although the sewage system had

been improved there was still raw sewage entering the lake from

un-maintained sceptic tanks and cattle slurry. There is no treatment

plant as yet for the community's drinking water supply and no measures

have been proposed to keep the lake itself clean.

 

The delegation noted and agreed with the importance of restoring and

enhancing the environment around the lake, by tree planting for

example, and also of the need to enforce regulations preventing

unacceptable discharges from sceptic tanks. Cattle should also be kept

at a far greater distance from the lake to prevent slurry entering the

water after heavy rain.

 

The County authorities informed the delegation that they were dealing

with this matter and a new water supply scheme was being developed,

about which the delegation was given the details by the consultants who

were advising on the project, which is to be subject to public

consultation and completed by 2010.

 

The seriousness of the cryptosporidium crisis was widely recognised, as

was its effect on public health. An Incidence Response Team was set up.

The older of the two treatment plants providing water to Galway city

from Lough Curran was thought to be the cause of the problem linked to

the heaviest rainfall in the area for 40 years and one of the rivers

had flooded. Remedial measures had been taken and plant upgrading was

now being implemented. But this had clearly satisfied nobody that the

delegation met, including a father whose child had been the first

victim in January 2007. It is not the first outbreak

 

either: Laois, Ennis, Longford and Roscommon had also experienced

cryptosporidium contamination in the recent period.

 

The petitioners with whom the delegation met at a public meeting in

Galway were scathing in their remarks about the years of complacency

and under-funding which had led to this crisis. Planning permission had

been granted for new housing without considering its impact on the

provision of safe drinking water; no checks were done on properties

with sceptic tanks. The only people to have benefited seem to have been

producers of specialised water filter systems - the hotel advertised

the fact that it had installed a "Trojan UV Max F + Ultraviolet water

filter & pre-filter" but most individual homes do not have the means

for such systems. Most new houses are now built incorporating special

water filters in order to respond to peoples' concerns.

 

Local business was also irate and could not explain how the third

largest city in the country, and its surrounding area could not have

clean water from the tap. The effect on tourism had been very negative

indeed. Rural group schemes were outdated often antiquated, and under

funded and the city water supply was a disgrace.

 

This issue has become therefore not just a problem for the local

authorities, according to many petitioners, but a matter of national

importance for public health. Ireland's natural environment is not

respected. Collection sources for water are at least as important as

the provision of treatment plants it was forcefully stated yet little

or no attention had ever been paid to the protection of such sources.

Individual river basin plans are required. What is the Environment

Protection Agency doing about this, people want to know. This must

change.

 

Years of complacency (and lack of financial resources) by the local

authorities and totally unacceptable levels of contamination requires a

national response to deal with what is quite clearly a structural

problem in Ireland's water supply system. This was echoed in subsequent

meetings of the delegation with petitioners from Bleach Lough, Cork and

Kilkenny. Many of the obligations contained in EU Directives on water

and waste management, to which citizens have a right, seem unobtainable

in the short term unless much more urgency is injected into the system

and structural changes made.

 

It was put to the delegation that the Irish local authorities are

trying to solve a crisis and not the problem: they also have to tackle

the problem. One petitioner from the Woodland League Environmental

Forum wanted an answer as to why a landfill site was being built on top

of an aquifer near Lough Carragh.

 

The meeting with petitioners from the Bleach Lough vicinity presented

another important aspect to the drinking water conundrum. In this

instance, Limerick County Council is seeking to transfer the source of

supply from the lake to a mains system currently under development in

order, according to the Council, to provide security of supply. The

delegation visited the lake with petitioners, and the local water

treatment plant, and was fully briefed by the Council on the

interconnection between Askeaton and Pallaskenry using water from the

River Deel - which is much polluted according to the petitioners.

 

Many local residents want to retain the Bleach Lough supply which is

pure and uncontaminated; they are not confident that the proposed new

system would provide safer or better drinking water. The Council for

its part said that it was obliged to take the broader picture of the

county into account and that, in any event, it had no plans to

decommission the existing water supply to local residents from Bleach

Lough.

 

Other residents in the area wrote to the Committee supporting the

Council's view, pointing out that they have had to endure severely

polluted water supplies for fifteen years as did Kilcornan National

School and they are eagerly awaiting the Kildimo/Pallaskrenry

connection.2

 

Tests conducted on both water supplies from Bleach Lough three years

ago have proved that they are compliant with the Drinking Water

Directive however, some serious doubts remains about the regular

conformity of the River Deel and the Shannon Estuary in terms of

Directive 75/440/EC on the quality of surface waters designated for the

production of drinking water. There are clearly no such doubts about

Bleach Lough.

 

From the delegation's point of view, given the apparent regularity and

purity of the water in Bleach Lough (which we were able to see was of

an impressive clarity and taste) and the fact that the lake level was

apparently regularly high, the reasons for a change of policy

concerning the water supply seemed curious. As the supply was working

efficiently to the satisfaction of the local residents who actually

used the water, why should they have to have water which was any less

pure?

 

At the same time, other local residents clearly have an urgent need of

clean water which they are not getting. The delegation does not wish to

overstep its competence in such matters, so it would merely point out

this apparent anomaly in a way which is supportive of the petitioners'

concerns to safeguard their existing source from Bleach Lough, without

depriving the people of Cragreagh of access to new supplies of drinking

water, and urge very serious analysis of the extent to which water from

the River Deel is in fact compliant with the EU requirements mentioned

above. Results from such analysis should obviously be made public and

communicated to all interested parties.

 

The delegation had a most constructive meeting with senior officials

from Kilkenny council and petitioners about the water situation there.

In this instance the delegation was pleased to be able to acknowledge

the efforts made by the Council to remedy the problems which had

occurred in the Troyswood treatment plant and was also pleased to note

the priority they attach to developing alternative groundwater sources

rather than obtain water from the polluted River Nore. Also the planned

investment in water services over the next 15 years is a source of

reassurance to the local community and local industry. The creation of

a contact group involving local people, local employers and Council

members and officials was also considered to be a very useful

suggestion in order to rebuild public confidence and provide direct

feedback in relation to developments with the water supply. This is a

considerable contrast to the situation which prevailed during the

previous visit in 2003.

 

However, it was clearly understood that the prevention of aluminium

sludge creeping into the water system required constant monitoring and

attention (cracked pipes being a frequent cause); a reinforcement of

surveillance (already much upgraded) by the local authority and police

was also required as there are a growing number of examples of "rogue

elements" pouring raw sewage of high organic strength (including

sceptic tank contents, blood, slurry and milk) from lorries into

manholes or directly into the river which has an immediate impact on

the safety of drinking water supplies; greater efforts to reduce the

odour emanating periodically from Purcillsinch plant (not unrelated to

the previous point) and also to ensure the colour of the drinking water

was improved.

 

The delegation was provided with many details of the Council's plans

which cannot all be reproduced here. But, even as regards the older

Freshwood plant, they seemed to reflect a real positive step forward by

the authorities who undertook to accelerate delivery if possible. For

the last two years sludge from the treatment plant at Troyswood has

gone into landfill rather than being pumped back into the River Nore

and UV filters have been introduced at the plant. An anorebic digester

is also planned and is scheduled to come onstream within two years.

 

This situation requires a more direct interest and involvement from

national level for it to be possible and the use of available European

funding should be considered which would allow things to happen faster

leading to real improvements sooner for local people and business. The

positive assurances given by the Minister to the delegation therefore

need to be confirmed by the effective delivery of new resources. More

information should be made available to the population also about the

cost of water and consideration given to reviewing the way in which the

consumer contributes to the cost. It is apparently the lack of funding

over so many years which has led to this situation developing, linked

to the structural problems between the different water schemes and

national and local authorities.

 

Tara.

 

Eremon, the first chief of the Milesians was the first high king to

reign at Tara on the site which has been used continuously from the

Stone Age to the era of Christianity and which is mentioned as one of

the Green Isle sites in the Book of Invasions. An Irish citizen today

hears reports every day through the news media about the proposed M3

motorway route which will pass through the Tara area which remains of

enormous heritage value to the nation and to the world. Many very

detailed petitions have been received and assessed and it was therefore

appropriate that the Committee decided that it was necessary to visit

the site and surrounding area to establish a clearer opinion of the

situation.

 

Today's residents on the site are maintaining a vigil and its many

visitors are quickly made aware of the value with which this

atmospheric spot on the Irish map is considered. Its situation and its

artefacts constitute a national treasure; the integrity of the site an

enormous challenge. When the original plans for the motorway were

proposed (as a result of the need to upgrade and improve road transport

and communications between this important commuter area and Dublin,)

and the impact assessment conducted it was agreed to choose the second

best option available in relation to the archaeological criteria and

abandon the first choice option which would have avoided encroachment

on the historic remains known at that time. It is however apparent and

quite clear that the authorities fulfilled their obligations under EIA

Directives inasmuch as they clearly identified alternative options for

the road.3

 

The first choice option would have entailed larger compensation

payments to landowners and residents. But the option retained is

outside the central Tara zone, 1.5km away over the brow of a hill and

not visible from the Hill of Tara itself. It is considered the best

corridor in terms of serving traffic demands and engineering impacts,

and also the preferred crossing of the River Boyne according to the

National Roads Authority which has the responsibility for the project.

The current main road used is between the planned route and the Hill of

Tara and clearly visible from the hill.

 

Since work began however, and specifically since March this year,

several significant new discoveries have been made, notably at nearby

Lismullen, which were not recognised in the original survey and the

whole Tara domain is now said to be of greater historic value covering

a wider area than originally known. Many prominent archaeologists have

attested to this fact and it is also now accepted by the government

which in June this year designated the Lismullen site as a National

Monument.

 

This has clearly created a serious dilemma for the authorities who, it

is considered, did their best to properly conduct archaeological

investigations using internationally recognised methodology. It may be

argued that they failed to fully respect the precautionary principle

when evaluating the road corridor in relation to the Tara domain, but

everything indicates that the planners acted diligently in assessing

the practical options given the knowledge available at the time. Both

geophysical and magnetometer surveys were conducted which, it turned

out, led to the discovery of the Lismullen site. The decision was then

taken to preserve the site by the outgoing government, not by

maintaining its integrity but by recording and excavating its artefacts

and treasures.

 

The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society has the support of many

other similar societies within and without Ireland and as one of the

main petitioners it speaks with a particular authority about the

implications and the dangers of the M3 motorway development in the

Tara-Skryne Valley. 4 Julia Clancy, the principle petitioner, conducted

an incredibly useful and informative site visit for the members of the

delegation with several of her colleagues and supporters from the

Society. It is indeed painful to discover that several of the

petitioners' allegations in relation to the failure to consider

alternatives are not born out by the available facts, even though the

alternatives proposed by the petitioners may indeed not have been

assessed. Routes to the west of the main Tara site, running closer to

the river Skane, for example, do not seem to have been seriously

considered by the authorities. Whether they are more or less likely to

contain historical remains is a mute point.

 

Here we are confronted with the limitations in assessing the

application of EU Directives, and indeed the inherent weaknesses in the

Directive itself. The EIA Directive says alternatives must be

considered, but it does not indicate which ones. Archaeological factors

must be taken fully into account as well but there is no evidence they

have not been. The public has been informed and involved in an oral

hearing in 2002 - 2003, albeit before the recent findings at Lismullen

were uncovered - a fact which renders such hearings meaningless for the

petitioners.

 

There is not any impact, as far as the delegation is aware, on land

protected under the Habitats or the Birds Directive for example; and

were this to have been the case our assessment could well be very

different. The European Commission has informed the Committee that in

its opinion the provisions of the EIA Directive have been respected and

the visit by the delegation has not found sufficient evidence to

disprove that except in the Lismullen area.. (One might add - much as

it would have liked to have done so.)

 

The delegation is however perplexed by the choice of route and by the

damage done to the integrity of the many sites in the Tara area and the

Gabhra Valley which have been vividly drawn to our attention by

petitioners. (Sites in particular at Baronstown, Collierstown, Roestown

and Dowdstown) It is also concerned as to why it has been deemed

necessary to build one of the largest M3 intersections precisely at

this most vulnerable location in terms of Ireland's national heritage,

which destroys forever the intact archaeological landscape of the area.

This, and subsequent analysis by the European Commission since the

designation of the Lismullen site as a National Monument by the Irish

Authorities5, motivates a clear call by this Committee for a

substantial review of the environmental impact of the M3 and for less

intrusive alternative routes to be designated which should safeguard

this area for the Irish nation.

 

On the slightly broader picture, it is nevertheless surprising that so

much emphasis is placed by the Irish authorities responsible for

transport on the development of road infrastructure and so little on

developing an efficient and more sustainable rail network for

passengers and freight. It is surprising that there is no commuter rail

service between this area, Navan, and Dublin, and that none is planned

before 2015 at the earliest, a fact which condemns and confirms an

inevitable choice of motorway construction. The National Roads

Authority build roads. What would a National Transport Authority decide

ask many of the petitioners? These are issues that need to be addressed

by the Irish authorities with the competence to make decisions and the

treaty does not allow for the European Parliament - or one of its

committees, to take decisions in the place of the competent national

authorities.

 

Dan Brennan and his shrinking cows.

 

Of the thousands of petitions received in recent years by the Petitions

Committee, none match the petition tabled by Dan Brennan on the subject

of the impact of pollution on his livestock; or as the press has

reported on his "shrinking cows". Such a petition could only come from

Ireland perhaps, but it is a matter which deserves to be taken much

more seriously than it has been by the Irish authorities until now.6

 

It is indicative of the importance of this case that the President of

the Irish Farmers Association, Poraig Walsh was present to meet the

delegation during their visit to the farm. It is important to note that

Regional and National Veterinary Laboratory staff visited the farm from

time to time and they also did on this occasion. The delegation did

moreover discuss the case with the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer,

Michael Sheridan, in Dublin and he apologised for being unable to be

present at the farm because of a prior commitment on behalf of the

Irish Government.7

 

Since 1990 the cattle on the farm have been victim to a serious

disorder which has restricted their growth and their milk production.

The veterinary experts refer to this as lack of thrive. The delegation

observed the cattle in the field and they are only half the size of

other cattle of the same age. This has had serious consequences for the

viability of the farm. For many years the petitioner had tried to

obtain from the authorities a clear indication of the cause of the

problem and different types of epidemiological studies and

environmental monitoring were conducted, including feed trials, all of

which proved inconclusive though continued weight loss and increased

mortality was recorded. Most of the tests conducted it turns out had

serious methodological shortcomings and in 2006 Dan Brennan petitioned

the European Parliament. A further study being conducted by the

Department of Agriculture since December 2006 has yet to report.

Certain tests carried out by the Department were conducted when the

factory was temporarily closed! The Office of Environmental Enforcement

based in Wexford has been given responsibility for assessments but has

not proved to be very forthcoming when asked to provide information.

 

Reports by independent vets, who have spent a considerable amount of

time studying the phenomenon as well as some of the research conducted

by the EPA indicate a likely source of contamination resulting from

toxic emissions from the local brick factory in Castlecomer, owned by

Cement Roadstone Holdings. (CRH)

 

The history of the problem was assessed in detail by the delegation and

the timeline studied; cross referencing periods of serious difficulty

with periods of increased production by the brick factory, which has

also gone through periods of closure. The problem is therefore of a

long term and intermittent nature. Whereas blood tests and samples have

been taken from the animals, as yet no post-mortem and histological

assessment of gastrointestinal organs and the liver has been carried

out as repeatedly requested by the farmer and his expert advisers. It

is evident that the cattle concerned gain weight, stay static or lose

weight together when no anomalies are recorded on any other locality in

the area. The conduct of post-mortems on the animals is therefore an

urgent course of action to follow.

 

Topological and geographical conditions explain why only Dan Brennan's

farm has been affected by the problem and not other farms in the area8.

It is quite evident that the cattle grazing areas are situated on the

hillside farm in a sort of hollow, at the bottom of which lies the

brick factory whose chimney - a rather small chimney, can be easily

identified.

 

It is not only the cattle which have been affected as the delegation

was able to clearly see the impact of toxicity on the foliage and trees

in the hedgerows where shrivelled branches and dead leave areas where

quite visible, next to areas of healthy plant growth. Some lichen

studies conducted were extremely limited in their scope and gave little

evidence of anomaly as they only looked at stand-alone trees (of which

there are very few on the farm) and not so much the hedgerows around

the field where, because of the land elevation in relation to the

factory chimney the real damage has occurred and is most visible.

Ecological damage is thus clearly defined, visible and very restricted.

 

The delegation has first hand corroborated witness reports which

testify that while taking positional reading at the end of June with

GPS equipment the experts moved into a "pocket of air in which there

was a pungent odour" which was recognisable to the petitioner who was

present and who wrote to inform us about the incident. The odour was

chemical in nature and alien to all normal odours found in grassland.

There was an unpleasant feeling when the odour was breathed in, and

there was little or no wind at the time. "The vapour was hanging in the

air in pockets over a fairly confined part of the paddock at one

particular recorded elevation". The brick factory was in production.

 

For the delegation there exists enough tangible evidence available,

linked to our own on-the-spot assessment of the environment and the

cattle concerned, to indicate a probable or likely causal effect

between the emissions from the CRH brick factory and the affected

cattle. Indeed since July a further 'downturn in thrive' was observed

subsequent to the above event.

 

No doubt further proof resulting from necessary post-mortem

examinations conducted precisely and immediately when the animals are

hit and being affected is essential in order to conclude and assess any

eventual claim for compensation which the petitioner might wish to

lodge through the Irish courts. An independent laboratory analysis

including input from a toxicologist would also be important quantify

the substances from which this pungent odour was produced. Continued

and regular monitoring of air and soil on the fields and hedgerows

affected is also essential and it is to say the least surprising that

this does not seem to have been done already. These three issues are

urgent matters which require a response from the authorities.

 

A much more objective scientific assessment also needs to be conducted

of the brick factory as well looking at the state of the installation

and filtering equipment, the chemicals used in the production process

and a proper time-chart established which reflects the production

statistics for the last ten years or so. The delegation was not able to

meet with the manager of the factory and obtain this information

directly so it will refrain from making any further detailed comments

on this point.

 

If there is proof of a violation of EU law related to air pollution and

contamination then the European Commission has the power to act and

take the matter before the Court of Justice, but this would be an

affair against the Irish state and not directly against individuals or

companies. Judging by the visible environmental damage mentioned above

there would definitely appear to be a prima facie case to be answered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limerick - Weston Gardens.

 

Citizens of Europe from Ballinacurra,

 

Sent a petition about life in Clarina,

 

There is so much rubbish and dirt

 

It makes our eyes hurt

 

But its the rats that are thriving - the b****** .

 

The good people met with PETI's bold members

 

In the rain, outside, with umbrellas,

 

Weston Gardens needs attention,

 

We call on Europe for redemption

 

For our rights and our claims,

 

For our hopes and our aims

 

For a neighbourhood decent to live in.

 

Weston Gardens and the kids from Rosbrien

 

Have got three burnt out houses to play in,

 

They would like the green

 

To be healthy and clean

 

But the rubbish bags pile up and drown 'em.

 

The boundary walls look like Belfast or Baghdad,

 

Steel spikes and barbed wire've been erected

 

The space for their children

 

Their homes and their freedom

 

Is swoppeded for nine shots from a handgun.

 

Members asked which Directive is broken

 

By your troubled estate's awful condition

 

We're not sure on that one

 

But there must be some

 

Lying unused and needing attention.

 

What about the government in Dublin

 

Don't they have some powers of persuasion?

 

When something goes wrong

 

Someone bangs the gong

 

The Gardai should stand to attention.

 

All that has been tried; we're defeated.

 

The only course of action, they pleaded,

 

Is for Europe to help

 

To provide us with strength

 

And deliver to us all that is needed.

 

We will do our best to provide

 

A solution which will soon decide

 

A better future for all

 

Weston Gardens, no walls

 

Just clean streets, some sunshine and pride.

 

For that we need full cooperation

 

With Limerick Council, with the Irish nation,

 

More effort by the elected

 

More respect for the affected

 

Some solutions with Europe's benediction.

 

Weston Gardens is part of a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Limerick

which has become a no-go area, where residents have had to put up with

serious anti-social behaviour, including aggressive behaviour,

drug-taking and vandalism by local gangs which have turned this old

established community into a divided and neglected area.

 

Elderly residents have been the most affected and they remain the most

vulnerable to aggression and insult. The brick and metal fencing and

barriers which have been erected make the area now look more like a

prison for its inhabitants, keeping them inside and the gangs outside.

The barriers have added little, if anything, to their safety and

created even more problems for the local community which is now unable

to have its rubbish collected effectively, which in turn has led to a

serious and persistent health hazard.

 

Local children every day risk infection from the piled up rubbish and

the rat infestations in the burnt out houses. Limerick sends out a

cleaning truck only twice a year and the residents are left to do the

cleaning themselves as best they can.9 The gangs have nevertheless

returned and they set light to the rubbish creating a serious fire

hazard which has already engulfed the community - an open-air

incinerator site. The fire brigade have been stoned when they arrived

to extinguish the fires.

 

Complaints made to the Local Council (Corporation of Limerick) have

gone unheeded. In 2001 a resident sounded the alarm because of one

house which had been torched; this did not prevent the burning of the

two houses next to it in the following period.

 

The citizens living in this area have had enough: they consider that

their fundamental rights are being ignored by the local and national

authorities and they have appealed to the Petitions Committee to

assist. In the course of the visit, members gave a commitment that they

would be heard, even though under the terms of the Treaty the European

Parliament has no direct power to intervene except by urging the

responsible authorities to do their duty.

 

 

 

 

 

Aughinish - Cappagh Farm Action Group. (0010/2006)

 

The view of the Shannon Estuary from the top of a tall hill on which an

old graveyard is sited is a most spectacular one. The landscape and the

seascape are stunning. The Aughinish Aluminium Factory, which continues

to provide jobs for the surrounding communities and to inject valuable

earnings into the local economy, is a blot on this landscape,

surrounded by bauxite sludge - shining red mud pools contrasting with

the green fields and shallow water of the estuary.

 

Accompanied by representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency

and the petitioners from the Cappagh Farm Action Group, members of the

delegation were briefed about the 3.9 million tonnes of bauxite

imported from Africa and New Guinea each year and the 50% waste sludge

produced and stored as a result of aluminium production: a situation

which could not continue for much longer. The plant also produces 1

million tonnes of CO2 waste per year.

 

The landfill site covers 100 hectares and received its permit ten years

ago; it is seeking to double its size. The new zone for the landfill is

planned in a special area of conservation. There remains a large

question mark (in spite of a much criticised inquiry - the Askeaton

Inquiry which did lead to some improvements in the installation being

carried out) over the conformity of the plant with the IPPC Directive

(96/61/EC) and the Mining Waste Directive and also whether an

Environmental Impact Assessment would provide grounds to allow further

expansion or not. The official view is currently that given the size of

the plant it is remarkably compliant with Environment Directives even

though there are serious doubts about long-term structural stability of

the mud stacking process. Alternative means are being explored to

evacuate the waste either by the use of neutralising materials or by

dumping at sea in the Atlantic Trench.

 

The petitioners are very concerned by the seepage of toxic substances

from the unlined part of the landfill into the groundwater supply as

well as by the airborne toxic dust particles which they believe have

led to serious lesions in the cattle of at least two neighbouring

farms.10 They consider that the EPA has not conducted its research

thoroughly enough concerning the possible contamination by the factory.

They complained that monitoring stations should be placed specifically

on the farms where the suspicion is greatest and not spread out over

such a wide area as was the case at present. The methods used for the

assessment of pollution risk and contamination did not take into

account the specific conditions prevailing around the site and the

petitioners were very worried about the impact of the plant on their

own health and on their farms.

 

The plant is under a strict obligation to conform with the IPPC

Directive by October 30th 2007. As the deadline is now reached,

concerns about contamination and the methodology of the EPA assessment

need to be urgently reviewed by the Commission and the Irish

Authorities. The local community must be directly informed and be given

the assurance that the monitoring facilities are credible and are

commensurate with their local requirements.

 

 

N8 Road Scheme -Watergrasshill.

 

On their way from Limerick through to Cork the delegation met with the

petitioners who are protesting about the new road scheme in their area

which has been part-funded with EU resources. The road has recently

become a toll road (M8) however and vehicles have reverted as a result

to the old route through the village. Some 10,000 heavy vehicles a day

were passing through the village again.

 

While in Dublin, members were briefed by NRA officials about this

situation and assured that an alternative plan which would avoid the

bottleneck in the village of Watergrasshill was to be soon implemented.

No action by the Petitions committee would be likely to directly affect

the toll issue as such but there was an undertaking given that the toll

payments would be reviewed for local people and regular users of this

section of the M8.

 

This will need to be monitored as it must be a source of concern to the

EU and the Commission, and possibly the Budgetary Control Committee of

the Parliament, that EU funding was used with a clear objective in mind

which included the need to reduce pressure and pollution on

Watergrasshill. If the introduction of the toll makes that original

objective redundant then some claim may be made on the Irish

authorities responsible.

 

Carrigtwohill Quarries.

 

On the basis of several petitions received from Irish citizens the

Committee had previously requested the European Commission to look into

the matter and provide a preliminary view on the subject. The Irish

authorities have been called to account for this.11 The particular

example of the Carrigtwohill Quarry development, near Cork, exemplifies

the types of general concerns expressed and the delegation's visit

there proved very instructive.

 

The area is situated on the inner reach of Cork Harbour along the North

Channel near Cobh Island and the towns of Barryscourt, Rossmore,

Ballintubbrid and Ballyvodock, within the Cork Metropolitan Green belt.

It is a special area of conservation (SAC & SPA) under the Birds

directive and contains areas which are important Neolithic heritage

sites.

 

Earlier smaller scale quarrying in the area for limestone sand and

gravel has now given way to a whole series of quarry sites (and a

landfill facility at Rossmore) which has led to the disfigurement of

the fragile estuary and its eco-system as a result of the cumulative

effects of this activity. Now another large quarrying site has been

planned, also at Rossmore, and local residents have reacted angrily to

this and petitioned the Parliament. It appears to be the case that

authorisation has been considered without regard for European

Directives (notably the EIA and Habitats Directive) and the cumulative

impact of the activity has also been ignored. The local people were

very tolerant of the quarrying for a long time due to the requirements

of local employment. But, they now have a very legitimate concern that

the value of their local environment has been sacrificed for needs of

excessive quarrying which is destroying this very precious coastal

estuary and its local communities.

 

Unfortunately the delegation was unable to meet with representatives of

Cork County Council as it would have wished due to time constraints. It

would welcome comments from them, and from the National Planning Board,

on these questions.

 

 

Petitions considered at a Public meeting in Cork.

 

About fifty persons from the Cork area attended an evening meeting with

members of the delegation.

 

 

Farm retirement Group for Justice. (600/2003)

 

The delegation were pleases to meet with these petitioners whose case

has been the subject of several discussions and an exchange of letters

with the Irish authorities. The members received additional information

from Sean Guerin and Bertie Wall who commented upon the reply received

from the then Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan. The letter received

by the Committee appeared to be identical with that sent to several

petitioners and failed to respond to a number of questions raised

concerning indexation and offsetting of pensions. A memo containing

fifteen anomalies within the farm retirement scheme was handed to the

members for their assessment.

 

 

Irish Bio-fuels Initiative.

 

A number of sugar farmers who had been affected badly by the reform of

the CAP relating to their industry submitted a supplementary petition

concerning a number of proposals worthy of much more detailed analysis

on the development of bio-fuels. The Chairman of the Young Farmers'

Association made a very authoritative declaration on the ability of the

sugar industry in the Cork area, and all over Ireland, to respond to

future fuel requirements by the structural reform of their industry

towards bio-fuel production, thus keeping many in work and contributing

positively to the environment. The members undertook to register the

suggestion and to forward the proposal to other competent committees in

the European Parliament for analysis.

 

 

Western Cork Quarry at Inchafine.

 

Brian Nixon presented a detailed new petition to the Committee

concerning the Inchafune Quarry at Dunmanway, County Cork. He said that

many people had been subject to intimidation for opposing the planning

permission for an extension of the quarry. The impact on the local

environment and on the Bandon River - renowned for its salmon and trout

- is feared to be negative and intrusive. No residents were consulted

about the quarry development even though they are affected by the

noise, dust, and traffic. There are serious concerns for groundwater

and artesian wells in the area as well as local heritage sites

including four ring forts and a standing stone. The documentation is to

be forwarded to the European Commission for information by the

Petitions Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Truck Drivers and EU Regulations on rest periods.

 

James Lane presented a new petition concerning the problems faced by

Irish lorry drivers and the problems they are made to face regarding

drivers' hours and rest periods. He welcomes the Working Time

Directive, but says it is virtually impossible to apply due to the very

limited number of safe parking spaces to be found in the country. What

facilities do exist are inadequate and quickly filled leaving the

unlucky latecomer to travel further and further in search of a suitable

rest stop, frequently having to pull up on the 'hard shoulder' which is

dangerous and anyway illegal. HGV drivers are particularly affected by

this because of the size of their vehicles and the value of their

loads. It is considered that the Irish NRA received considerable sums

of money from the EU for road development but little if any thought was

given to the provision of suitable stopping points, filing stations and

resting space. He makes a number of suggestions to alleviate this

problem while providing additional incomes to many rural towns and

villages. he is particularly critical of the new N4 between Dublin and

Galway where only two rest places exist each taking two articulated

lorries only!

 

 

Problems with Milk Quota regulation.

 

The Walsh family were concerned about the application of the milk quota

scheme by the Irish authorities and whether the milk quota was a

license - as the government believes, or an asset as the banks believe.

The result of the application is in any event negative on young farming

families in particular, it was claimed.

 

 

Mental health Act and Fundamental Rights.

 

Mr. John McCarthy made a statement about the application of the Irish

Mental Health Act which he considers to be in contravention with the

ECHR (quoting from J Bowis Report on Mental Health) Many people are

forced into treatment against their will with very damaging effects,

including such treatment as ECT.

 

 

Land Acquisition in rural areas.

 

Michael Sullivan has always lived on a farm and raised his sons and

daughters there also. Now he is unable to obtain planning permission

for a small business on his land due to obstructions which he feels are

in contradiction with his rights, particularly as he is a person with

multiple sclerosis and unable to travel long distances beyond his local

rural neighbourhood. The members undertook to look into this matter

with the responsible authorities in Dublin.

 

 

The McGuire Petition 659/1993

 

A former petitioner Mr McGuire met with the delegation and informed

them of how he was denied his right to obtain income from land he owned

which had been taken over by the Forestry Commission.

 

 

 

Fluoridation in water: VOICE Petition 210/2007

 

The petitioner, Mr Robert Pocock, had previously submitted his petition

against the compulsory use of fluosilicic acid in the water supply

believing that it infringes the Drinking water Directive and the

Medicines Directive. Members agreed to pass on his concerns, following

the preliminary assessment by the European Commission, to the

Environment Committee in the European Parliament.

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions.

 

As can be seen from the contents and recommendations contained in this

report, the visit to Ireland was very intense and dealt with a number

of varied and complex issues. What emerges from this visit as being of

great importance is the opportunity it provided for the Committee

itself to act as a sort of catalyser between the petitioners and the

Irish authorities both nationally and locally.

 

It would be good to think that the contents of a report could resolve

all the outstanding problems and contentious issues which were

discussed. But that is of course not the case as the major burden is on

the Irish government in that respect. It is to be hoped nevertheless

that by raising some issues of major concern, of national significance

in several cases, and which are directly related to the competence of

the EU under the Treaty, the visit will have demonstrated to many Irish

citizens how important their rights as European citizens are as well

and what added value is gained by the right of petition.

 

The approach adopted by the members of the delegation is solution

oriented and based on close cooperation and understanding with the

competent levels of the Irish Government. It hopes it has encouraged

the authorities in Ireland to look more closely for solutions where

problems have been identified, and its impressions in that respect,

given the many levels of authority which we had the privilege to meet

with, are encouraging.

 

All the issues raised by the mission will be followed up by the

Petitions Committee at its future meetings. Both petitioners and the

Irish authorities are invited to inform the Committee directly of any

developments which occur resulting from this visit.

COUNTRYFILE on BBC TV investigated the importation from Ireland into the UK of limestone pavement for garden centres. In it FIE revealed that the European Commission has lodged proceedings with the European Court of Justice against Ireland for the failure to assess and control quarries under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. The Commission's case also alleges systematic failures in enforcement, to the point where the National Roads Authority and Local Authorities openly purchase quarried materials from unauthorised quarries they are supposed to be regulating.

Our Press Release

See what they have done to the karst limestone pavement of the 'Little Burren' in County Galway.

And in Monaghan and Westmeath in examples highlighted in a submission by An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland.

Sunday Times coverage.


The environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment has welcomed today's ruling by the European Court of Justice. The judgement, which upheld every one of the Commission's allegations and examined every single case individually, is a vindication for the environmental organisations, community groups and individual Irish citizens who for years have fought to prevent pollution by illegal and badly run dumps across Ireland.

In its submission to the Court, the Commission 'reserved the right to cite other examples in order to illustrate the breaches of a general nature in implementing the provisions of the directive'. By this new approach, if Ireland fails to meet the terms of the Judgement and does not in fact demonstrate a correct approach to waste management, future breaches will be similar to 'contempt of court'.

The Commission could thus bring further complaints against Ireland directly back to the Court, saving time and ensuring that any future judgement could be accompanied directly by penalties. This represents an entirely new and greatly welcome change in procedures that will save years in processing complaints that relate to this judgement.

Read Our Press Release

Read the Judgement.


The environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment has welcomed today's ruling by the European Court of Justice. The judgement, which upheld every one of the Commission's allegations and examined every single case individually, is a vindication for the environmental organisations, community groups and individual Irish citizens who for years have fought to prevent pollution by illegal and badly run dumps across Ireland.

In its submission to the Court, the Commission 'reserved the right to cite other examples in order to illustrate the breaches of a general nature in implementing the provisions of the directive'. By this new approach, if Ireland fails to meet the terms of the Judgement and does not in fact demonstrate a correct approach to waste management, future breaches will be similar to 'contempt of court'.

The Commission could thus bring further complaints against Ireland directly back to the Court, saving time and ensuring that any future judgement could be accompanied directly by penalties. This represents an entirely new and greatly welcome change in procedures that will save years in processing complaints that relate to this judgement.

Read Our Press Release

Read the Judgement.


As the EU Advocate general advises the EU Court of Justice that Ireland would be in breach of EU rules if it continued with the case it initiated under the UN Convention of the Laws of the Sea in 2001, Friends of the Irish Environment have said the Government had been well aware from the start that the European Court was the appropriate jurisdiction to pursue the Sellafield case.

The Advocate General, whose opinion is usually adopted by the court, said Ireland should instead have pursued its case within the EU institutions.

Read The Story.

This Government's own poor environmental record before the EU Court made them reluctant to seek the EU Court's assistance and so to give any weight to their authority. If the resources available to the Irish authorities had been used to pursue this issue through the EU the Government would not have lost valuable years.

The only environmental advances of serious consequence in Ireland in the last ten years have been those painfully forced on the State by the European Court of Justice. Ireland remains the EU's 'reluctant jurisdiction'.


As the EU Advocate general advises the EU Court of Justice that Ireland would be in breach of EU rules if it continued with the case it initiated under the UN Convention of the Laws of the Sea in 2001, Friends of the Irish Environment have said the Government had been well aware from the start that the European Court was the appropriate jurisdiction to pursue the Sellafield case.

The Advocate General, whose opinion is usually adopted by the court, said Ireland should instead have pursued its case within the EU institutions.

Read The Story.

This Government's own poor environmental record before the EU Court made them reluctant to seek the EU Court's assistance and so to give any weight to their authority. If the resources available to the Irish authorities had been used to pursue this issue through the EU the Government would not have lost valuable years.

The only environmental advances of serious consequence in Ireland in the last ten years have been those painfully forced on the State by the European Court of Justice. Ireland remains the EU's 'reluctant jurisdiction'.
The European Commission has issued a Letter of Formal Notice (first written warning) arising from FIE's 2002 complaint about the unauthorized quarrying for the realignment of the N59 between Moycullen and Clifden, Co. Galway. The project was 85% EU funded.

The Commission's letter states that FIE's complaint, grouped with several other complaints raising similar issues, gives rise to 'non-respect' for the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Projects must 'actually made subject to assessment before (rather than after) they are carried out'.

Article 10 of the European Constitution says that "Member States are required to nullify the unlawful consequences of a breach of Community law". If the Court rules against Ireland in these proceedings, based on a recent European Court Judgement [Wells, 2004], if it is not possible to nullify the consequences of a decision taken without proper procedures, residents may be able to seek compensation for any harm from the Irish authorities.

See what they have done to the site.

Read our Press Release.

Our infringement complaint.

And the Commission's letter.
The European Commission has issued a Letter of Formal Notice (first written warning) arising from FIE's 2002 complaint about the unauthorized quarrying for the realignment of the N59 between Moycullen and Clifden, Co. Galway. The project was 85% EU funded.

The Commission's letter states that FIE's complaint, grouped with several other complaints raising similar issues, gives rise to 'non-respect' for the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Projects must 'actually made subject to assessment before (rather than after) they are carried out'.

Article 10 of the European Constitution says that "Member States are required to nullify the unlawful consequences of a breach of Community law". If the Court rules against Ireland in these proceedings, based on a recent European Court Judgement [Wells, 2004], if it is not possible to nullify the consequences of a decision taken without proper procedures, residents may be able to seek compensation for any harm from the Irish authorities.

See what they have done to the site.

Read our Press Release.

Our infringement complaint.

And the Commission's letter.