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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.