FIE Work


2. THE CAR KINGDOM OF IRELAND

2.1 The Cost of the Car

The motor car is slightly over 100 years old. So far motor car accidents

have killed more than 25 million people, and have injured and disabled 600

million people. In Ireland, over 400 people die annually on the roads and

over 20 are permanently consigned to wheelchairs. Road accidents also cost

an enormous amount of money - £653 million in Ireland in 1994.

The combustion of petrol in the motor car produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and

water. Every car produces four times its weight in CO2 per year. The

build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing the world to warm up and cars

contribute 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

Petroleum is a fossil fuel a limited precious resource. We are burning the

Earth's fossil fuel 100,000 times faster than the resource is being

replenished. Almost all petrol burned by motor cars can be considered to be

to be wasted. The average weight of a saloon car is one tonne. The

average weight of an occupant is less than 100kg, so 90 per cent of the

fuel is used to move the car and only 10 per cent to move the occupant.

Because of the various inefficiencies only 10 per cent of the fuel is used

productively to overcome drag, which means that only 1 per cent of the fuel

is used to carry the passenger and 99 per cent is wasted.

2.2 Glen Of The Downs Crossroads.

No one location better epitomises the cross-roads at which Ireland

currently stands. It can continue to spiral blindly into the globalised

economy, consumer disposable , agrochemical industry, motor and heavy goods

vehicle transport dependent system into which the post industrialised world

is engulfing itself. Alternatively its still strong legacy of local

economies and remains of a once great railway system can provide the

foundation for real Sustainable Development.

The country boreens are for the tourist brochures only, as the major

part of the current tranche of European Structural Funds are put into a

massive road building programme, whose effect has only for the first time

provoked any real environmental concern by the road widening through the

Glen of the Downs. At the same time, the Irish rail system, which was one

of the finest in Europe at the time of the foundation of the State, is now

an under invested skeleton. For an independent tourist to travel around

Ireland by public transport, and particularly on the coast, is a difficult

experience and particularly one who wishes to escape the air conditioned

experience of the endless Bus Ring of Kerry tour .

The Glen of the Downs, one of the most evocative names in Ireland, is a

great glacial cut through the landscape, and one of the few areas of

surviving regenerating broad leaf forests in the country. It is also on a

EUROROUTE the officially designated European network of roads, which are

deemed to represent the core of the transport system throughout the Union.

The policy of the European Union willingly abetted by successive road

worshipping Irish governments, is to provide a motorway link between the

container and roll on roll off ports of Rosslare and Larne, tied into a C

Ring Route around Dublin with access to the Port. From the hub of Dublin is

then stretched the whole series of National Primary Routes, so that

ultimately, the dream of Padraig Flynn will be realised, and the road to

Kerry, as well as Castlebar will be of the same capacity, scale and

construction standard as the Newbridge by-pass which was the first section

of the future national motorway network to be completed in Ireland and

rendered the scale of the existing Naas dual carriageway redundant. Other

motorway sections all across the country have since been completed,

including the massive Dunleer by-pass and others such as the Arklow By pass

near completion. Within the next few years, the pieces will all start to

add up and Ireland will suddenly be like everywhere else with its own big

car and lorry choked motorways.

2.3 Moving the Bottleneck.

The effect of the Glen of the Downs scheme is part of a plan to drag the

country into the dreary motor car domination of places like Belgium. It

will also expose Wicklow and Arklow to increased dormitory town road

dependent commuter first time home buyer development and thus generate

increased traffic levels defeating the very purpose for which the road is

EU funded.

This dormitory traffic is already generating a huge arc of congestion

funnelling around Dublin from Drogheda, Navan and Newbridge and now in an

increasingly wider arc from Dundalk, Mullingar and Portlaoise. In order to

get on the housing ladder and find a place suitable to bring up children

couples are forced to accept longer and longer car dependent travel

distances.

2.4 The Statistics.

If anybody thinks that Dublin, in particular, and Ireland, in general, is

already a very much motor car dependent society, then the future plans

which the car manufacturing, petro-chemical industry, road haulage and road

construction sectors have for us are revealing. While in this current

economic "boom", Ireland may have reached record levels of car ownership,

it still has one of the lowest percentage ownership rates in Europe.

According to the latest figures available, France, Western Germany, Italy

and Great Britain, all have fifty private cars or more per hundred people.

Iceland, Switzerland, Belgium and Austria, have between forty and fifty

cars per hundred people. Norway, Finland, Holland, Spain and Denmark,

along with Northern Ireland (thirty-six) have between thirty and forty cars

per hundred people. The Republic of Ireland has 29.

The motor lobby regards this as not good enough. The Motoring

correspondent for the Sunday Business Post, Fergus O'Dowd epitomises this

attitude. Reflecting the grovelling Third World mentality, which

characterises Ireland's general begging bowl attitude for foreign

multi-national investment. Mr. O'Dowd goes on to plead that "the Celtic

Tiger still has a lot of ground to make up, featuring in the group of

countries with between twenty and thirty cars per hundred people. In this

group Ireland, with twenty-nine cars per hundred is along side Cypress,

Portugal, Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia." Clearly, Mr.

O'Dowd, and, indeed, all his motoring correspondent compatriots would

regard this as some sort of national tragedy that Ireland should be still

alongside what he is implicitly claiming to be a second, or even third,

league of European countries.

To met Mr. O'Dowd's vision of a serious European country, then we must

start having lots more cars to match up with the middle and top league

boys, and, of course all of the exciting by-passes, under-passes, tunnels,

Euroroutes and National Primary Routes, which this will require. Not even

to mention the massive areas of car parks, multi-storey, underground and

garden covering.

2.5 The Neglect of the Railways

It is forgotten that Ireland at the beginning of this century, had, in relation to the density of its population, one of the most impressive rail

systems in Europe, with lines stretching all the way to the perimeters of

the country, Clonakilty, Valencia, Achill and the furthest reaches of

Donegal

Forgotten amid all of this, near the Glen of the Downs, parallel to the

Dublin/Rosslare Wexford route in which it stands, is one of the oldest rail

lines in the country. It is a meandering route, which follows a longer

distance than that of the comfortable road route from Dublin to Rosslare,

because it takes in both Wicklow and Arklow, and includes, what must be,

some of the most scenic stretches of the Irish rail system through the Vale

of Avoca. Originally it had branches serving Aughrim and Woodenbridge and

at the former Macmine junction a link to Waterford via New Ross.

Because of the complete under-investment in this route, the freight

trains, known as "liners", which once carried goods, no longer use the

line. CIE, itself, closed the Dublin/Rosslare, rail rate freight division

and replaced it with road vehicles. Even for the passenger service for

Wexford/Rosslare, as those who experience its leisurely service will know,

travel and journey times are no faster than they were in the days of the

great steam express locomotives of fifty years ago, and, indeed in some

respects are actually slower, because along areas of the line where the

train has speed restrictions, because of poor track maintenance. Recent

Roscommon and Kerry track subsidence caused derailments have highlighted

this issue, since the limited investment which has gone into the Irish

Railway system has been directed to the Dublin/Cork and Dublin/Belfast

routes.

2.6 Relative Travel Times Between Road and Rail.

Forty years ago before the knife of Todd Andrews, Ireland still maintained

most of the great railway system which it inherited on Independence, though

a number of the peripheral western lines and central branches had closed.

For most longer journeys, rail travel was faster than car. This fatal

balance, the attractiveness of rail, in time terms over road, suddenly

slipped in the early 60s with the savage cuts of what were the, admittedly

hugely loss making, peripheral and branch lines by Andrews and the real

beginning of road investment, symbolised by that great symbol of progress

at the time, the Naas dual carriageway.

The case of Waterford encapsulates the whole issue. Forty years ago it

stood in one of the largest and most complex rail hubs in the country.

From its north bank railway station, five lines spread out fan-like towards

Dungarvin, Limerick, Kilkenny/Dublin, New Ross and Rosslare. On the south

bank, just outside the walls of the - Mediaeval city, was the independent

seven mile rail route to Tramore.

From its five platforms, a whole series of journeys could be originated

from Waterford on any morning with a good system of connections and changes

to get to Cork, Galway or anywhere with reasonable efficiency. By the mid

60s, the balance was fatally tipped, passenger services were lost on three

of the lines. Instead of two morning Dublin trains an express and a "slow"

stopping at all of the country halts, one took their place. The closure

of the halts as part of the general Andrews Programme, smaller places in

Kilkenny, like Kilmacow, Mullinavat, Ballyhale and Gowran, meant the demise

of the slow train, and the move over of dependence of large catchment areas

to the motor car.

By the mid 60s, the construction of the Naas dual carriageway suddenly

started to chip into the relative distance between road and rail travel

time. The new diesel locomotives were not significantly more efficient in

time than the old steam express service, because of the speed restriction

on the very much curving railway line between Waterford and Kildare. At

that stage, a car journey from Waterford to Naas was still a drive through

leafy, tree-lined country roads, with winding bends and the prospect of

being trapped for huge intervals of time behind slow moving creamery vans

or other such users of the road.

As the 60s and 70s progressed, a clear strategy became obvious for

eliminating the major bends along the roads, on the grounds of safety and

enhanced speed. This has been followed by the ring road and by-pass

programme, which now means that, outside of peak traffic conditions, a

motor car journey from Waterford to Dublin may be done in under two hours,

whereas the rail journey is not much faster than the original 1940s steam

express time of two hours and twenty minutes, because it take a route

including Kilkenny and Carlow ten miles longer than the road journey via

Carlow only. The continuous track welding done on the stretch of double

line, between Kildare and Heuston Station, has not significantly affected

the equation.

Railway passenger numbers, and possibility of getting a seat on a train on

a typical journey or finding a half empty carriage, have remained

relatively stable over the thirty year period, with the only increase being

at weekends, a factor caused by student mobility to the Regional Technical

Colleges and other institutions. But at the same time, the level of long

distance users of motor cars has increased hugely disproportionately to a

factor effectively absorbing all of the increased transport mobility demand

for the vastly more complex and mobile society which has developed over the

last thirty years. This disproportionate equation is fatal, and is clearly

worsening. Each new by-pass and each new stretch of dual carriageway

accelerates the process that bit more.

The Ballybrophy, Roscrea , Nenagh, Limerick line hangs on by a thread. On a

typical day a large Diesel and guards van heating tender will flank a

single carriage taking no more than a handful of passengers. Yet at the

same time on the road parallel the thunderous stream of traffic is incessant.




THE IMAGE AND THE REALITY



1.1 The Marketing of Ireland

Ireland is under going an unprecedented investment in tourist development

through dormer bungalow B & Bs, hotels, golf courses, tax generated holiday

villages, visitor interpretative centres and pubs. All of this is taking

place on the back of the general economic boom and the massive EU funded

road programme, which is accelerating the process of motor car access and

dependency around the country.

At the same time, the images being used to market Ireland in books and

brochures, including Bord Failte's (the Irish Tourist Board's) own

literature, are the traditional ones, the quiet country road, the unspoilt

beaches, the mountains, the little cottage at the end of the boreen, the

charming village or town street with its small shop fronts and quirkey

local names, the relaxed figures lingering beside a signpost, the historic

house, the Georgian streets and doorways of the major cities, the welcoming

pub, the traditional music session etc.

All countries present tourist images compartmented from everyday reality

and from the late 20th century industrialised conditions in which most of

their populations live. But Ireland, somehow, is different, it is trying

to project the illusion that it remains a magic place of unspoilt

countryside, attractive historic towns and cities, and friendly people

providing that special one to one welcome.

1.2 Relaxed Getting Around

Ireland is spinning blindly into the consumer throwaway, motor car

dependent, homogenised global economy. The country boreens are for the

tourist brochures only, as the major part of the current tranche of

European Structural Funds are put into a massive road building programme,

whose effect is highlighted by the proposed widening through the Glen of

the Downs in Co. Wicklow. At the same time, the Irish rail system, which

was once one of the finest in Europe at the time of the foundation of the

State, is now an under invested skeleton. For an independent tourist to

travel around Ireland by public transport, and particularly on the coast,

is a difficult experience.

1.3 The Pure Water

Irish farmers are among the most drug addicted and chemical dependent in

the world, through the massive use of antibiotics in animals, and the

saturation of the earth with over-enriching fertiliser. The inevitable

result of this overkill agriculture are seeping slurry pits and

contaminated ground water and the annual ineffective hand wringing when yet

another spate of massive lake and fish kills occurs.

Phospate fertilizer pollution is accelerating the effect of algal

bloom on Irish lakes. In a recent presentation to the EPA (Environmental

Protection Agency) by an international study team led by Dr. Andrew

Petersen of DIT Cork it was revealed that of 55 lakes surveyed 42 were

experiencing "potential or actual nuisance from" algal bloom.

"Consideration should be given to intensively monitoring

bloom susceptible water bodies, especially those having potable

or recreational utility, in view of the tumour-promoting and

carcinogenic activities of cyantoxins"

A number of state run and private drinking water supplies have become

contaminated with E. Coli, Clostridia, Faecal Streptococci and other

bacteria and parasites in the last 5 years.

1.4 The Traditional Farm

The typical Irish farm is a place where a decent tree has hardly been

planted for a hundred years, with a plastic windowed, radon gas trapping

bungalow, breeze block and corrugated sheds, designed with no concern for

the landscape and the old stone or clay walled family house, if it

survives, a crumbling ruin. Fuelling this process, and in turn being

fuelled by it, is the Irish mega-agrochemical industry, symbolised by the

recent amalgamation of Avonmore and Waterford Co-op and its inevitable

"rationalisations' for more efficient production units, thus, now totally

extinguishing the co-operative dream of Horace Plunkett. To serve these

chemical plants which pose as dairy processing facilities is an army of

petrol tanker-like milk collection vehicles, which now require access and

inevitably the widening and ditch slashing of every thorn-lined boreen in

Ireland.

Anyone in a few hours JCB driving can wipe a way a whole pattern of

FIElds, stone walls and ditches that have been created over thousands of

years. The national ring fort stock, now no longer protected by the fear of

the fairies, is being decimated

The State Agricultural research agency Teagasc instead of promoting

organic farming has entered into partnership with the American agri

chemical company Monsanto to promote genetically modified sugar beet trial

crops. The aim is to create a genetic strain which will be dependent on

Monsanto's own seeds and pesticides.

1.5 Scenic Rolling Country Side.

From Atlantic breakers on rolling sands, to heather-clad mountains, to

green lush pastures; this is the image which Ireland sells. The more and

more real Ireland is a snake-like ribbon of suburban-type bungalows, in

octopus like tentacles crawling miles out beyond the major towns forming

strange little conglomerations of their own in the middle of nowhere.

Their effect on the landscape is, of course, most obvious in the less

vegetated western seaboard from Donegal to Galway, the plastic bungalow

county of Ireland, and Kerry. Allied to this is an absolute chaotic

failure on the part of Irish Local Authorities to impose any sort of

planning boundary between what is town, village and country.

Under the aggressive commercial agenda of the State forestry agency

Coillte, and with EU funding, harsh grids of conifers are invading familiar

landscapes, like the VEE in Waterford's Knockmealdowns. Most of the timber

produced is suitable only for pulping. More seriously the introduction

of huge swathes of alien species such as silka spruce is perculating soil

acidity down valleys and threatening bio diversity.

With Ireland's Third World mentality of accepting any multi-national to do

whatever it wants, wherever it wants, the result is the absurdity of

industrial location, or, more pertinently, non-location. The legacy is

the monstrous MDF producing Masonite in Co. Leitrim, dominating the upper

reaches of the Shannon, the Aughinish Alumina, Aluminium plant in Co.

Limerick on the lower reaches, the chaos of chemical plants around Cork

Harbour, and the now redundant synthetic fibre Asahi plant in Killalla, Co.

Mayo.

1.6 Charming Small Villages

It is hard to find those very contrived postcard views of the cluster of

attractive traditional shops and pub. The new Irish rural conurbation and

the testimony of the addiction of the country to the motor car, is the

petrol station chain store supermarket mini store, with its huge motorway

type plastic canopy which now penetrates into the furthest rural reaches.

Even though the distance could be a few hundred yards, the daily paper and

carton of milk, has now become a car journey. In strange contrast to this

fluorescent lit world the Irish pub is mushrooming into a vast cocoon of

cavernous twilight. The typical rural pub already extended twice, three

times, initially with a crude featureless 1970s type flat roofed extension,

now has a fancy dress of reconstructed nostalgia with cartwheels, old

bicycles hanging in the rafters. agricultural implements, fake thatch

roofs, etc. Grander examples have interiors fitted out from the plundered

19th. century Gothic woodwork from the local abandoned convent chapel, to

create vast drinking temples of sepulchral gloom.

1.7 Killarney - Ireland's Premier Tourist Destination

Mr. Neilus Moriarty, Chairman of Cork/Kerry Tourism states that, "Killarney

is one of the jewels in Irish tourism". Despite this, there is absolutely

no serious planning strategy on the part of Killarney Urban District

Council to protect and enhance the character of the town. While,

obviously, photographs and tourist features of the Killarney area have

always highlighted its spectacular combination of lakes, mountains and

historic domains, it is in the town itself that most visitors stay.

Killarney is a good example of a Georgian planned town, laid out by the

Earls of Kenmare around 1800 with its main streets forming a T junction

between Main Street and New Street. Both streets are of a handsome quality

with a uniform three storey frontage. Main Street is characterised by the

survival of a large number of good quality 19th century commercial

buildings with shop frontages or pubs, whereas, New Street, in particular

the end running towards the Cathedral, has some attractive early 19th

century Georgian houses. Apart from these main streets, the town possesses

a fine selection of 19th century buildings, the Cathedral, Church of

Ireland church and Franciscan Friary and the magnificent Great Southern

Hotel, probably the finest purpose built hotel in the country.

Killarney Urban District Council has demonstrated a total failure to

protect the character of the streets from hideous plastic window insertion,

and even of the main buildings. The treatment of the Great Southern Hotel

with swing out, uPVC widows, ranks among the most offensive examples of the

character of a nationally important building being devastated and demeaned

by factory type uPVC window replacement in the entire country. Other

casualties of incongruous uPVC window replacement are the Friary Complex

and the former Bishop's Palace near the Cathedral. Epitomising Killarney

UDC's management of the town, is the treatment of their own office

headquarters in Main Street. This, like so much of the town, has factory

type, uPVC windows, so that the UDC are themselves setting the worst

example in design and environmental practice.

1.8 Lively Historic Cities

With the whole thrust of current tourist promotion seeking all wet weather

and out-of-season visitors, the cities and their image are being marketed

more and more.

DUBLIN

The reality of the on-going destruction of the historic character of

Dublin, both in the last few years, continuing and now threatened, would

require a major book.

Dublin is now touted as one of the most attractive short-stay holiday break

destinations in Europe. This is certainly reflected in the level of hotel

investment, visitor numbers and the ratio of visitor bed nights in Dublin,

in relation to the rest of the country which is now hugely increased in

Dublin's favour. The books, the brochures, the literature, market Dublin

as a great European historic capital city, with a proud history and

literary heritage, pleasant to walk about and full of intimate pubs and

easy welcoming conversation.

Any visitor to Dublin, unfortunate enough to make the disorienting arrival

by plane, will be confronted im- Mediately by its transport chaos and failure

to establish a rapid transit link with the city centre. This is only

symbolic of the total blindness to which Dublin has staggered down the

route of motor car dependency. While the clock ticks on availing of

European funds for rapid transport the proposed LUAS rapid transit plan

becomes progressively delayed. The original £120 million EU allocation has

already been redistributed, with Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy stealing

£31 million for the Roads Programme, thereby even further imbalancing the

modal split between public and private vehicular transport. Meanwhile the

reshaping of the physical, economic and social fabric of the city to the

dictate of the motor car continues. The whole balance of shopping has been

tipped to the EU funded C Ring motorway which is supposed to be a bypass

route, with the development of the Quarryvale and Blanchardstown in west

Co. Dublin and their easy accessibility from a wide catchment area. The

widened National Primary Road radial roads are simply fuelling more low

density car dependent suburban housing in satellite towns. Failure to

invest and develop rail freight chokes the city with heavy goods

vehicles,while the worst offenders of all, are the diesel buses which chug

in traffic jams along the streets, which, until the mid 20th century had

one of the most efficient tram systems in Europe.

Lest there be any pretence that Dublin is now looking after its great

Georgian heritage, a simple tour will quickly disillusion that. Every day

a walk around the 18th.century squares from Mountjoy to Merrion will

reveal skip after skip of houses throwing out the very Georgian front doors

themselves, which encapsulate the image of the city. Original fanlights are

smashed up and replaced by poor copies, and the national uPVC window

blight, while held at bay only through special vigilance in the Merrion and

Fitzwilliam areas is devastating the streets around Mountjoy Square.

The real glories of Dublin houses are their interiors, and it is on these

that the kango hammer is ripping riot. No better example can be shown than

that in the terrace beside the very successfully refurbished Merrion Hotel

opposite government buildings. In this terrace, 25-29 Lower Merrion Street

the "conversion" of five formerly State owned buildings to residential

accommodation has resulted in the removal of all of their staircases, and

joinery interior features, dating back to the mid 18th century and the

re-ordering of the buildings into a series of mean rabbit warren boxes.

This process is being repeated on a large scale around the Georgian North

Side, along with a new phenomenon for the chopping up of large Georgian

houses into the shoe box type guest houses, presumably to facilitate the

lower paying, burgeoning, stag party market. Combined with this total

ongoing process of attrition, is a complete failure of the understanding of

traditional building conservation and maintenance, as that most precious

and irreplaceable quality of the city, its the sense of age and patina is

progressively eroded by the daily depredations of unnecessarily ripping out

of pointing for new crude cement and the ravaging of the surface of brick

facades through abrasive grit blast cleaning.

The pressure of development is now threatening the future integrity of the

skyline of the city with 20 storey tower blocks being touted by the

property development fraternity. A current planning application for a site

in George's Quay, proposes a cluster, rising to up to 24 storeys.

The future of the city's prime theatre, the Gaiety is totally unresolved

with UCI the international chain cinema syndicate having made an offer for

it, higher than anybody else subject to its de-Listing as a theatre.

The oldest intact Classical church in the city, St. Mary's, where Wolfe

Tone and Sean O'Casey were baptised, has suffered many years of poor

conversion as a tacky paint and decorating store, is now facing the

even-worse effect of pub conversion. Much of its early 18th. century

carved woodwork has disappeared.

The National Gallery, which one would expect to be the pre-eminent cultural

Guardian of Ireland itself set the worst possible example by its

acquisition and proposed demolition of a major late 18th century townhouse

at 5 South Leinster Street for an extension. It was only the major

concerted opposition of conservation bodies which succeeded in having the

plan amended to retain the house, as is now proposed

Allied Irish Banks, the most profitable company in the country, and which

likes to fancy itself as having an environmental conscience through its

sponsorship of the annual "Better Ireland Awards", has entered into a joint

venture with the developers, Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett of Treasury

Holdings, to "develop" the complex block of 19th Listed century buildings

in the long-standing ownership of AIB at College Street/D'Olier Street

opposite Trinity College. However, instead of seeking to work with the

grain of the buildings and to create an interesting mix of uses within

their envelopes, the plan is a massively greedy one for a major office

content of two high storeys with a five storey hotel plonked on top with

mansard roofs presenting views over Trinity College and the roofs of the

former Parliament House. All but one of the nine buildings on site are to

be demolished or reduced to facades. The one building with an interior to

be "retained" the former Provincial Bank is to have two stories cast on top

of it.

This, probably the most architecturally destructive scheme in Dublin for a

decade was supported by the then Director General of Bord Failte, Matt

McNulty on the grounds that "top" hotels need penthouse rooms so that their

patrons may lord themselves over the cities they visit. While the proposal

by Hilton Hotel to take up the use of the site has now been shelved due to

an ongoing legal action, by a group of environmentalists constituted as

Lancefort Ltd.to the Supreme Court, AIB and Treasury Holdings are still

actively pursuing their development plans for the site, including bringing

in an alternative international hotel chain.

The project at St. Michael's and St. John's Church, by Temple Bar

Properties and Dublin Tourism involved gutting of the interior of the first

pre-Emancipation Catholic Church in Dublin, for a Disneyesque type Viking

theme village centre, best described as Mullaghmore meets Celtworld, in

its bizarre combination of reckless major use of European funding, in this

case £6 million, for a scheme that represents the ultimate combination in

destruction of real heritage and spectacular financial loss. It is now to

relaunched as a commercial drinking den, so that its fake Viking boat may

now join the original early 19th century church fittings in the scrap heap.



CORK

Cork is holding its individuality and lively lived-in feel with

family-owned shopping streets. However, the chains are lurking for their

prey, symbolised by McDonald's capture of the landmark Woodford Bourne

building. Cork Corporation itself, has set some good initiative through

the Fens Quay and North Main Street projects, but mainly very bad example

through planning permissions for demolitions of important buildings at

Peter Street, Lyndville, and the entire gasworks complex, along with its

spectacular failure to control the uPVC epidemic.

However the status of the centre is now under attack from a ring of plans

for superstores, retail parks and shopping centres around the city. With

Cork City and County Councils competing against each other to "attract"

development.

LIMERICK

Limerick has deservedly acquired the most genuine and meritorious of all

heritage investment projects in recent years, the Hunt Museum. It has also

acquired one of the most absurd, the Shannon Development mock city street

beside King John's Castle, which includes a reproduction of a 19th century

stone warehouse building of a type being actively demolished in other parts

of the city such as the Milk Market.

The City tragically fails to appreciate its own quality as the westernmost

Renaissance city in Europe with its noble street plan. Limerick is now the

plastic window capital of Ireland, indeed possibly of the world. Nowhere

is this better symbolised by the fact that the majority of houses in

Ireland's only crescent have lost their timber are now of the fire-trap

uPVC top hung hinged variety.

GALWAY

Galway has reinvented itself as the city of craic, culture, music, film and

vibrant Irish life. However, it is strange that the new culture which

Galway seeks to embody, should be combined with such a complete lack of

appreciation of the physical qualities and characteristics of the city

itself. Most of its great limestone buildings, like the Great Southern

Hotel and Railway Station, now suffocate in plastic windows. In its urban

renewal areas, it has adopted its own pastel coloured parody style of the

late - Mediaeval buildings, whose remains it is still demolishing. Its

attachment to the super pub, parallels that of Dublin's Temple Bar.

It has spectacularly failed to plan for its state as the fastest growing

Irish city in transport and infrastructure, with the city Corporation

locked into an outmoded scheme for putting its new sewerage treatment plant

on a prominently sited Mutton Island in Galway Bay.

WATERFORD

Waterford is now trying to lure cruise liners and market itself as an

historic European port city to live up to its 18th century title of "the

noblest quay in Europe". In reality, it maintains its quay-front as a

chaotic car park saturated, shed littered mess, dominated by the most out

of place motorway petrol station in Ireland. Along the great quay-front

itself, which unlike Cork and Dublin, has survived so splendidly intact, is

the blight of plastic windows, including, the supposed welcoming point in

the city itself, its tourist office!

Despite commissioning an model strategic plan for the Quayfront the city

Corporation totally abrogated it by granting permission for a monstrous

penthouse extension to the Granville Hotel which destroys the cohesion of

the building line. Meanwhile, Waterford instead of promoting the

conservation of the city, is now engaging in the "de-Listing" of some of

its earliest surviving buildings in Broad Street to accommodate Boots

Chemists.

1.9 Ancient Sites And Archaeology

Ireland has always conveyed the illusion that it jealousy guards its

ancient past, while admitting at the widest official levels that its

treatment of the post 1700 legacy has been less than satisfactory. The

complete lack of any real appreciation, understanding, or meaningful

protection of ancient Ireland is symbolised by the bulldozing by a local

woman of the great mound of Tailteann in County Meath, centre of the

national Lughnasa Assembly. For the people of the time, the building and

raising the earth of this mound represented collective effort equivalent to

that of the Great Pyramids in Egyptian society. At the core of the mound

and laid with huge labour were layers of earth brought from all over the

country, ceremonially laid and ritually burnt to symbolise the unity of the

people. Centuries before the Grecian Olympiad, this was where these

ancient people held their annual truce, arranged marriages, played games

and told stories long into the night.

Also threatened was Tiachtgha, County Meath, not a site perhaps as well

known as Tara or Tailteann, County Meath, but in its time, as symbolic in

significance. It was the principal religious centre of the Druids and the

seat of Samhain Assembly, where the wise gathered annually to work for the

country's welfare. Like so many absurdly inappropriate locations, the

Tiachtgha (Hill of Ward site) was the subject of planning application by

Esat Digifone, for a hundred foot mobile telephone mast, refused planning

permission following major local oppostion.

In the urban areas, and particularly those affected by the Urban Renewal

Tax Incentives, the quick fix, quick build demands of contemporary

construction have left little time for archaeology. Cork has lost the

remains of St. Mary's of the Isle and Galway many impressive fragments of

late - Mediaeval houses, which could have been excitingly incorporated into

new buildings. The discovery of the foundations of the only Irish church

with an apsed chancel the 12th. century St. Peters in Waterford proved

inconvenient for

the construction of a shopping centre supermarket. The stones were moved to

another area in the development loosing all context and meaning.

1.10 The Thatched House

Still the most evocative of Irish images, is the thatched house, with its

lime washed walls, small windows and great robust outline of roof thatch.

A visitor now seeking the real thing, would have a hard time to find one,

particularly in the West. On the Aran Islands, no more than a handful

survive, as new housing there apes the style of the could-be-anywhere

suburban bungalow, and the Department of the Gaeltacht facilitated extra

grants fuel the elimination of stone-built walls for breeze blocks,

laboriously hauled on to the Islands.

With the real thatched house disappearing, the country takes refuge in

nostalgia and parody as a new spate of fake pubs, many with huge over-sized

roofs, one such erection even erupting in suburban Stillorgan in Dublin.

Apart from its evocative encapsulation of the essence of Ireland, the

thatched building presents the most valuable ecological lessons to a global

society. At a time when we are more and more dependent for our buildings

and consumer needs on industrial products requiring huge energy consumption

and transport, and very often a short performance life and disposability,

the traditional Irish thatched building is the ultimate example of

"sustainable development". It is a house created out of the very earth in

which it stands, since a large proportion are built out of that most, now

underrated, yet most ancient and ecological of all building materials.

While the dry climate of Yemen can accommodate earth buildings of seven or

eight storeys, Ireland still retains 200 year old, two storey houses,

covered in their protective lime wash, still happily lived in, and models

of thermal insulation, cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Large

concentrations, may still be found in Wexford that richest of all Irish

counties for thatched buildings. The buildings of the West were more

modest in size and stone constructed and these have suffered almost totally

from modern bungalow replacement.

Bord Failte should not dare allow one more photograph of an Irish thatched

house to be printed in one more postcard, to appear in one more magazine

article, to be printed in one more book, unless a major national initiative

is taken to combat their destruction.

Apart from the necessity to retain the very small stock of thatched

buildings which remains, and to try and find a viable use for them, since

many are not suitable for living accommodation for large families, a

massive national initiative is needed. But the rewards will be high in the

satisfaction of retaining these among the last threads of our national

identity. Their survival will also hopefully inspire the next generation

to move away from the concept of the hard cement plastic windowed

synthetically slated dormer bungalow, and think again about evolving a

modern and indigenous Irish rural architecture, which will take its

materials from the earth around it, while at the same time achieving the

comfort, which modern living now demands.

1.11 The Country House Legacy.

The value of this previously despised inheritance is now universally

recognised and actively marketed. One of the great success stories of

recent years has been the development of the Hidden Ireland Country House

Accommodation group and the economic rehabilitation of many charming medium

sized 18th and 19th century houses after years when their future had

seemed hopeless. The Section 19 tax incentive has also in many cases

provided that vital financial advantage to allow a house and its contents

to be retained. This must not disguise the fact that there is still no

effective national strategy to protect this great legacy, so that each

time, a problem arises, the system nearly always fails to respond.

Fota on its island in Cork Harbour ranks among the all-time debacles of

recent years. Here, with the enlightened ownership of University College

Cork and the patronage of Richard Wood, the superb ensemble of island

parkland setting, house, picture collection and arboretum was revived.

Following UCC's betrayal of Fota, and its sale of much of the land to a

multi-national leisure company, golfers now strut over the island parkland

demense, while the house goes literally derelict.

Powerscourt Co. Wicklow is a not very wonderful example of over-intensive

development, with a plastic windowed, mock Georgian and Tudor housing

estate creeping menacingly against the entrance, a golf course engulfing

the drive up to the house, including its far too assertively sited car park

surrounded clubhouse. The visitor to the gardens and cheaply re-roofed

shell of the house has to clamber through a temple of shopping.

1.12 The Fate of Carton

Worst of all, is the long-simmering threat and now imminent destruction of

the character of Carton, Co. Kildare. This the premier Ducal seat of

Ireland, the birthplace of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (his childhood home at

Frascati is now marked by a rock), is a great demense walled ensemble of

house, outbuildings and Capability Brown parkland. The current planning

permission given a ten year life in 1992 would turn it into a huge American

country club type set up. While the option was abandoned by

Guinness/Gleneagles Group, it is now to be taken up by Sheraton, in

conjunction with the existing owner Lee Manahan.

Surely the golf course sterilised surroundings of such places as Straffan

and others of the same ilk, are enough to cater for the international

market, which wants the safe sanitised experience of staying in a Sheraton

and driving around in golf buggies. Carton is special, and if its quality

is lost, it will never be regained. There are plenty of other locations

where a Sheraton type chain could develop its type of international

packaged experience without destroying Carton. Instead of preying on the

past, another location could be chosen, to create an exciting modern hotel

of the highest international design quality, which could set a marker for

the future.

The most outrageous aspect of the Carton project, is the massive £6 Million

EU Tourism grant funding, which Sheraton are seeking. It is completely

unacceptable that public money should be used in this manner for a

commercial development, which is not in the long term interest of the

country's national heritage and which represents the same sort of thinking

that has prostituted Ireland to international manufacturing companies and

chain stores. This funding allocation, which will inevitably be open to

legal challenge from conservation interests should be terminated, and money

secured instead, for the purchase of Carton and its land as a National

Historic Park to be maintained in the very simple way it always was, as

both a National amenity and one for the population exploding western

suburbs.



5 September: In a landmark decision, the Planning Appeals Board rules against Bord na Mona and requires them to seek planning permission for the extraction of peat on a 100 hectare site at Abbeyleix, Co Laois. Read the legal analysis. By this precedent, will Bord na Mona now have to apply for planning permission for the 1,500 hectares of peatlands they need each year for the new power stations, opening the way to the first Environmental Impact Assessment of peat extraction in Ireland's history?


With thanks to
AN TAISCE

RE: RF1078
Kilamuck Bog, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois

An Taisce supports the contention by Laois County Council that 'the developments which Bord na Mona are proposing to carry out at this location require planning permission and submission of an environmental impact statement (EIS)'.

An Taisce rejects the arguments put forth by Bord na Mona that the works they propose are exempt for the following reasons:

Peat extraction definition
'Peat extraction' was not included in the interpretation section of the planning legislation until recently, when in 2001 the 1994 Local Government (Planning and Development) Regulations were amended to include in regulation 3 the following
" 'peat extraction' includes any related drainage of bogland" (S.I. 600 of 2001).

The inclusion of 'related drainage' in the definition of peat extraction, aims to ensure improved environmental safegaurds in line with the European Court of Justice ruling (21 September 1999) against Ireland dealing with thresholds and environmental impact assessment (EIAs) (Case C-392/96).

Bord na Mona are citing this definition to essentially, achieve the opposite. An Taisce contends strongly that legislative intention should not be allowed to be thwarted in this manner.

Peat extraction is specified development
The 1989 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, in article 24 consider that 'peat extraction' which would involve a new or extended area of 50 hectares is 'specified development'. This means that it cannot be exempted. The 1989 regulation amended the 1963 Planning and Development Act, to include peat extraction as prescribed and stated that it 'shall not be exempted development'. This hectarage has been reduced to 30 for EIA (S.I. no 538 of 2001) and for planning threshold to 10 hectares (S.I. 539 of 2001).

Peat extraction has been included in the planning fees schedule since 1991, without an accompanying definition.

Exempted development
An Taisce believes that 'peat extraction' has never actually been specified as exempted development in the Planning Acts, until the 2001 Planning and Development Regulations(S.I no 600 of 2001) (Schedule II, Part 3, class 17). This states 'peat extraction in a new or extended area of 10 hectares or more, where the drainage of the bogland commenced prior to the coming into force of these regulations'.

This provision directly contradicts the EIA regulations requiring peat extraction to have an EIA. In addition, a recent reasoned opinion (C ,(2001) 2253, dated 25.07.01) states in section 3.5 headed 'Execution of projects before development consent is given' the following: In the Commission's view it is inconsistent with the system of EIA provided for in the Impact Assessment Directive to allow a project to be executed in whole or in part before development consent is given.

'Peat extraction' has only recently been defined and up until now not included in the exempted developments section.
The view of the planning authority was that 'land drainage works are exempt from development consent, and that there is no direct information that Bord na Mona intends to extract peat from Kilnamuck Bog' (letter from Planning section, Laois County Council, 03.10.00 to IPCC).

Up until the 2001 regulations, had Bord na Mona wanted to extract peat from Abbeyleix bog, despite the commencement of some drainage, they clearly would have required planning permission. Despite the conflicting provision of S.I. 600/2001, An Taisce maintains that planning permission and an EIA is required.

This provision is also in direct conflict with the Planning and Development Act 2000, under which these regulations are made. The full title of this act includes the following aim:
TO PROVIDE, IN THE INTERESTS OF THE COMMON GOOD, FOR PROPER PLANNING AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

If Bord na Mona is allowed to proceed with its programme of drainage and peat extraction for Abbeyleix bog, without planning permission and submission of a full statutory EIS, this aim and the provisions of the EIA Directive and implementing Irish regulations would be denied and the rights that they infer infringed.

4. Supremacy of European Law
The 1989 EIA regulations, which implement the 1985 EIA Directive (Directive 85/337) specify that peat extraction consent procedures must include an EIA.

The European Law has supremacy in this instance. It is a basic rule of Community law that a directly effective provision of Community law always prevails over a provision of national law. The European Court has held (in the Simmenthal case) that it was a duty of a national court to give full effect to the Community provisions and not to apply any conflicting provision of national legislation, even if it had been adopted subsequently. This is not limited to European regulations, it also applies to Directives.

In addition, the principle of direct effect with regard to Directive 85/337/EEC applies from the 3rd July 1988. This is the date by which the EIA Directive should have been implemented by member states. Irish regulations did not come into force until 1st February 1990. It is very vague from the information on file when exactly Bord na Mona commenced drainage activities on the bog. Dates range from 'shortly after purchase' in 1986, some say 1988, others say late 1980s. If Bord na Mona did not commence works on the bog until after 3rd July 1988, then it is clear that direct effect applies.

IPC procedure
It is important to note, that although Bord na Mona holds an Integrated Pollution Control licence for this site, granted 29th February 2000, number 507, that no EIA was undertaken, nor an EIS submitted as part of this IPC application, despite a clear legal requirement to so do.

In addition, the local community were not adequately provided with the opportunity to comment on the application as the notice in the newspaper stating that Bord na Mona were applying for an IPC licence only stated the following location: "Coolnamona Group c/o Boora Works, Boora, Leabeg, Tullamore, Co. Offaly".
Nowhere did the notice state that the location of the activity was actually Abbeyleix, or even in Co. Laois.

It is not acceptable that Bord na Mona undertake a voluntary EIS, and use that as a means to bypass the proper planning procedures. An EIS does not fulfil its function except as part of a decision making process.

Conclusion:

An Taisce supports Laois County Council submission that planning permission and the submission of a full statutory EIS is required for peat extraction of Abbeyleix Bog, because:

1. An EIS has not been submitted as part of a development consent procedure for this site. The threshold for an EIA for peat extraction is 30 hectares.

2. The 1989 EIA regulations include 'peat extraction' as specified development. This means it cannot be exempted.

3. The planning threshold for peat extraction is 10 hectares. The site is proposed for 100 hectares.

4. The aim of the Planning and Development Act to provide for in the interests of the common good, proper planning and sustainable development.

5. Supremacy of European legislation and national legislation over the provision allowing exempted development for 'peat extraction for which drainage of the bogland has already commenced'.

6. The size and scale of the development must be considered in the instance. The land drainage works undertaken to date, only comprise a part of the full drainage works that are required before extraction can commence. There is another 7 years of drainage required in some sections of the bog. Bord na Mona intend to extract peat for twenty years. It is vital for the proper planning and sustainable development of Abbeyleix, that a development and an impact of this size be subjected to the full rigours of planning and environmental law.

7. Reasoned opinion (C,(2001) 4246) states 'treating drainage works as outside the scope of the Directive would be contrary and would undermine the scheme and purpose of the Directive in relation to peat extraction'. To accept the commencement of drainage works as a reason for exempting Bord na Mona (or any other developer) from the requirement to seek planning permission and submit and EIS, would further undermine the purpose of the EIA Directive in Ireland.

For these reasons, and also because of the real possibility that Abbeyleix Bog is of Special Area of Conservation status, despite the drainage undertaken to date, An Taisce contends that a planning application including full statutory EIS be submitted to Laois County Council for the proposed peat extraction.

The precautionary principle must apply here, in line with our European commitments and national aim of sustainable development. An Taisce, fully supports the IPPC view that planning permission must be sought for this development.

An Taisce



"Huge amounts of peat need to be extracted to feed these two power stations. Not only is it uneconomical, but it is also an environmental catastrophe." More on the "doomed technology"...

Patricia McKenna, Green Party MEP


Tuesday 11 September, 2001
MEP CHARGES PEAT BURNING "DOOMED TECHNOLOGY"

In a hard hitting and trenchant Press Release issued in Brussels today, Patricia McKenna replied today to Bord na Mona's Chief Executive Sean Grogan's recent claims that her comments on the proposed new peat powered plants were "inaccurate, misleading, and alarmist".

"The use of peat as a fuel is a doomed technology", Ms. McKenna stated, "and the only question is when it will end."

Ms McKenna went on to charge that

"Mr. Grogan's statement does not address the issue of the Commission's clear position that Ireland has not designated enough raised bogs to satisfy the Habitats Directive. It does not address the issue of our new obligations under the Biodiversity Convention to protect our native flora and fauna. It does not initiate the long awaited consultative process that will see a binding agreement for the restoration of the vast midland bogs already destroyed in the name of national security of electricity supply and income support. It does not address the issue of disadvantaging renewable energy through heavily subsiding a fossil fuel by adding to the electricity bill for every household in Ireland."

Ms McKenna's detailed response to points made by the Bord na Mona Chief Executive is attached.

ENDS


Detailed response by Patricia McKenna. MEP, to Sean Grogan, Chief Executive of Bord na Mona Energy Ltd.


STATEMENT: "1,800 hectares per annum of peatland will be destroyed over the coming decades is simply not true, he said. The bogs to be used are currently in use for peat production and no new areas will be acquired or developed to supply these stations."

REPLY: Environmentalist do not accept that simply putting a lateral drain down a bog means that "bogs are currently in use for peat production". Bogs which have never been harvested before are to be utilized for these plants as well as vast extensions of existing bogs.

The demand for peat at the Shannonbridge plant alone will consume more than 1.2 million tons of peat, including 300,000 tons to be moved by road to eek out the Blackwater and Boora peat reserves. Mr Grogan should release a list of the specific bogs to be utilised during the life of the two plants, something environmentalist have been unable to obtain from the Company.

Ireland is facing daily fines for its failure to properly apply the EIA Directive because of unassessed turf cutting yet neither the Environmental Impact Statement or the EPA license application says a word about the effect of these plants on Ireland's peatlands.

STATEMENT: "Much of this 8% will eventually be used for development of wetlands, forestry, or grasslands, all of which will absorb carbon dioxide when put in place."

REPLY: No consultations have taken place with any stakeholders about an comprehensive after use plan that details exactly what will be done with each bog and when this will be done. Recent research suggests that the planting of forestry on bogs may in fact not be in the interest of climate control but there is currently no forum for these issues to be discussed. In no other form of "mining" would permission be given for development without a binding conditions requiring full details of all restoration.

STATEMENT: "The two proposed power stations will replace 6 existing less efficient stations and the technology used will be to produce 35% less CO2 per unit of electricity generated."

REPLY: While the proposed plants produce 35% less CO2 than the older plants, they will produce almost three times more CO2 per unit than natural gas - and even that does not compare with wind energy, which produces no CO2 when in use. Further, the heated water produced is entirely wasted rather than being used in a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. The plant does not even have an element of biomass. Bord na Mona is sticking its head in the bog and refusing to face the reality of climate change.

STATEMENT: "She asserts that peatland is more efficient that forest in capturing carbon. In fact, forests actually absorb five times more carbon that peatlands each year, he said."

REPLY: The argument is not how fast forestry or peatland absorb carbon sinks, but how much they can hold - and for how long. According to John Feehan's "Bogs of Ireland" forests can hold 300 tons of CO2. But blanket bogs hold 800 tons and raised bogs hold 2,000 tons. The proposal to destroy raised bogs can not be justified with our new knowledge about climate change.

STATEMENT: "Ms McKenna says that the developments will wreck havoc on habitats listed for protection. This again is simply not true, Sean Grogan said."

No one is claiming that bogs listed for protection are under threat. But the Commission has made it clear to Ireland that Ireland has not designated enough raised bogs to satisfy the Habitats Directive. It is these bogs which are at threat, as are many valuable parts of bogs where work has already begin but of which vast areas could still be saved if the drainage work was reversed.

ENDS





18 July, 2002: FIE's challenge in the Irish Courts to the two proposed new peat burning power stations is withdrawn as a result of the Government's interference in the judicial process.


LEGAL CHALLENGE TO PEAT POWER STATIONS WITHDRAWN

The Judicial Reviews taken by the environmental network Friends of the Irish Environment were yesterday withdrawn from the High Court.

The actions were taken in April of this year against the decision of the Planning Appeals Board to grant permission for the proposed new peat powered stations at Shannonbridge and Lanesborough and against the licence issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for the project. FIE claims both were issued without an Environmental Impact Assessment of the extraction of the peat for the project.

The group stated its withdrawal was as a direct result of "the Government's interference in the judicial process."

Mr Brian Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs announced on 8 May that measures to allow the ESB proceed with the building of new Power Stations at Shannonbridge and Lanesborough were formally approved by the Cabinet.

Minister Cowen went on to say: "The decision taken today by the Cabinet, which I warmly welcome, means that there is no obstacle to the commencement of construction work on the new Power Stations regardless of the judicial review proceedings recently initiated in relation to planning permission. These proceedings had threatened to seriously delay construction work on the Power Stations."

The effect of the Government decision was to ensure costs incurred by ESB would be treated as additional costs for the purposes of the Public Service Obligations Obligation [PSO].

FIE's statement drew attention to Trevor Sargent, the leader of the Green Party's, subsequent statement that this decision made the Government "in my mind in contempt of Court."

Work began on the construction earlier this month.

FIE's said the cases they had taken "were no longer worth putting the Company at risk in the Irish Courts. We will, however, be pursuing the Government's unauthorised extension of the PSO to the European authorities as an abuse of a national judiciary process".

The Commission is investiaging FIE's complaints over the inadequate EIA of the power plants and has issued a Reasoned Opinion over Ireland's failure under the EIAs lgislation, the last step before a Judgement from the European Court.. The spokesperson for FIE said they were "determined to continue to fight the destruction of Ireland's peatlands and the consequent damage to the global climate in breach of EU law."

NOTE TO EDITORS

PSOs: The "Public Service Obligation" is an agreement approved by the EU last year allows the ESB to recoup the uneconomical cost of the production of electricity by peat from the consumers as a surcharge on each bill.

The PSO was given on the grounds of "national security", a deregulation that can be invoked by which a member state may source 15% of its national fuel supply from national sources. Ireland currently produces 7% of its electricity from peat.

WHAT THE CASE WAS ABOUT
The matter of substance in the legal proceedings was the failure of either the planning appeals board or the environmental protection agency to require an environmental impact assessment [EIA] of the extraction of peat.

The Government's contention is that the extraction does not require an EIA as it predates the implementation of the EIA Directive in 1988.