Cowen urged to intervene in Gormley incinerator row
Published 02/07/2010 | 05:00
Environment Minister John Gormley was accused yesterday of having a conflict of interest over the controversial €350m project in his own constituency.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was called upon to remove Mr Gormley from the decision-making on a licence for the company promising 600 jobs from the development of the incinerator at Poolbeg in Dublin.
Fine Gael claimed Mr Gormley could be in breach of ethics laws governing ministerial responsibilities. The Green Party leader is under intense pressure today to explain why the creation of jobs is being stalled, despite unemployment hitting a new record high of more than 450,000.
He is due to meet with the US Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney to discuss the delay in granting a foreshore licence to the US company behind the incinerator, Covanta.
But Mr Gormley says construction of the plant is "entirely incompatible with my national waste strategy".
Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan said the minister was adjudicating on a foreshore licence when he had a conflict of interest on the matter.
Mr Hogan asked if it was appropriate for the minister to adjudicate on a licence when he had a particular view. He said ministers are obliged under the Standards In Public Office Act to declare if they have a conflict of interest.
"He clearly has a political and personal conflict of interest in the Poolbeg waste-to-energy project. The Taoiseach should intervene and ask someone else to adjudicate," he said.
The minister's spokesman said the granting of the licence was an entirely transparent process. "No, he doesn't have a conflict of interest," the spokesman said.
As the Government was accused of failing to have a jobs strategy, the Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Mr Rooney had sought a meeting with Mr Gormley to discuss his refusal to grant a licence crucial to the development of the plant.
The ambassador is also understood to have already informally discussed the matter with Mr Cowen earlier this year.
Mr Rooney will discuss the foreshore licence for the project, which already has total planning approval and would create 600 new jobs -- 500 in cons-truction and 100 in operation.
The US company behind the development, Covanta -- a publicly quoted company on the New York Stock Exchange -- said it was "routinely questioned by shareholders about the delays affecting our Ireland project".
After receiving a request from the company four months ago, Mr Cowen will possibly meet with Covanta bosses in New York during a business trip to the US in a fortnight.
The American-Ireland Chamber of Commerce has also expressed concern about the possible damage to Ireland's "solid reputation for being 'business friendly' to foreign investors".
Mr Gormley has long been opposed to the incinerator being built in his Dublin South-East constituency.
Given his repeated pledges to stop the incinerator the Green Party TD would be dealt an embarrassing blow if it went ahead while in Cabinet.