Monday 14 October 2019

Greg O'Shea, JP McManus and Paul O'Connell among thousands to protest over plans by cement firm to burn waste in Limerick

Thousands of protesters turned up in the heavy rain at Limerick City Hall furious that Irish Cement Limited ere given the green light by the Environmental Protection Agency to burn alternative fuels including used tyres at its Mungret facility. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Thousands of protesters turned up in the heavy rain at Limerick City Hall furious that Irish Cement Limited ere given the green light by the Environmental Protection Agency to burn alternative fuels including used tyres at its Mungret facility. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22

David Raleigh

Around 2,000 concerned citizens, including celebrities, politicians and well known sports personalities, braved torrential downpours to protest plans by Irish Cement Ltd to burn up to 90,000 tonnes of “toxic” waste per annum at its production plant in Limerick.

Local celebrity Love Island winner, Greg O’Shea, joined billionaire philanthropist and horse racing tycoon JP McManus, and former Irish, Munster, and Lions rugby hero Paul O’Connell in supporting the massive protest.

Last month, despite receiving over 4,000 objections, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upheld a decision by An Bord Pleanala, as well as Limerick City and County Council,  to allow Irish Cement burn used tyres, animal waste, sludge, plastics and other waste at its plant in Castlemungret.

“When I heard what was going on with the license being passed, I couldn't believe it. I thought I misread the (situation) initially,” O’Shea offered.

“Obviously, I don't know how much of an impact I can have, but I’m showing my support anyway for my city. I’m proud to be from Limerick and we have just got to do our best,” he added.

Mr McManus, who kept a watching brief at oral hearings held by An Bord Pleanala last year, said today he remained “concerned” over the plans.

Rugby star Paul O’Connell maintained a silent protest, only confirming he was “speaking with my feet”.

Today’s protest was organised by Limerick Against Pollution (LAP), a group of concerned residents who live near the Mungret plant.

The group’s spokeswoman, Claire Keating, said they would appeal the EPA decision and that they would take their protest to the European courts if necessary.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said he would gladly help bring the protest to Europe, and “supporting the appeal to the EPA”.

“Definitely, beyond that, anything we can do with a European dimension I would be supporting and advocating as well,” he added.

Former mayor James Collins, who lives near the cement plant, said he feared he and other local residents would be “living under a cloud of incinerated toxic waste” should the plans go ahead, subject to an appeals process.

Protesters said they were concerned harmful toxins could be released into the environment if the proposals are finalised.

Irish Cement has consistently refuted any suggestion of a public health threat from its plans.

It has stated previously that any waste used will be treated and disposed of safely.

The EPA stated last month its “proposed determination” on Irish Cement’s application  “provides for the acceptance of non-hazardous waste materials”.

It explained the company must adhere to “more than 100 individual conditions relating to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the installation”.

It also stated it was “satisfied that the emissions from the installation when operated in accordance with the conditions of the proposed licence will meet all required environmental protection standards and will not endanger human health or harm the environment”.

The deadline for appeals to the EPA decision is October 15th.

The public concern over Irish Cements plans is largely fueled after it was prosecuted in court for breaching the terms of its industrial emissions licence.

Last December the company pleaded guilty at Limerick District Court arising out of a prosecution brought by the EPA, to breaching the terms of its industrial emissions licence at its Limerick plant.

The company apologised and was fined €4,000.

The court heard a thick “glue-like” dust leaked from its Limerick plant, causing damage to nearby homes, cars and gardens.

The court heard Irish Cement Ltd had three previous convictions for similar breaches of its industrial licence, including two in July, 2018, and one breech in 2007.

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