Monday 18 March 2019

Incinerator hurdle removed as EU body clears council of breaking rules

Poolbeg incinerator
Poolbeg incinerator

Niall O'Connor

The controversial Poolbeg incinerator has taken a step towards getting the go-ahead after Dublin City Council was cleared of suspected breaches of procurement rules.

The European Commission has confirmed that a second investigation into the project has now been wound down - a decision that could see work resume at the Ringsend site.

The council was previously cleared of suspected breaches of state aid rules following another lengthy investigation by EU officials.

The same officials have now cleared the council of any suspected procurement breaches in the hiring of consultants to work on the project.

But the decision by the European Commission to grant the green light to the project presents a fresh challenge for Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan.

Mr Keegan is believed to be sceptical about whether the council should proceed with the project, which has already left the taxpayer facing a €108m bill.

The Dublin City Manager, who was criticised over his handling of the recent Garth Brooks concerts affair, is set to discuss the future of Poolbeg with his officials in the coming weeks.

It is expected the matter will be brought to the attention of Dublin City councillors when the council reconvenes next month.

The decision to clear the council of any wrongdoing will also put the heat back on Mr Keegan's predecessor, John Tierney.

The Irish Water chief has twice turned down an invitation to appear in front of the Oireachtas Environment Committee over the issue of Poolbeg because the EU probes were ongoing.

Mr Tierney served as Dublin City Manager for over seven years and played an instrumental role in the decision-making process regarding Poolbeg.

And the latest decision to clear the council of any wrongdoing is expected to lead to fresh calls for Mr Tierney to appear in front of TDs when the Dail reconvenes next month.

The chairman of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, said the issue may be a matter for his committee, given the large public spend. TDs are also concerned about revelations that there are no records of minutes from crucial project meetings involving senior Dublin City Council officials, as well as the fact that €30m was spent on consultancy.

Although the EU investigations have been completed, the future of Poolbeg remains in doubt. Mr Keegan has refused to be drawn on whether construction will resume on the project, which is aimed to reduce landfill in the greater Dublin area.

A highly-critical report published in April stated that there was a lack of "regular" and "proactive" risk management by senior city officials.

Irish Independent

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