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Poolbeg project is a step closer after EU approval

IRISH Water chief John Tierney is facing renewed calls to appear in front of two Oireachtas committees following a significant ruling on the stalled Poolbeg Incinerator.

The Ringsend project has moved a step closer after the European Commission found that it did not involve a breach of state aid rules.

Commission officials spent several months examining the details of a contract struck with waste company Covanta after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.

The complaint alleged that the public-private partnership contract with the firm breached EU regulations on state aid.

However in a statement yesterday, the Commission ruled in favour of the four Dublin local authorities who have invested in the incinerator in a move that edges the project closer to completion.

BARRIER

"The European Commission has found that a series of measures by the Dublin local authorities to participate in the Waste-to-Energy project in Poolbeg, Dublin, are in line with the EU state aid rules," the Commission said.

The decision removes a major barrier for the completion of the project, which has already cost taxpayers €108m.

A second complaint on the issue of procurement continues to be considered.

Dublin city manager Owen Keegan warned earlier this year that unless the council is cleared of the complaints, the project may not proceed.

But the decision to clear the local authorities on this particular complaint has turned the focus back on Mr Tierney.

The Irish Water chief spent seven years as city manager and played a major managerial role in the development of Poolbeg.

Earlier this year, Mr Tierney rejected a request by the Oireachtas Environment Committee to answer questions on Poolbeg. He told the committee he would not appear while EU investigations were ongoing.

In light of yesterday's development, the committee has written to Mr Tierney and requested again that he appears.

Labour TD Kevin Humph-reys told the Irish Independent that the committee has "numerous questions" for the former Dublin city manager.

DECISION

"This decision at EU level should now allow the CEO of Irish Water to review his decision not to appear in front of committee," he said. "I also believe that this project should be shelved, it is not viable and is nothing short of a white elephant that should be buried."

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness also said he would like his committee to question Mr Tierney over the spend on the project. He said the matter would be brought up at today's sitting of the committee.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council insisted that no decision has yet be made in relation to whether Poolbeg will proceed.

A council spokesperson said that while these decisions have removed significant potential obstacles to the project there are further steps to be undertaken before the project can proceed.

NOCONNOR@HERALD.IE


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