David Farrell, July 5, 2010
In a letter in today’s Irish Independent, a correspondent writes of how the “obsessive behaviour” of Mr Gormley:
“has become more than just an embarrassment to the Government, it has become a dangerous impediment to this country’s economic recovery and the creation of much-needed jobs. Along with business leaders, United States Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney has expressed his amazement at Mr Gormley’s repeated attempts to put the Poolbeg incinerator development on the back burner.
He has become so incensed and frustrated by the obstinacy of the Environment Minister that he has demanded a face-to-face meeting with him to explain why he continues to drag his feet over procedures for a project that already has full planning permission.
Meanwhile, 600 jobs that have the potential to take thousands of family members out of the poverty trap are on the line while Gormley continues to frustrate Covanta’s efforts to get things up and running….”
This letter raises important questions about whether it is appropriate for Mr Gormley to be left in charge of this decision.
The basic facts of the matter are as follows.
- Mr Gormley, in his capacity as a constituency TD in Dublin South East, has campaigned long and hard against the proposed Poolbeg incinerator. In this matter he has been entirely open and consistent in his policy position, prepared at every stage to express his forthright views about the economics and environmental consequences of the Poolbeg project. Whether one agrees with him or not on this matter, the clarity and consistency of his position cannot be denied. All fine so far.
- However, as it happens, Mr Gormley is now the Minister for the Environment, on whose desk this proposal now sits. This opens up a clear instance of conflict of interest — a point made by Stephen Collins in a recent piece in the Irish Times. Collins observes:
“The project, first mooted over a decade ago, has been approved by An Bord Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Development Finance Agency and the Department of the Environment itself. Site clearance work is complete but, before it can proceed, a foreshore licence is required for the construction of a water cooling system. Dublin City Council first lodged an application for a foreshore licence almost two years ago and until it is issued the US developer of the project, Covanta Energy, will not be able to proceed. All the preliminary work on the licence has been done and the paperwork has been sitting on the Minister’s desk for months but no decision has emerged.”
The Green Party have always made much of their desire to promote “new politics” in Ireland, yet here we have a situation where the leader of that party is open to the charge of abusing his position of ministerial power to service narrow constituency interests. Hardly a great example for the rest of us.