There is a battle beginning in Cork Harbour which could become nasty and how it turns out will shape the future of what has been described as “the second most beautiful natural harbour in the world.” At issue is €500m for development and centres that could lead the way in international maritime research.
The money has been earmarked for developing a maritime tourist centre on Spike Island, an international sailing development on Haulbowline Island and the Cruise Liner Terminal at Cobh, as well as the Beaufort Centre, leading international marine energy research and the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster, another research centre, both at Ringaskiddy, where the National Maritime College, also developing its international reputation is on the same complex. Close by is the Naval Base on Haulbowline.
In what seems like questionable planning logic, the waste management company, Indaver, where it wants to build not one but two incinerators, one to treat hazardous waste and another non-hazardous, just across the road.
In case anyone raises the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issue, the vista of Cork Harbour, as residents will tell you, now includes three huge wind turbines used by the several chemical factories at Ringaskiddy and an increasingly noisy port where stacks of containers will be part of the scenery following the development of the new container port there. Ringaskiddy has, arguably, suffered more than any village in Ireland from environmental problems caused by the concentration of so many chemical factories there. What infuriates residents is that they have fought off Indaver for 15 years, involving legal action, Court cases and a cost of over a million Euros raised from the community.
Incinerator protest sign at Ringaskiddy
That fury was evident on Monday night when several hundred crowded into Ringaskiddy Community Hall. So big was the attendance that people stood in corridors, entrances and even outside the building. Residents from communities all over Cork Harbour have voiced opposition and accused the company of trying to “bully their way” into the harbourside village. Minister Coveney, the Leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin and other politicians have agreed with the residents that it is an abuse of democracy that a company can, as often as it wants, try to defeat the will of the people.
“I am fundamentally opposed to this development,” Minister Coveney told the meeting. He is a TD for the area, but got a hefty grilling about the incinerator proposal. He declared that he would object, as the FF Leader as other politicians have also pledged. He said he had told Indaver his views and that he feared their proposal would damage prospects for the €500m. investment in the harbour. “It is the wrong proposal, wrong place and wrong time and I say that as a person who loves Cork Harbour and has put a huge effort and time into trying to get what is right for it,” he said.
The battle now developing will have implications for sailing in the harbour and the clubs there, which include Cove, Monkstown Bay and the Royal Cork at Crosshaven. The new port could restrict the sailing area and the reputation of the ‘beautiful harbour’ could take a beating. The level of anger in the harbour is considerable.As I left the meeting on Monday night my last impression was seeing huge numbers of people queuing up to donate money to a campaign to stop Indaver and to lodge objections. Driving out of Ringaskiddy I saw the Minister for the Marine’s election poster proclaiming: “We’ll make Royal Cork great again.”
I wonder if that will happen, because it seems to me that a new ‘battle’ for the future of “the second most beautiful natural harbour in the world” is underway.