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Sails In The Sunset For The Future Of Cork Harbour?

6th June 2018
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The sharp contrast between 24 yachts turning out for the first inter-club evening league racing in the harbour, providing a beautiful spectacle of white sails in the evening sunshine and community shock that a hazardous, toxic waste incinerator is to be inserted into this panorama could not be more dramatic. The sharp contrast between 24 yachts turning out for the first inter-club evening league racing in the harbour, providing a beautiful spectacle of white sails in the evening sunshine and community shock that a hazardous, toxic waste incinerator is to be inserted into this panorama could not be more dramatic.

In a 24-hour period last week there was an encouraging sailing advance uniting the three Cork Harbour clubs, but also a warning from the highest political level in Government that the planned maritime developments in the harbour, welcomed by the community, coming close to €200m in investment, were being put at risk.

The sharp contrast between 24 yachts turning out for the first inter-club evening league racing in the harbour, providing a beautiful spectacle of white sails in the evening sunshine and community shock that a hazardous, toxic waste incinerator is to be inserted into this panorama could not be more dramatic.

As I write this where I live in the harbour area. I see out of my window three huge wind turbines generating power for pharmaceutical, chemical and other factories in Ringaskiddy of which I can see five from my window. The noise of the deepwater port at Ringaskiddy, not yet fully developed, can be heard… When darkness comes it will not thoroughly darken this area - powerful lights from the industries will cut their nightly swathe through the darkness and the noise of their 24-hour production will continue….

Harbour residents have had to accept decades of industrialisation dominance, but I had felt that a new era of mutual co-operation was arriving. The State put over a €100m into the National Maritime College and marine research, green-energy projects, heritage potential, tourism, Spike Island development as one of Europe’s top attractions - €70m. to remediate the environmental toxic horror left behind on Haulbowline Island by Irish Steel… a new park is talked about there, as well as other maritime developments on the island.

Then came what widespread political and public reaction has described as a “kick in the teeth” to the community.

Fairness and balance are integral to trust in discussion. As a journalist, I try to see both sides of any debate, but after 17 years of opposition when the harbour communities have won their case at public inquiries when three staff Inspectors of Bord Pleanala have rejected the Indaver case for an incinerator at Ringaskiddy, but all have been over-ruled by the board members of Bord Pleanala, who are unaccountable to the public for their decision, it is hard to locate balance and fairness.

"In 50 years’ of journalism, I have seen my share of stupidity in media releases, but the expressed view of Bord Pleanala that this incinerator will be a tourist attraction is difficult to understand"

In 50 years’ of journalism, I have seen my share of stupidity in media releases, but the expressed view of Bord Pleanala that this incinerator will be a tourist attraction is difficult to understand.

“An inconceivable development,” Tanaiste Simon Coveney, a sailor himself, says about the incinerator … “disfigurement, immense damage…” are other terms used… to which Indaver responded by waving away all criticism and maintaining that it will be good for the area and good for the environment…

The location for the incinerator is at the end of a peninsula …. There is only one road access across a bridge onto and from Haulbowline Island, where the Naval Service is based. This road is adjacent to the incinerator…. The Department of Defence warned that the incinerator had potential to affect Naval operations and this was not acceptable….This it described as a matter of strategic national importance….

When I sought answers, during the planning inquiry, from the Minister for Defence and former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to whether it was acceptable that national defence policy should be affected in any way by any industry or commercial interest…the answer was that operations would be reviewed in the context of the planning decision.

So what now is the future of the Naval Base on Haulbowline Island… and what are the health and safety dangers of putting a public park on an island where there is only a single access and exit …..

The white sails of the inter-club league were a great sight last Friday night and the next race is this Friday….

But I wonder ----- are these “sails in the sunset” of Cork Harbour’s future ……

• Listen to my Podcast here

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

Email The Author

Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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