12 September 2008

Gormley called "a Disgrace" at Cork Meeting

Today Cork councillors have been briefed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley (photo left) on the preliminary findings of a report into toxic waste at Haulbowline.

But the session did not progress quite as planned or expected.

Tumultous scenes, emotions and anger erupted in the Town Hall of Cobh during the meeting, whose main subject was a report - compiled by consultants - into the risks posed by waste on the former Irish Ispat site.

Mayor John Mulvihill Jnr had to plead with his father, County Councillor John Mulvihill Snr, to let Gormley speak.
But Mulvihill Snr was having none of it. He accused the minister of being "a disgrace" and told him to resign his position. He also accused Gormley, who is leader of the Green Party, of "not taking the health concerns of people seriously".

Eventually the Mayor, as chairman of the meeting, was forced to intervene again, asking his father to sit down and allow the minister to answer questions from other Councillors as well.

On his way into the meeting John Gormley said that preliminary findings indicate that "the site does not pose a health hazard and people do not have cause for concern".

Last June the minister had promised a full report into the health risks of over 500,000 tonnes of toxic material deposited on the island (photo right) and his plans for a clean-up.
This followed claims by a sub-contractor involved in site clearance work that his company had found Chromium 6, a cancer-causing compound that can be toxic in tiny doses (and is the toxic that sparked a meanwhile famous legal crusade by Erin Brockovich in the USA).

Local councillors were visibly angry that John Gormley had not met with them directly since concerns about the site first came to light.
In the decade before the old steel plant closed in 2001, more than 500,000 tonnes of hazardous waste was dumped on Haulbowline, the same island that also houses Ireland's only naval base (including the HQ of the nation's Naval Service).

The Emerald Islander

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