Council votes against Poolbeg site loans

OLIVIA KELLY

AN ATTEMPT by Dublin City Council to borrow more than €50 million to complete the purchase of the site of the controversial Poolbeg incinerator has been blocked by councillors.

City manager John Tierney last night sought approval to borrow €50.3 million for site costs and an additional €10.8 million to develop a district heating system using power from the incinerator. Councillors voted by 26 votes to 12 not to allow the council management to seek a loan for the project.

The council had previously estimated the cost of buying the site for the plant at €120 million. The contract with the US developers of the incinerator, Covanta, is under review until next November, but the council has said it is confident the project will be back up and running by the end of this year.

Deputy Lord Mayor Maria Parodi (Lab) said she was “completely against” the approval of any further borrowing for the incinerator and that the request from the council management was premature, when the decision date on the future of the incinerator had been extended to November.

“I am shocked and appalled we are being asked to approve borrowing when we have in front of us such an undetailed report,” she added.

Fianna Fáil councillor Jim O’Callaghan said great confusion had been caused in relation to the funding for the plant.

Mr Tierney said that the €50.3 million had already been committed but would be “converted into borrowing” instead of being taken from current funds to prevent the council going into overdraft. The loan would only be drawn down as funds were needed.

The council and the other Dublin local authorities are responsible for providing Covanta with a site for the facility. A report commissioned by former minister for the environment John Gormley from John Hennessy SC found the council would face “very substantial” penalties if it failed to provide Covanta with sufficient municipal waste to fuel it over 25 years.

Statement from Bill Tormey

Last year, Mary O’Shea, Ruairi McGinley and I met the City Manager and his staff concerning the cost and and volume details of the Ringsend Incinerator. It was obvious that the Incinerator would have to go ahead at that point and that there is sufficient volume of refuse to justify it. The exact “Gate Price” could not be ascertained from officials which I thought outrageous but it appeared to be less than the going rate in some facilities in Europe. It was not clear how the price compared to Merthyr in Wales or to a facility in the US involving Covanta. But the Irish price included getting rid of both the bottom ash and the fly ash in a manner that is compatible with recycling according to the rules of the EU. One was to be recycled as asphalt and the other as packing in old salt mines in Germany. Transport costs were part of the Covanta deal. However, Phil Hogan TD has sight of the gate price value and was satisfied with the figure. I do not have the detail so I cannot comment otherwise. I NEVER believe anyone unless I see the evidence. The sage of the Incinerator is an illustrative example of why “Critical Infrastructure Projects” have to be protected from NIBYISM. The consequences of the above vote is that the public will have to pay €266,000 extra in interest charges. Och Ochoin.

I had to leave the Council early tonight to attend a function with new Chairman John Bailey in Dun Laoghaire. I read the above with disbelief – no not, really just pretend disbelief and work that out if you need to! I see Cllr O’Callaghan rising above the PR horizon again , never failing to reach the same standard. Reminds me of the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging unchanged from the fog of the First World War.

Poor Ireland.