October 10: Consultation process with residents has been unsatisfactory

Residents in West Limerick who hold deep concerns about the impact of a gasification plan proposed for their area have every right to feel like they are being poorly treated by Limerick City and County Council. They turned up to a council meeting last week and sat in the public gallery for three hours, before it became clear that they had wasted their time, as a motion for an update on the situation was deferred for a second time.

Residents in West Limerick who hold deep concerns about the impact of a gasification plan proposed for their area have every right to feel like they are being poorly treated by Limerick City and County Council. They turned up to a council meeting last week and sat in the public gallery for three hours, before it became clear that they had wasted their time, as a motion for an update on the situation was deferred for a second time.

The reason given was that legal advice had not yet been received by the council on what is clearly a complex matter. Fair enough, one might say. But given that the legal advice was not going to suddenly arrive in the council chamber, mid meeting, why were these citizens made to sit through the entire session before returning to their parish none the wiser?

We have already made the point here that the public consultation process over the proposed gasification plant was entirely unsatisfactory. Senator James Heffernan has called it “a shambles”. We would not disagree with that description.

The matter was initially raised at a meeting of Adare Rathkeale councillors this time last year. They were told that a company called CEP had offered to pay €190 million to the council over 30 years for the lease on the former Gortadroma landfill site. A lot of money, then, and plenty of jobs too - but at what cost? The problem is that nobody so far is in a position to say. There are differing views on gasification plants and the potential risks they bring with them, but it’s abundantly clear that nobody wants one on their doorstep.

A brief visit to a plant in France ensued, which was nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. Then, all of a sudden, the thing was over the line before most residents had any kind of clear understanding of what the impact of this giant plant might be. A local outcry predictably ensued. It was an object lesson in poor communication, and one would have hoped that things could only improve from there.

The residents who attended last week’s meeting in vain will hardly feel that they have. Cllr John Sheahan, who first raised the motion back in July, has called on Conn Murray, CEO of Limerick City and County Council, to ““pull out all the stops to get legal advice to us as soon as possible”.

That is the very least the people who have serious concerns about this matter deserve.