WATCH: Kieran O'Donnell raises Irish Cement's controversial Limerick plans in Seanad

SENATOR Kieran O’Donnell has urged Irish Cement to organise a public meeting over its controversial plans for its Limerick plant.

The company is planning to switch away from fossil fuels at Mungret and instead use tyres and solid recovered waste in the production of cement.

But the €10m plans have led to huge concerns from the public, who are concerned at the impact the proposals will have on the local environment.

More than 300 people were at a meeting last Friday in the South Court Hotel organised by Limerick Against Pollution.

Mr O’Donnell spoke in the Upper House under the topic of the regulation of heavy industries, and addressed the Minister of State at the Department of Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Sean Kyne.

“I would ask Irish Cement now engages properly with residents in the area. It’s the minimum they require. It should be in the form of a public meeting to address people’s concerns and deal with the lack of trust people have in the greater Mungret, Raheen, Dooradoyle area,” he said.

“I know from speaking to residents in the area in more recent times, there is a distinct lack of trust among the public.”

He said the amount of monitoring at Irish Cement’s existing plant is “inadequate", and sought a commitment from Mr Kyne that this will be enhanced.

“We cannot have a situation where houses are built right up alongside the Irish Cement plant and people are worried about their health,” the Fine Gael man said.

For his part, Mr Kyne – who was deputising for Environment Minister Denis Naughten – said he could not comment on an independent application.

in a written response, he added: “The minister is precluded under legislation with interfering with the licensing decision making process. The minister believes the agency has a sufficient range of powers under the existing legislative code to adequately regulate and monitor such facilities in order to protect the environment and human health, ensure key standards are met and enable the public, particularly local communities to input should any issues emerge.”

Mr Kyne added: “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the independent statutory body responsible for protecting the environment in Ireland. The agency performs a wide range of statutory functions in fulfillment of its mandate”.

He said this includes the agency having a key role in licensing facilities like Irish Cement “to ensure their emissions do not endanger Irish health or harm the environment.”

“The Agency is responsible for the licence and enforcement of large industrial plants listed in the first schedule of the EPA Act 1992. The Irish Cement site at Mungret falls into this category.”

In conclusion, Mr O’Donnell said: “This is about public health and ensuring in terms of government policy, we promote public health. It’s also about ensuring we don't have a situation where we're looking to reduce fossil fuels but you have unintended consequences from the burning of alternative fuels.”

Irish Cement has long insisted its reforms will not lead to any increase in emissions into the local environment due to the fact the burning will take place at an extreme temperature.

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