WATCH: Thousands attend march in Limerick city to protest against Irish Cement plans

BUSINESSMAN JP McManus was one of the thousands of people who marched through Limerick city centre this Saturday to express their opposition to the EPA decision to grant Irish Cement a licence to burn alternative fuels at its Mungret plant.

Despite heavy rain, around 4,500 people took part in the March for Our Lives event which began at City Hall, Merchant’s Quay and made its way along Patrick Street, O’Connell Street, Mallow Street, Henry Street and around Arthurs Quay.

When asked to comment, Mr McManus would only say he was concerned and worried about the EPA decision, which is subject to appeal.

Former Munster and Ireland rugby star Paul O’Connell also took part in the march as did a number of prominent business people including developer Robert Butler, Helen O’Donnell and Liam Dwan, general manager of Brown Thomas.

Claire Keating of Limerick Against Pollution says the people of Limerick have delivered a strong message given the large numbers that took part in the protest march.

“We are letting people know that we are not going to stand back and allow Irish Cement go ahead with these plans. The main concern is the emissions from the plant. The location is completely unsuitable - it’s in an area that’s highly residential with three new schools, with a brand new park and there is just too much happening there,” she said.

Local and national politicians from all sides attended the march and a special meeting of Metropolitan District councillors will take place on Monday to discuss the EPA decision.

“As a citizen, I'm quite concerned because CRH don’t have a very good track record. As a councillor my role is to stand with the citizens of Limerick and do what I can but I am very concerned - absolutely,” said Green Party councillor Brian Leddin.

Cllr Frankie Daly says the people of Limerick have spoken and that the decision to grant the licence has to be reversed.

“The people have spoken, it’s crystal clear,” he told the Limerick Leader.

“The technology isn’t there for Irish Cement, we have kilns from 1985 they are just not fit for purpose. This is a watershed moment, the people have spoken, there are thousands of people here and this decision needs to be reversed. It’s about the future of our children,” he added.

Deputy Willie O’Dea says those against the plans are in a difficult situation but that he supports them.

“The process of granting these licences is entirely wrong in my view because the EPA should slavishly follow the local authority - I’ve  come across no case like this where the EPA didn't follow the decision of the local authority. Secondly and more fundamentally, the policy is wrong. Government policy is that incineration is the best way to get rid of waste -  the most efficient way to get rid of waste. That is wrong that is old hat, other countries have moved on,” he said.

Senator Kieran O’Donnell has called on the EPA to hold an oral hearing - as An Bord Pleanala did during the planning process - to allow those against the granting of the licence the opportunity to express their concerns and put forward evidence in support of their case.

Clare County Council has already appealed the decision of the EPA while Limerick City and County Council and Limerick Against Pollution are also likely to lodge appeals.

In a statement, issued before the March for Our Lives, Irish Cement moved to allay the fears of those opposed to the plans.

"Using alternative fuels is safe and has been standard practice in cement factories throughout Europe for 30 years. Extensive evidence shows that when other factories have made the move to using these fuels, there was no change in the type or quantity of emissions. The use of alternative fuels instead of fossil fuels in Mungret will directly reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent to taking over 12,000 cars off the road," stated a spokesperson.

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