Around 2,000 protest against plans to burn ‘toxic’ waste in Limerick

Greg O’Shea and Paul O’Connell attend demonstration against Irish Cement plans

One of the protestors wearing a gas mask at the protest in Limerick on Saturday. Photograph: David Raleigh

One of the protestors wearing a gas mask at the protest in Limerick on Saturday. Photograph: David Raleigh

 

Around 2,000 people, including celebrities, politicians and well known sports personalities braved torrential downpours to shout “NO” to plans by Irish Cement Ltd to burn up to 90,000 tonnes of “toxic” waste per annum, at its production plant in Limerick.

Last month, despite receiving over 4,000 objections, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upheld a decision by An Bord Pleanála, as well as Limerick City and County Council, to allow Irish Cement burn used tyres, animal waste, sludge, plastics and other waste at its plant in Castlemungret.

Local celebrity Love Island winner, Greg O’Shea, joined billionaire philanthropist and horse racing tycoon JP McManus, and former Irish, Munster, and Lions rugby hero Paul O’Connell, in supporting the massive protest.

“When I heard what was going on with the license being passed, I couldn’t believe it. I thought I misread the (situation) initially,” Mr O’Shea offered.

“Obviously, I don’t know how much of an impact I can have, but I’m showing my support anyway for my city. I’m proud to be from Limerick and we have just got to do our best,” he added.

Mr McManus, who kept a watching brief at oral hearings held by An Bord Pleanála last year, said today he remained “concerned” over the plans.

Rugby giant Paul O’Connell, maintained a silent protest, only confirming he was “speaking with my feet”.

Love Island winner Greg O’Shea at the protest in his native Limerick. Photograph: David Raleigh
Love Island winner Greg O’Shea at the protest in his native Limerick. Photograph: David Raleigh

Appeal

Today’s protest, was organised by Limerick Against Pollution (LAP), a group of concerned residents who live near the Mungret plant.

The group’s spokeswoman, Claire Keating, said they would appeal the EPA decision and, if necessary, they would take their protest to the European courts.

Protestors said they were concerned harmful toxins could be released into the environment, if the proposals are finalised. Irish Cement has consistently refuted any suggestion of a public health threat from its plans. It has stated previously that any waste used will be treated and disposed of safely.

The EPA stated last month, its “proposed determination” on Irish Cement’s application “provides for the acceptance of non-hazardous waste materials”.

It explained the company must adhere to “more than 100 individual conditions relating to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the installation”.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher, who attended the protest, said he would gladly help bring the protest to Europe, and “supporting the appeal to the EPA”.

“Definitely, beyond that, anything we can do with a European dimension I would be supporting and advocating as well,” he added.

Former mayor James Collins, who lives near the Cement plant, said he feared he and other local residents would be “living under a cloud of incinerated toxic waste” should the plans go ahead, subject to an appeals process.

‘Glue-like’ dust

Last December the company pleaded guilty at Limerick District Court arising out of a prosecution brought by the EPA, to breaching the terms of its industrial emissions licence at its Limerick plant. The company apologised and was fined €4,000.

The court heard, a thick “glue-like” dust leaked from its Limerick plant, causing damage to nearby homes, cars and gardens.

The court heard Irish Cement Ltd had three previous convictions for similar breaches of its industrial licence, including two in July, 2018, and one breech in 2007.