Call for inquiry into lack of minutes from waste incinerator meetings

Campaigners used FoI to learn of 2011 Indaver and Department of Environment talks

Site plan for Ringaskiddy, Co Cork: campaigners against a proposed €160 million waste incinerator for Cork Harbour seek an investigation into the absence of any record of notes from meetings in 2011 between Indaver executives and civil servants. Photograph: Mark Kelleher

Site plan for Ringaskiddy, Co Cork: campaigners against a proposed €160 million waste incinerator for Cork Harbour seek an investigation into the absence of any record of notes from meetings in 2011 between Indaver executives and civil servants. Photograph: Mark Kelleher

 

Campaigners against a proposed €160 million waste incinerator for Cork Harbour have called for an investigation into the absence of any record of notes from two meetings in 2011 between executives from the company behind the project and civil servants.

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) said it had learned through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request that the meetings took place between Indaver executives and officials from the Department of the Environment without any note of the meetings being placed in the planning file.

According to the Chase spokeswoman, Linda Fitzpatrick, the campaign group had sought information from the department on any meetings between it and Indaver and the company’s agents or representatives in 2011.

Documents released under the FoI Act indicated meetings took place on March 9th, 2011, and July 15th, 2011, over the proposed incinerator, for which Indaver first applied for planning permission in 2001.

The FoI request revealed two letters from Indaver personnel in which they make reference to two meetings between Indaver executives and Dept of the Environment for which there was no record kept in the planning file on the proposed incinerator.

One letter from Indaver Managing Director, John Ahern to John McCarthy, Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Environment on March 1st 2011 refers to “our upcoming meeting on 9 March next” but the planning file contained no notes or minutes of any such meeting, Ms Fitzpatrick said.

She said that in a second letter from Mr McCarthy to Jackie Keaney of Indaver, dated August 24th 2011, Mr McCarthy refers to a meeting on July 15th 2011, opening with the line “Thank you for your letter of 20 July 2011 in follow up to our meeting on 15 July 2011”.

The planning file did not contain either the letter from July 20th 2011 or any notes of any meeting between Indaver and Dept officials on July 15th and this was a source of great concern given it has since emerged that 2011 was a period of active lobbying regarding the waste industry, she said.

‘Serious concern’

Ms Fitzpatricksaid: “It is of serious concern to us that a company with such vast vested interest in legislative change can hold undocumented meetings with a government department and/or its officials. It is completely contrary to all best-practice guidelines and naturally raises questions.

“We believe further investigation of why notes for these meetings are not on file is merited, as well as investigation of how widespread this practice is. This is necessary to ensure public confidence in the operation of the Department of Environment and in the transparency of department dealings with Indaver.”

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said it could not locate a number of documents which were identified and fell within the scope of the FoI request but the department did not say how this happened.

Asked about the Chase complaints, a spokeswoman for Indaver said that the company was awaiting a decision by An Bord Pleanála in relation to its proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy but would not comment further.

A spokesman for the planning board confirmed it would not be issuing a decision on Friday as previously scheduled. A decision is not now expected until late next week or the following week.