Environmental campaigners concerned over Haulbowline Island clean-up

Environmental group says entire site may not be remediated following Minister’s comments

An environmental group fears that the Government may be about to abandon plans to clean up the site of the former Irish Steel plant on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.

Tony Lowes, director of Friends of the Irish Environment, said he was concerned by a statement from Minister for the Marine Michael Creed following a visit to the site, in which he only mentioned cleaning-up the former slag heap at its East Tip.

“I was somewhat disturbed when I saw Minister Creed’s comments in a parliamentary reply because he made reference only to the remediation of the East Tip and made no mention of remediating the former steel works or the South Tip which are equally important,” he said.

Mr Lowes said that then minister for the marine, Simon Coveney had given a commitment in 2015 that the government would remediate the former Irish Steel operation on "an all-island" basis which would involve cleaning up all 22 hectares of the former steel plant site.

Former steel works

The promise came after Mr Lowes' group made a complaint to the European Commission in 2009 about the state of the former steel works. This prompted the commission to take a case against Ireland but the action was halted when the government gave a commitment to carrying out the all-island clean-up.

“It’s only cleaned up the nine hectares of the East Tip rather than the entire 22 hectares which also includes the former plant and the South Tip,” Mr Lowes said.

"And it's only spent €13 million of the €61 million funding which Simon Coveney said was being ring-fenced for the clean-up and Cork County Council, which is acting as agent for the department on the clean-up, has yet to apply for planning permission to remediate the former plant and the South Tip."

Consents

The Department of the Marine said that, up to last year, “expenditure was focused on preparing for and securing the necessary planning and waste licence consents and upgrading the island infrastructure in anticipation of works”.

The department said the priority was remediation of the East Tip but that work on assessing a suitable solution for the former steelworks factory site and preparation of an application for planning consent had also been advanced.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times