herald

Friday 2 December 2016

Council chief Keegan under fire for dismissing vote against €500m Poolbeg plant

The controversial site of the proposed Poolbeg incinerator
The controversial site of the proposed Poolbeg incinerator

Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan told the company behind the Poolbeg Incinerator to disregard the rejection of the €500m project by two local authorities.

The Herald can today reveal that Mr Keegan told US company Covanta that anti-government parties and independent politicians “had not helped” the Dublin Waste to Energy project after Dublin city and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown councils voted against it last September.

Last night, several councillors called on Mr Keegan to resign. He did not return calls for comment.

LETTER

In a letter to the President and CEO of US-based company Covanta, Anthony Orlando, on September 10 last, Mr Keegan said a lack of political support for the incinerator should pose no threat to it going ahead.

Dublin Waste to Energy is a public-private partnership between the four Dublin local authorities and the US firm.

The correspondence came after a special city council meeting called by Mr Keegan where 50 of 52 members voted against the incinerator proceeding.

In response to concerns raised by Mr Orlando following the vote, Mr Keegan said he took the “initiative” and asked the Lord Mayor to call the special meeting.

He claimed that doing so “undoubtedly” gave him “greater control over the process and especially over the release of information”.

The letter outlined how a number of factors contributed to the no vote but he stressed the overall decision on Poolbeg did not lie with elected members.

“The decision to proceed with the project is legally a matter for the four Dublin local authority Chief Executives (CE),” he said.

“Paradoxically, the fact that it is a decision for the CEs creates a situation where elected members can respond favourably to the relatively small number of local objectors.

“I appreciate how someone unfamiliar with the Irish local government process might view the developments with some concern,” he wrote to

Covanta’s Mr Orlando.

Read More: Calls for city chief Keegan to resign over 'out of line' comments

He added that a lack of “political support should in no way lead” the company “to question the wisdom of proceeding with the development of the facility”.

Mr Keegan said another reason the vote failed to pass was because Dublin City Council was “largely dominated by anti-government parties and independent councillors”.

He described a vote against the incinerator by Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council as “unexpected and disappointing” as in the past, the DLR “have not displayed any great opposition to the project”.

Mr Keegan attributed the vote against Poolbeg to a group of councillors, including a number of Green party members, in the constituency.

rejection

He told Mr Orlando he spoke to the CEs following the two councils’ rejection of the incinerator and “am pleased to be able to advise you that we remain committed to the project notwithstanding the two unhelpful votes”.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said the purpose of the letter was to brief the Covanta board of the councillors’ decision to vote against the project, and to explain the political context.

“Since taking up the position of CE of DCC in 2013, Mr Keegan has been committed to interrogating the viability of the project and conducted a detailed and informed analysis.

“He placed a great emphasis on dealing with the elected members in an open and transparent manner,” the council said last night.

“The decision by the four Dublin Local Authorities’ Chief Executives to proceed with the project was based on sound waste management, economic and environmental grounds,” they added.

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