Limerick Council visit to France cost €10,128

by Alan Jacques

[email protected]

Morcenx Gasification plant in south west France
Morcenx Gasification plant in south west France

AN overnight Council trip to a gasification plant in France cost the local authority €10,128.

Councillors in Adare-Rathkeale municipal district asked to visit the plant following a joint bid for the lease on the former Gortadroma landfill for the processing of municipal waste and the generation of electricity.

They have since agreed to lease the Ballyhahill site to American bidders CadenceEnvironPower to develop a gasification plant and create an estimated 150 new jobs.

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Last month councillors Tom Neville (FG), Stephen Keary (FG), Ciara McMahon (SF) and Richard O’Donoghue (FF) visited Morcenx Gasification plant in the south of France along with municipal district director Tom Gilligan, executive engineer Gerard Doherty and two local community representatives.

A council spokesperson said that the councillors requested a visit to an operational plant to be able to better understand the implications of such a proposal.

The trip commenced at 1pm on March 11 and concluded at 11.30pm on March 12 and cost a total of €10,128. The cost of flights for the eight participants from Cork Airport to Bordeaux via Amsterdam amounted to €8,191 and eight rooms for the overnight visit came to €864. Expenses for the four councillors came to €786.98 with expenses for the two council staff totalling €285.20.

Fine Gael councillor Tom Neville said he welcomed the opportunity to visit an operational gasification plant in Morcenx and it would have been irresponsible to make a decision on the lease of Gortadroma without first exhausting all the facts.

“Given what the people of Gortadroma have had to endure over the years, I thought it was extremely important before making any decision that I see a real life example of a gasification plant. I wanted to be on site to see, smell and hear the workings of the plant,” he explained.

“I made my decision to support the lease reflecting on the experience and knowledge I acquired visiting the site, while also taking on board peoples legitimate concerns on traffic management which will need to be addressed,” he said.

Sinn Fein councillor Ciara McMahon described the visit as “highly beneficial”.

“These plants are an unknown entity in Ireland and we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this in Ireland. However, to understand the many factors of such a plant it was imperative that we could view a plant of similar design,” she claimed.

“I have family living very close to Gortadroma and their living environment stayed fully to the forefront of my mind while viewing the plant in France,” Cllr McMahon confessed.

Despite have a previous work commitment and being unable to attend the visit Morcenx, Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien said the trip “erased a lot of concerns”.

“The Council has only provided a lease to Cadence EnvironPower and the entire project hinges on their planning application and environmental compliance,” Cllr O’Brien pointed out.

The proposed Gortadroma development has the potential to inject capital investment of €240 million into the local economy over a 30 year lease. The rent on the plant, which will be able to treat 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste per year, will be worth €4 million a year to the local authority. A further €100,000 annual community contribution will be made to a local development fund, jointly managed by the company and council.