Great gas for globetrotting Limerick councillors

by Alan Jacques

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suitcasesAFTER a visit to a gasification facility in the South of France ended in farce because of a breakdown at the plant, a group of Limerick councillors are now proposing another familiarisation trip – only this time the venue is in the United States.

Last March, a council delegation travelled to the Morcenx plant after agreeing to lease  the former Gortadroma landfill in West Limerick to US firm CadenceEnvironPower to develop a gasification plant and create an estimated 150 new jobs. However it subsequently transpired that the plant was not fully operational at the time of the visit because of a breakdown.

But before discussing details of their latest trip to the United States, councillors in Adare-Rathkeale municipal district took aim at the Limerick Post for its “negative” coverage of their recent visit to a plant in France.

Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary told this month’s local area meeting that the visit to the Morcenx gasification plant in south west France, which he attended on March 11, was made “in good faith”.

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He expressed disappointment at reports in the Limerick Post about the cost of the €10,128 overnight trip and about the plant not being fully operational at the time of the council visit.

“All I’ve seen is negativity. We were not enjoying luxury but running around while we were there. I am totally disappointed. They should be ashamed of themselves for their gutter statement,” said Cllr Keary.

Cllr Kevin Sheahan (FF), who was not on the French trip, proposed that the local authority send a mini delegation to a “fully functional” gasification plant in America where the plants would be the same scale as what it proposed for the Gortadroma landfill site.

“This is a minor hiccup. We need to go back and look at it then clear the air. It must be handled in a way that doesn’t cause concerns to the public,” said Cllr Sheahan.

Cllr Richard O’Donoghue, who visited the gasification plant in France, said he was not against his party colleague’s proposal. He suggested that a delegation should visit a plant in the United States that is the same size as what’s proposed for Gortadroma and report back.

He also took umbrage with the Limerick Post’s reports about the council’s visit to the Morcenx plant.

“What we looked at is nothing like what is proposed for Gortadroma. We went out there and focused our experience on the plant. I am self-employed and took off two days to help the people of the area. I have 25 years experience in construction and every individual on the trip brought their own individual experience,” he said.

Sinn Fein councillor Ciara McMahon, who also visited Morcenx, pointed out that councillors were “personally to blame” for allowing the “rumour mill” to gather momentum in Ballyhahill.

“We need to set up something for the parish, sooner rather than later to show them that we understand,” she said.

Council engineer Gerry Doherty explained that the trip to France was organised as it was the only plant using the same type of technology in Europe and complied with European Commission standards.

“It was the most appropriate to visit,” said Mr Doherty.

He reassured council members that a public meeting would be set up after the lease is signed for Gortadroma landfill in the next two weeks.