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Government did not act on Haulbowline contamination warnings

2 July, 2008

Speaking during this afternoons Dáil debate on the contamination of Haulbowline Island Deputy Morgan slammed the government for its silence on reports outlining the islands contamination from as far back as 1995. The TD demanded that the Environment Minister immediately publish all reports as the matter is one of public health and safety.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Persistent claims by the Government that there is no health risk at Haulbowline do not ring true. As far back as 1995 several reports stated that the site was heavily contaminated on the basis of dust samples and indications that there had been leaks into the River. These reports were not acted upon with workers on the site not advised to wear protective masks.

"When workers and contractors heard of the rumoured reports they requested copies of the reports but were told that they were confidential.

"Subsequently workers have sought medical advice. However, the doctors who have examined them are hampered by the fact that they do not know what tests to carry out because no-one is certain exactly what contaminating substances are involved. Just that Chromium 6 is one of those substances. Such information is, however, contained in the reports and it is a clear matter of public interest.

"Minister Gormley has at least shown a degree of openness in his dealings with local residents. He made available a number of reports including a previously confidential report from 2005 commissioned by Cork County Council which found levels of the carcinogen Chromium 6 above acceptable levels. That would explain the above average rate of cancer in the general area.

"He has also promised to make available to them all previous reports as well as a new report by independent consultants and if so that is to be welcomed. I believe he should go further and actually publish them.

"Apart from the specific case we are discussing here, we are once again dealing with a situation in which the public interest has been sacrificed to political expediency. That has been the case in relation to Sellafield, an issue with which I have been involved for many years and in which we had to contend with persistent denials, cover ups and slight of hand designed to obscure the facts.

"I wish to avert briefly to the proposed destruction of a consignment of hydrogen cyanide at the Kilbride Military Camp in County Wicklow.

"Had it not been for public protests and for information being made available to public representatives and locals who were being deliberately kept in the dark about it, this might have become another Haulbowline.

"There is also the common factor in all of this in relation to defence forces personnel. Members of the Naval service were obviously, and are still, at risk in Haulbowline and seemingly it was thought acceptable to destroy a highly dangerous substance in an area under the control of the military.

"With the added advantage of course that anything done in such a location would be less likely to become public knowledge due to the restrictions placed on members of the defence forces in relation to what takes place in military installations.

"Despite this, local people do know what was supposed to take place and I would call on the Minister, in the spirit of the new openness which he displayed towards the people of Cork he met last evening, to make a statement on exactly what is proposed to take place in Wicklow and to prevent it going ahead if it presents a risk to either the local population or to people within the Kilbride camp." CRÍOCH

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