People power has taken over in two Northern Ireland constituencies as CALNI holds two crucial public meetings in Lagan Valley and South Antrim where candidates fighting the election on May 6th were asked to declare their position on the incinerator proposed for the shores of Lough Neagh.
Lagan Valley Westminster Candidates Demand a Public Inquiry OR Outright Refusal on Incinerator
In an historic public meeting at Lagan Valley Civic Centre all the Westminster Candidates demanded a public inquiry and most said that the planning application for the chicken litter Incinerator proposed for Lough Neagh should be refused permission outright.
Sitting MP, Jeffrey Donaldson told over 100 voters attending the meeting that his support had not wavered from the start of the campaign and he announced that his South Antrim colleague William McCrea is also backing a public inquiry and that they were actively lobbying their DUP colleague Edwin Poots the Minister for the Environment.
Conservative and Unionist candidate Daphne Trimble, who was new to the Incinerator issue said that while half a million tonnes of chicken litter had to be dealt with urgently the answer did not lie with Rose Energy.
Paul Butler the Sinn Fein Councillor and Assembly Member said that his support for residents was backed by his colleague Michelle Gildernew the Minister for Agriculture and that his party was not only opposed to the Rose Energy application but any form of incineration as a response to our waste disposal needs.
SDLP candidate Brian Heading said that while his party was fully supportive of renewable energy this was not the way to produce it and sounded the alarm bells that if this incinerator was passed it would pave the way for a string of incinerators around Lough Neagh.
Trevor Lunn of the Alliance Party said that if a public inquiry could be called for the sake of a couple of hundred yards of runway at Belfast City Airport, then it had to be called for the Incinerator if permission was not refused outright.
He went on to praise the local residents who have been steadfast in their determination over the last two years in a campaign that had never run out of steam.
During a lively question and answer session all candidates agreed that £30million pounds of public money was simply not available for a project producing 30 jobs and said it was vital that local government departments put resources into researching modern alternatives to incineration for the poultry industry.
Ray Clarke, Chairman of CALNI said after the meeting that he was heartened by the overwhelming cross party support for the campaign.
“It comes down to one thing, no one can understand why such a monstrosity is even being considered for the shore of Lough Neagh. We gave all candidates a beautiful photograph of the site to remind them of the environment and heritage Rose Energy wants to take from the whole of Northern Ireland.
“This fight will go on and Edwin Poots as a local councillor, MLA and Government Minister cannot fail to respond to the will of 7000 objectors. This is not just an issue for this election but will be an issue for every election until this incinerator is rejected.”
Antrim Asks What is Your Position Sir Reg?
Reg Empey now the only candidate undeclared on a public inquiry
Sitting MP William McCrea of the DUP added his voice last night to the overwhelming call for a public inquiry into the Lough Neagh Incinerator, which is now firmly placed in the South Antrim constituency.
However almost 100 people from the local community, local farmers, representatives of the eel fishermen and workers from Randox Laboratories who attended a public meeting at Antrim Civic centre were left asking the question, where do you stand Mr Empey?
At Lagan Valley the previous night Daphne Trimble, Mr Empey’s Conservative and Unionist colleague called for a public inquiry, but despite constant contact in the run-up to the public meeting last night, Sir Reg Empey’s position on this critical campaign issue remains a mystery.
Ray Clarke, Chairman of CALNI said that while they fully understood Mr Empey could not attend the meeting due to previous commitments, they could not understand why he would not send a message like William McCrea or a representative to speak on his behalf.
“We are all making decisions on how we should vote in this Westminster election next week. Our campaign supporters stretch across all sections of the community and with 7000 public letters of objection this is the biggest response to any planning application in Northern Ireland.
“This is the only issue for our community, the fishermen and the hundreds of Randox employees who could see their jobs go to Donegal, America or India if this Incinerator is given planning permission.
“We are very grateful to Michelle Byrne of the SDLP and Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein who not only attended our meeting and fully supported our calls for a public inquiry but showed they had a real grasp of the dangers this incinerator would pose to jobs and the environment.
“William McCrea’s declaration is evidence of the importance of this issue to South Antrim. Sir Reg has agreed to meet with us on Friday 30 April at the Site in Glenavy and we hope that after he sees the impact of this monstrous proposal he will give us his full support.
“The next phase is taking the fight back to the door of Environment Minister Edwin Poots. He granted a public inquiry into the runway at Belfast City Airport, the constituency of his party leader. We need to know what influence his party colleagues have in South Antrim and Lagan Valley.
“We need Reg Empey to come out publicly in support of 700 jobs at Randox, 250 jobs in the Lough’s fishing industry and hundreds of local farms and small businesses. He has to show that he knows enough about this constituency that he understands this is the only issue in town in this election.”
Click here to see the image gallery associated with this meeting. Click here to see the image gallery associated with the Lagan Valley meeting.
Sir Reg Empey subsequently met with the CALNI President and Vice-chair. He listened carefully to the views we expressed and later released a helpful statement, which we report in the post of 29th April, 2010.