Shortage of police hindering fight against fuel smuggling

Senator Paul Coghlan with Cllr Oliver Tully at yesterday's meeting of Louth County Council

Senator Paul Coghlan with Cllr Oliver Tully at yesterday’s meeting of Louth County Council

A shortage of police resources in south Co Armagh is hindering the fight against fuel smuggling, a Fine Gael senator has claimed.

Paul Coghlan, chairman of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly Committee, told a meeting of Louth County Council yesterday that there were so few police on the ground in south Armagh that those involved in the illegal trade could “carry on regardless”.

The committee recently published a report on cross-Border criminality, including fuel smuggling, which followed a number of fact-finding visits to border areas by Mr Coghlan and other committee members.

It has recommended the establishment of a multi-agency cross-Border taskforce to tackle the problem of fuel laundering, which costs the exchequers in Ireland and Britain millions in lost excise duty. County councils in Louth and Monaghan have had to bear the cost of dealing with toxic sludge dumped by the fuel smugglers.

Yesterday it was revealed that there were more 597 clean-up cases in Louth in the last five years at a cost of almost €4m. This was almost half of the total nationwide, with four-fifths of the spend taking place in the Wee County.

Mr Coghlan yesterday briefed a meeting of the county council on the committee’s findings and told them that a senior source in the North had described the level of policing in south Armagh to him as little more than “a token presence”.

Fine Gael councillor John McGahon told the meeting that some of the country roads in north Louth were like highways, such was the amount of tanker traffic on them.

Green Party councillor Mark Dearey said fuel smuggling was striking at the very core of the local economy. Not only was the fuel being laundered, but proceeds of the crime were being laundered, which then affected the property and retail sectors.

Fianna Fáil councillor Declan Breathnach said a rebate for farmers was the only way to address the problem, as those involved in illicitly washing the dye from agricultural diesel were able to respond to changes in fuel markets.

Source: The Irish Times

Maria Doyle elected new chair of Dundalk Municipal District committee

Cllr Maria Doyle

Cllr Maria Doyle

Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle was last night elected the new chair of the Dundalk Municipal District at a meeting in the Town Hall.

She succeeds Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Declan Breathnach in the role, becoming the first female to hold the position since the abolition of Dundalk Town Council in May 2014. Maria pipped Sinn Féin’s Cllr Kevin Meenan to the position.

The Municipal District is the successor to the old Dundalk Town Council and is made up of those elected in the Dundalk South and Dundalk Carlingford constituencies.

Maria, from Lis na Dara, first became a public representative in 2011 when she took over the Dundalk Town Council seat vacated by Senator Jim D’Arcy.

The CBS primary school teacher will be assisted in her role by Fianna Fáil’s Conor Keelan, who was elected the new vice-chair. A former chair of Dundalk Town Council, he takes over the role from the Green Party’s Cllr Mark Dearey.

Breathnach issues warning following recent spate of car thefts

Cllr Declan Breathnach

Cllr Declan Breathnach

Local councillor Declan Breathnach has called on car owners to be vigilant following a recent spate of car thefts around the county.

The Fianna Fáíl representative said: “Householders and car owners need to take great care in County Louth as it is clear that the number of cars being stolen from outside private homes over the last week is on a massive increase.”

Cllr Breathnach has advised on the need to hide car keys in a safe location and advised on the immobilisation of your car, especially overnight, as a deterrent to these thieves who he said “seem to have neither scruples or fear in their activities.”

Labour expected to run just one candidate in Louth

Ged Nash with Labour leader Joan Burton

Ged Nash with Labour leader Joan Burton

The Labour Party could be set to run just one candidate in Louth in the next General Election.

That’s according to a report in today’s Irish Independent, which suggests the party is preparing to radically downsize its number of candidates in a bid to han onto 20 Dáil seats.

That means they expect to lose as many as 12 of their TDs, with party strategists adopting a “greatly consolidated and reduced” approach to the number of candidates in a bid to avoid a split vote. Labour had 37 elected in the 2011 General Election but defections and walkouts seen them lose five of this total.

If one candidate is all that is put forward in Louth, then it is likely to be sitting TD, Ged Nash, who is a current Minister of State in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

That will lkely see Senator Mary Moran miss out on a candidacy, with the mother of five having taken 6,974 votes in her first campaign four years ago, including 4,564 first preference votes – a result that seen her come in sixth.

Meanwhile, Cllr Declan Breathnach – who took 6,001 votes in the last General Election – has declared his intention to seek a nomination from Fianna Fáil.

The party has yet to declare their candidates for the next election – which will take place sometime in the next 12 months – although current sitting TD Seamus Kirk has already announced his intention to step down.

Sinn Féin motion to remove chairperson’s allowance in Dundalk is defeated

Cllr Edel Corrigan

Cllr Edel Corrigan

The chair of the Dundalk Municipal District Committee will continue to receive an annual allowance of €12,000 after a vote to remove it was defeated last night.

The sum was approved following last year’s local elections but Sinn Féin councillor Edel Corrigan looked to overturn that. However, her motion was defeated by seven votes to six after much discussion and debate.

The five Sinn Féin members on the committee – Cllrs Corrigan, Jim Loughran, Jennifer Green, Kevin Meenan and Tomás Sharkey – all voted to scrap the allowance and were supported by independent councillor Maeve Yore.

However, the remaining members of the committee – Cllrs Mark Dearey, Conor Keelan, John McGahon, Peter Savage, Declan Breathnach, Marianne Butler and Maria Doyle – opted to keep the allowance by voting against Cllr Corrigan’s motion.

Cllr Corrigan told LMFM this morning that she felt it was the people’s money and she could see no justification for such an allowance. She vowed her party would continue to oppose the allowance.

Commenting on the matter to Talk of the Town, Cllr Maria Doyle said: “Sinn Féin hold several chairs on both Municipal District Committees and Councils throughout the country, for which they receive sizeable allowances, and which they have not sought to abolish or even reduce.

“My argument at last night’s meeting was that they do not have a coherent national policy in relation to this issue and are only seeking to reduce the allowances on the Councils and Committees on which they do not hold Chair positions. Sinn Féin will soon take up the Chair of Dublin City Council which has an allowance of €65K on top of the basic salary. I won’t hear them seeking to abolish that.

“They currently hold the Chair on Dublin South Council and the Sinn Féin Councillor Fintan Warfield received an additional €30K for holding that Chair.  Finally, Sinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster is currently Chair of the Housing SPC of Louth County Council which pays her €6K per annum in additional to her salary. That committee are obliged to hold only 4 meetings per annum.”

Fears that diesel laundering waste being burnt is creating bad smell in Dundalk

Cllr Declan Breathnach

Cllr Declan Breathnach

Local councillor Declan Breathnach has asked Louth County Council to investigate the strong smell of diesel that has been prominent in Dundalk and Knockbridge for the past few days.

The bad smell from the fumes has led to a number of complaints to the council, with Talk of the Town also receiving numerous queries about it from the public.

The smell is said to be particularly strong between Knockbridge and Dundalk and on the Ardee Road.

Cllr Breathnach told LMFM he was concerned that oil laundering waste was being burned.

“Over the last number of days there has been a strong pungent smell in the vicinity of Knockbridge, and indeed stretching in to Dundalk, of diesel.”

The Fianna Fáil councillor said he was aware of reports that fuel launderers had been spreading the waste along roadsides to get rid of the toxic sludge but expressed his fears that this problem was bigger.

“This is such a widespread that I believe the product is being burned off because the pungent smell is not just in one area but in a series of areas.”

Louth County Council to investigate reports of contamination to Dundalk water supply

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Following this morning’s monthly meeting of the council, Louth Local Authorities have issued a press statement regarding Dundalk’s water supply.

A newspaper article yesterday claimed that the town’s water was being contaminated as a result of fuel launderers pouring toxic waste into rivers.

However, in a statement released just before lunchtime, the council said that they carried out regular sampling which was “fully compliant”.

They vowed to investigate the claims made in The Sunday Independent though.

The statement read:

“Louth County Council noted media reports yesterday regarding an alleged pollution discharge to Lough Ross in Co Armagh entering the River Fane system which is the source of the drinking water supply for Dundalk.

“Louth County Council on behalf of Irish water has contacted the Water Pollution Inspectorate in Northern Ireland to investigate the alleged incident.

“It is alleged in the media that an oil laundering plant is operating in South Armagh and discharging to a tributary which feeds Lough Ross in Co Armagh.

“The Council carries out regular sampling at various properties throughout the water distribution system for Dundalk. The drinking water sample results for Dundalk Public Water Supply Scheme for 2014 for PAHs is fully compliant with the Drinking Water Regulations and below the 0.1µg/L limit.

“The river water results taken at the Dundalk Water Supply abstraction point on the River Fane during 2014 show COD is less than 40mg/l during the year and therefore compliant with the Quality of Surface Water Intended for the Abstraction of Drinking Water Regulations.

“The drinking water samples for Dundalk Town and Environs have all been compliant with the Drinking Water Regulations 2013 with the exception of  one instance of lead detection. The investigation of this lead non-compliance showed there was no lead on the public side of the public water supply.”

Earlier today, the council also confirmed they would be seeking the Sunday Independent’s evidence of the alleged contamination, which the paper said could cause cancers and abnormalities in unborn babies.

Louth County Council seeking Sunday Independent evidence of water contamination in Dundalk

The matter was discussed at this morning's Louth County Council meeting

The matter was discussed at this morning’s Louth County Council meeting

Louth County Council have moved to ease fears over the safety of Dundalk’s water supply following an article in yesterday’s Sunday Independent which claimed it was being polluted by oil launderers pumping toxic waste into it.

The investigation in yesterday’s paper claimed that to have found evidence of carcinogenic waste flowing from an illegal fuel plant in south Armagh into Lough Muckno, Lough Ross and the River Fane, which is the main reservoir for the whole of Dundalk

A sample of water taken by the newspaper last week was alleged to contain 8,000 times more chemical pollution than clean drinking water.

The matter was high on the agenda at this morning’s meeting of Louth County Council, with officials reporting no such problems last year.

Councillors were told that in 2014 there were no incidents of carcinogenic and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons being found in water at Cavan Hill treatment plant. There was one test that showed concerns regarding lead. In 2014 the world youth fly fishing contest took place on the Fane river and there were no traces of fish kills.

The Sunday Independent has been asked for their materials/evidence which made the basis of their article in yesterday’s paper. No response has been received.

Hat-tip to Tomás Sharkey for the update from the meeting. He added: “Not saying it is false…the right agencies need their evidence to do a full investigation.”

Meanwhile, a vote was passed condemning both the IRA and the fuel smugglers at the meeting after being proposed by Cllr John McGahon.

Commenting on the motion, Cllr McGahon said: “I was delighted that Louth County Council accepted my motion that Louth County Council condemns the actions of the IRA and all fuel launders operating along the border.

“These fuel launderers have now moved into the business of poisoning our local waterways.

“The pollution in our rivers is not caused by high winds or high tides or any other environmental matters, it’s caused by criminal activity, the vast majority of which is conducted by well known republicans in the border region.

“I have always believed in straight talking and to put it mildly, these gangsters are engaged in environmental terrorism. People along the border are fearful of them.

“Last year, Louth County Council  spent €65,000 clearing up toxic sludge disposed on our roadways, now these criminals are dumping in our waterways, but what will it cost the people of County Louth in the long run in terms of health,”he said.

It was also agreed at the meeting that Irish Water and the EPA would report directly to councillors on the quality of water in Dundalk as soon as possible.

Concern over claims Dundalk’s water supply could be polluted by fuel launderers

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Contaminated water pictured in a stream outside Castleblayney last week by The Sunday Independent

Louth County Council will meet for the first time this year later this morning with a report that oil launderers are pumping toxic waste into local water supplies set to feature heavily on the agenda.

Yesterday’s Sunday Independent claimed that the fuel smugglers were pumping the fuel laundering waste into local rivers and said it could be causing cancers and abnormalities in unborn babies.

The investigation by Jim Cusack found evidence of carcinogenic waste flowing from an illegal fuel plant in south Armagh into Lough Muckno, Lough Ross and the River Fane, which is the main reservoir for the whole of Dundalk.

A sample of water taken by the newspaper last week was shown to contain 8,000 times more chemical pollution than clean drinking water.

The sample, taken from directly behind the plant, one of dozens used by paramilitary smugglers in south Armagh, is also 400 times over the maximum chemical content of waste set by the European Union and Irish Water.

The toxic waste is being pumped directly into a stream that feeds directly into the River Fane drinking water system.

Around 40,000 people living in Dundalk – plus another 8,000 in Crossmaglen in south Armagh – are drinking water from the system that is being poisoned by the IRA fuel launderers.

Chemicals in the pollution almost certainly include polycyclic hydrocarbons that are linked to cancers and prenatal disorders.

Preliminary analysis has already shown that a chemical-oxygen demand (COD) in the sample taken is 8,000mg per litre. There should be near-zero COD in drinking water for humans.

The level of poison was so high that it was off the normal mid-range tests that are used for drinking water in Ireland.

The most common dangerous compounds found in the diesel washing by-product are polycyclic aromatic hydrocabons (PAH).

Tests done on industrial pollutants containing PAHs by the Centre for Children’s Environmental Health have found that exposure during pregnancy has produced heart malformations, premature delivery and low birth weight. Exposure has also been linked to cancers and developmental under-development among children.

Commenting on the matter, Sinn Féin councillor Tomás Sharkey said the alleged pollution was of “serious concern” to him and all public representatives in Louth.

“Cavan Hill water treatment plant supplies most of Dundalk and much of the surrounding area. It draws water from the Fane River. If the details in the paper are true, there is a chance that the water entering the treatment plant is contaminated. This raises obvious concerns for human health and environmental protection.

“I have contacted the Sunday Independent and have asked that any information gathered for that article be shared with the relevant authorities and have specifically asked that laboratory test results on water samples be shared with the staff of Louth County Council.

“Once again, on behalf of all Sinn Féin Councillors in Louth, I am asking the public to be vigilant for incidents of dumping of diesel laundering waste and and also asking for a new report on the workings of the multi agency approach which was tasked with tackling this problem in 2011.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil councillor Declan Breathnach has called on the EPA to investigate the claims made in the paper so that the town can stand over the quality of its water supply once more.

You can read the full Sunday Independent article here.

Labour and Fine Gael expected to lose Louth seats in next General Election

partypredictions

Adrian Kavanagh’s prediction of where the five seats in Louth will go at the next General Election

 

Labour and Fine Gael could be set to lose seats in the next General Election in Louth.

That’s the view of the country’s leading constituency analyst Adrian Kavanagh, who has been making predictions about what might happen in the next election – scheduled to take place sometime in the next 15 months.

Writing in The Irish Independent, Mr Kavanagh said that Fianna Fáil were “well placed” to retain the seat that is currently held by Seamus Kirk. The former Ceann Comhairle will retire from politics when the current Dáil’s term ends with Kavanagh predicting that one of Declan Breathnach, Liam Reilly or Anthony Moore could gain.

He feels Ged Nash’s Labour seat is “highly vulnerable” and predicted that Fine Gael “could also lose one of their seats” with both Fergus O’Dowd and Peter Fitzpatrick at risk.

He expects Sinn Féin to claim a second seat with Imelda Munster and Tomás Sharkey predicted to be strong running mates for party leader, Gerry Adams.

While he feels Sinn Fein could go close to taking three seats, he feels the third will go to an independent candidate with Maeve Anna Yore and Mark Dearey of the Green Party predicted as potential beneficiaries.

While Gerry Adams topped the poll in Louth in 2011 he was the biggest loser in the first opinion poll of 2015 yesterday.

The Red C survey found that his personal support had fallen by 7% to 27% – making him the most unpopular leader in the country.