Morgan launches High Court challenge
BY ROISIN DE ROSA
Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan has launched a High Court challenge to prevent Louth County Council from rescinding a decision rejecting the 26-County government's Regional Waste Plan. He will tell the court that a vote taken at this week's meeting was wrongly interpreted by the council chair.
At last Monday's Louth County Council meeting, a motion was
put to rescind a previous decision to reject Environment and
Local Government Minister Noel Dempsey's Regional Waste Plan for
the Northeast region, which provides for an incinerator.
Councillors duly voted. Twenty five of the 26 councillors were
present. Sixteen voted to rescind the council decision. Nine
voted against. The council chair ruled that the decision was duly
Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan immediately
objected. ``You mean, not rescinded,'' he said, pointing out that
standing orders state clearly that for a rescinding motion to
succeed ``not less than two thirds of members present and voting
must support the resolution''. Sixteen to nine is not two thirds
of twenty-five. (16.6 recursive is not 17). ``I know we're only
county councillors, but we can count,'' he said. The chair
replied that his ruling was absolute.
Arthur Morgan sees this as a naked attempt to flaunt proper
procedures and undermine respect for councillors' votes. He went
straight to the High Court to challenge the decision.
``I am looking to the court,'' he says, ``to defend the
democratic integrity of Louth County Council. The chair can't
just add up the votes whatever way he wants. It makes a farce of
``What use is a councillor unless he is prepared to stand up
for his right to represent the people, and not to let the council
be used as a rubber stamp for the minister's decisions, or to
lend those decisions a pretence of democratic agreement. This
challenge goes to the very heart of local government, and the
right of the people to democratic representation.''
But the pressure is growing in
support of the government's incinerator plan. All week the media
were hyping it up. `Ballinasloe dump is to close in two weeks.'
`Galway has nowhere to put its rubbish'; ` Dublin's landfill
space is about to run out'. Even Proinsias De Rossa chipped in:
`the EU is about to fine Ireland thousands of pounds a day,
because we haven't yet got a waste management plan, which we were
told to have six years ago'. Then there was the question of where
are we going to put the carcasses of the 700,000 cattle sentenced
to die to facilitate the reform of the CAP.
Incineration is, of course, quite irrelevant to these
`crises', because, with or without planning permission, they take
a long time to build. It's a battle for hearts and minds - to
steel the councillors to do what they are told.
At the end of last week, rumour had it that out of the blue,
Galway councillors, who had unanimously snubbed Minister
Dempsey's blandishments and rejected their regional waste plan
for an incinerator, were about to rescind their decision on
Galway for a Safe Environment (GSE) campaigners came to the
council meeting. About 250 people stood outside in the bitter
cold, outraged that the councillors would even consider changing
The meeting came and it went. The council discussed lengthily
a planning decision, they footered around on little matters, and
then, on a proposal from the PDs, they adjourned the meeting. The
four PD members on the council are said to be wavering, however.
The legal advice to Galway council management, from Matheson,
Ormsby and Prentice, is that in fact councillors didn't in fact
take any decision when they voted on 25 July last to throw out
the plan. This argument asserts that one council cannot reject a
plan which is for the entire region. This legal advice implies
that none of the local authorities in the 26 Counties needed to
vote through the regional plan at all, because they couldn't have
rejected it anyway.
It amounts to ``you, the councillors can vote for the plan,
but not against it''.
Peter Butler, spokesperson for GSE, has accused the minister
of bullying people to force a decision which runs against the
huge support in Galway for a waste strategy that does not rely on
incineration or superdumps. Some 22,000 people signed a petition
last summer for Galway to draw up a new plan based on recycling,
but Galway council executive ignored them.
``The fact is,'' says Peter Butler, ``that the vast majority
of people don't want incineration and environmentalists the world
over are against it on environmental, health and cost grounds.
Why doesn't that seem to matter to the minister?''