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Minister O'Gorman defends An Taisce after Taoiseach weighs in on Kilkenny cheese factory

In the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin asked An Taisce not to appeal a planning application granted for a post-Brexit cheese factory.

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN and Equality Roderic O’Gorman has said that politicians should leave legal processes to “play out”, after Taoiseach Micheál Martin asked that An Taisce wouldn’t appeal the development of a ‘continental’ cheese factory in Co Kilkenny.

In the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin asked that An Taisce wouldn’t appeal for the second time a planning application being granted for the cheese factory – a part of the Government’s post-Brexit strategy to give the dairy industry a boost.

That project is of immense economic importance to the region, but also to the dairy industry and to the expansion of the dairy industry. It’s gone through a very lengthy process already. 
I would appeal that there would be no further appeals against this project now, given the fact that the courts have ruled very clearly in relation to it and there very many jobs depend on it.

This new cheese factory will be located in Belview, near the Waterford border, and will make edam and gouda cheese. This a joint venture between Glanbia and the Dutch company Royal A-ware, as part of a strategy to diversify the Irish export market.

An Taisce has raised concerns about the environmental impact of a cheese factory, and challenged An Bord Pleanála’s decision to allow it. The High Court dismissed this challenge – the Taoiseach then pleaded with the group not to appeal the issue further.

Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning, O’Gorman said that An Taisce plays “an important role” in Irish life, and that they have “a long track record in” prioritising environmental concerns.

When asked should the Taoiseach have ‘butted out’, O’Gorman said: “It’s best for these legal processes to play out, and I would generally say politicians should leave it to play out.”

In response to the Taoiseach’s comment, An Taisce’s Natural Environment Officer Dr Elaine McGoff told Drivetime that the Taoiseach’s comment were “highly unusual”.

“We look at the science, we look at the law, we are confident that the choices we are making are in keeping with the law and are underpinned by the science,” she said, adding that all of Ireland’s key environmental indicators are “going the wrong way”.

 

Agriculture, predominantly dairy intensification, is the driver of that. So it’s not just us saying this, it’s the EPA saying that ongoing agriculture intensification is the biggest threat to our environment and its undermining our green image. This plant would tip us over the edge.

Dr McGoff said that whether An Taisce appeals or not, “the writing is on the wall” in relation to this type of agriculture, and that farmers shouldn’t be forced to choose between jobs and the environment either.

The Irish Wildlife Trust said on Twitter: “Taoiseach Micheal Martin is abusing his position and cannot be allowed to bully civil society groups in this way. This is a shocking level of interference in a democratic process.”

The Green Party spokesperson on planning Steven Matthews criticised the Taoiseach’s remarks yesterday, saying that Ireland suffered from a “poor planning” system:

“I understand the frustration that some may have with lengthy planning and judicial matters however I’m disappointed with An Taoiseach’s comments on An Taisce today. An Taisce have an important role in the protection of our natural environment and in sustainable land use and planning.

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“They are a prescribed body in planning and are required to make submissions on certain planning applications. It would be preferable if politicians did not cast judgement on live planning matters or the right to judicial appeal.”

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