DEVASTATED for Skibbereen and for all of West Cork – that’s the reaction from the Save Our Skibbereen (SOS) group which campaigned ferociously against the plastic factory going ahead.
But Brendan McCarthy, one of the founding members of the group set up specifically to oppose the development on environmental and health concerns, said they weren’t giving up their fight and would continue for as long as they could.
However, if it does go ahead, Mr McCarthy, principal of Union Hall NS, who lives across from the proposed factory, said he, his wife and four children, would be moving.
He stressed, though, that this was far more than being just about him and admitted he had been accused of NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard), and said he felt there were still people in the wider Skibbereen area that didn’t know this 4,800 sqm thermoplastics facility was going ahead.
SOS are now urging people to attend a public meeting in the West Cork Hotel next Thursday at 8pm (December 13th) to decide their next move.
That almost certainly looks set to see them take a judicial review against the ABP decision, and launch a fundraising campaign to cover that considerable expense. It will probably be done through a GoFundMe page, or similar.
‘Our first step is to apply for permission to take a judicial review and we’re told that can cost between €5,000 and €10,000. We’ve been working our socks off preparing for this day, educating ourselves and doing research. I must have been to hundreds of meetings about this.
‘Probably the most sickening thing of all is that the inspector recommended this should not go ahead,’ he said. ‘It’s going against everything West Cork is renowned for. This place is special – let’s keep it that way.’
Fellow SOS founding member Fiona Vincent agreed. ‘The view taken by ABP is a very short-sighted one. I understand the area is desperate for jobs, but really the amount created will be miniscule. Investing in the area of agri-tech would bring far more jobs. This decision makes no sense from any angle, be it from the farming, fishing or tourism communities.’
Independent Cork South West Deputy Michael Collins, had supported the factory when it was first announced in 2016.
‘I felt there was a need for employment in Skibbereen and I supported a means to deliver that. However, I’ve since attended many meetings and heard the serious concerns, and cannot now stand over this as a public representative. On that basis I’m opposed to it and I appeal to the company to come back and clarify their position and counter people’s concerns. If not, they have to accept the opposition as legitimate.’
FG Deputy Jim Daly acknowledged there was ‘much divided opinion on this issue in Skibbereen.’
‘I have queried with the EPA if they have concerns regarding this proposed development, as I understand it is environmental concerns that are most feared by the general public.
‘They have advised me that they have no such reservations from an environmental impact point of view. I have never objected to any planning application in West Cork in my 15 years as a public representative for the area … I trust the judgement of the EPA who have considered this application.’
He added: ‘The promoters of this project who share a surname and have Drinagh connections have never approached me for advice, support or assistance of any form, or had any communication with me, re this development.’
County Mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said the planning process had taken its course, and the decision was made.
‘It’s gone through the planning system, and the outcome is the outcome. It’s not my decision.’
Skibbereen Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) welcomed the planning decision which, he said, would bring a welcome jobs boost to the area.
However, FG Senator Tim Lombard pointed to what he called a ‘bigger issue’ with ABP, which he claimed had a leaning towards decisions that supported employment over the environment.
‘As communications spokesman in the Seanad I will be bringing this issue up,’ he said.
Lord David Puttnam, who had opposed the factory, said he was unable to comment on the planning decision as he’s currently in Singapore.