OPINION: Navy looking to get out of Haulbowline?

July 16th, 2018 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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Southerly winds blowing through the Naval Depot in Cork Harbour and the construction of a giant furnace nearby are threatening the very future of our Haulbowline Matelots!

SOUTHERLY winds blowing through the Naval Depot in Cork Harbour and the construction of a giant furnace nearby are threatening the very future of our Haulbowline Matelots!

The Indaver company intends to build a €160m incinerator which will burn 240,000 tonnes of household, commercial and industrial waste per annum, as well as unknown quantities of waste from abroad.

But the Naval Service is very unhappy at the arrival of a waste disposal outfit at their doorstep. 

So seriously are top brass mariners taking the threat that it poses to the proper implementation of naval responsibilities that they’ve prevailed on Vlad, who is not only Taoiseach but also Minister for Defence, to move the entire navy, including vessels, personnel and shore establishments, away from Cork Harbour to another part of the country.

Reports suggest that alternative locations under consideration include Killybegs in Donegal and Dún Laoghaire, the suburban, coastal town in County Dublin.

The situation facing the Jolly Jack Tars – well, not so jolly at the moment – is that the furnace will dominate the only entrance and exit to Haulbowline island and, they say, in the event of an incinerator accident ‘road access would be threatened, denying the evacuation of the naval base.’


Flight hazard

And, the Navy is quite blunt about other potential hazards: the giant furnace could shut down the naval installation in certain conditions, such as when southerly winds waft smoke into the flightpath of Air Corps helicopters that are attempting to land at Haulbowline.

The combination of southerly wind conditions and industrial chimney stacks belching out gunge would lead to additional restrictions on flight operations, an inevitable no-fly regulation near the incinerator and ‘a flight safety hazard to Air Corps helicopter operations.’

Indaver, for its part, claims there is no evidence that smoke stacks would impede aerial access to Haulbowline and Spike. 

They argue that the US Federal Aviation Authority examined the issue of safety risks regarding industrial stacks and concluded that no accidents or incidents could be attributed to exhaust plumes.  

They told the recent planning inquiry in most polite language that a ‘significant interaction between helicopter flights and emissions to air from the facility was unlikely.’

 But sources in the Department of Defence revealed to this newspaper that the US Federal Aviation Authority did not know about a particularly relevant helicopter crash in Dublin some years ago. According to the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit, the aircraft was flying over a large power station, which at the time was emitting a near-invisible plume of exhaust gas and water vapour from an industrial chimney.  

When the helicopter entered this plume the engine shut down. The pilot managed to land the helicopter, but the machine suffered significant damage. As a result, Irish authorities now require pilots to stay away from such chimneys by at least 1,000ft.

Nor did it help matters that the serious concerns put forward by the Department of Defence were dismissed by Indaver on the basis that Haulbowline had only a ‘minimal development of aviation infrastructure.’ They said the naval base did not have a designated military helicopter pad, nor a marked designated landing area (white circle with a large ‘H’); not even a windsock that would assist a pilot to determine wind direction and speed before take-off.

They claimed that the helicopter landing pad in current use at Haulbowline did not meet the criteria that the Department of Defence imposes on hospitals for helipads used by Air Corps helicopters.


Worries in Cobh

Worried too at Vlad’s possible abandonment of the Naval base at Haulbowline are residents in the harbour area, as in Cobh, whose economic life is closely intertwined with the Navy. They want Varadkar to don his Department of Defence hat and make a formal statement on whether a pull-out from Haulbowline Island officially is on the cards. 

Naval personnel have suggested privately that his reluctance to clear the air might be influenced by the fact that his chums in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PIP) and the European Union Battlegroups (to which this country controversially belongs) would ask  serious questions that could embarrass the media-obsessed Taoiseach.

 Such as why our Naval Service – generously funded by the EU – is obliged to abandon a location that has been a military base since 1602 because a privately-owned company wants to build a commercial waste incinerator and make lots of money? 

And why the said company takes preference over the interests of a branch of Ireland’s armed services that conducts important military and humanitarian operations at sea?

Vlad has some serious answering to do!


Football mad

And now for something different:  according to the June 22nd edition of the Belfast Telegraph, three young Portuguese footballers had to flee their Co Tyrone home in a place called Coagh after they were attacked by local bigots.

 The players belonged to a football club playing in the Premier division of the Ballymena and Provincial League. The assailants forced their way into the house where the young Portuguese footballers were staying and beat them up. Why? 

 Because they were not white and were living in a Loyalist area. They called them black b******s and told them to get out of the house and go back to their own country 

Prior to that, they were subjected to ongoing verbal abuse, cans were thrown at the house and they were told it would be burnt down.

One of the young Portuguese men, a professional footballer, quickly bought an airline ticket for home, while the others took refuge in a hotel.

Alberto De Barros, who co-owns the team with former Manchester United and Portugal international Nani, said he was greatly saddened by the attack, particularly since he makes a point of publicising Northern Ireland as a great footballing destination around the world. 

‘We will talk to people such as the police and the politicians and tell them that these lads are just here to play football and that they don’t get involved in anything to do with politics,’ he told the Telegraph.

 Curiously, the meeja down South did not pick up the story.


A spotter

Oh, and now for a football joke: Why did God invent football? 

Answer: So that married men could have some physical contact in their lives!

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