THOUSANDS of protesters thronged the streets of Limerick city this weekend to stand against the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant an emission licence to Irish Cement for the burning of 90,000 tonnes of industrial waste at its plant in Mungret.
The protest, a joint collaboration between Speak With Your Feet and Limerick Against Pollution, began at city hall where crowds of concerned citizens gathered during a heavy downpour.
Bringing their banners, flags and dust masks, the protesters were joined by many community leaders who shared their concerns of the environmental impact the EPA’s decision could have on the county at large.
14 year-old activist from Limerick Against Pollution, Saoirse Exton was among the crowd.
“I’m here because air quality is one of the pillars of climate justice and climate justice is equality and equity for all languages, cultures, and religions. We are not being respected as people and our air is not being respected by the EPA.
“I think I’m also here today, because I want the EPA to do what it says it’s supposed to do, which is to protect our environment, and it’s just not doing that.”
These feelings of frustration were echoed by many of the protesters in attendance.
“I think the EPA’s decision is absolutely ridiculous. It shows a complete lack of respect to the people living in Mungret and especially their children,” said Gerald O’Brien, a father of two living in Mungret.
Currently, the EPA’s stance is that any environmental impact from the burning of the industrial waste will fall within acceptable standards.
However, Councillor Bridie Collins says she’s concerned about how the fallout will affect her constituency of Adare.
“This will affect a lot of the country because of windblown pollution. It’s a shock that there’s an Environmental Protection Agency that’s granted the license for something like this, which clearly isn’t an environmentally friendly project.”
Meanwhile, Cathaoirleach of the Metropolitan District of Limerick, James Collins says he’s “been objecting to this since the first day I was brought down to the plant in Mungret and they outlined their plans to me. I could see it for what it really was, they were trying to put the message out that this was somehow green, and that it was about reducing carbon. That it was about using alternative raw materials and alternative fuels. And it’s not, this is an incinerator by the back door.”
The current agreement between the EPA and Irish Cement allows them to self monitor and send regular reports back to the EPA.
Aifric Murphy, a local shopkeeper, said “How can you expect their best behaviour when they’re allowed to send their own reports whenever they want? We can’t trust them to do their jobs right and we’re in desperate need of some real leadership on this issue.”
The EPA’s decision is to be appealed on October 15th and it’s hoped by demonstrators that this weekend’s protest will affect the outcome.