Legal Explosions in Clare.

The massive AZF chemical plant explosion in Toulouse, France last week, which killed at least 18 people and injured 653 others, will have been particularly noted by the residents of Kildysart, Co. Clare, where Paddy Whelan is planning to build an explosives factory. Objectors have previously pointed out the dangers of locating such a plant in a populated area and the French tragedy will further strengthen the resolve of locals who are currently engaged in legal battles on a variety of fronts.
Whelan's scheme for a factory, which has also drawn objections from the Irish Airline Pilots Association, has caused ructions locally and matters have not been helped by the level of secrecy surrounding the planning application. After his Shannon Explosives Ltd. (SEL) applied to Clare Co. Council for its "assent to establish a factory" as required under the 1875 Explosives Act, (see The Phoenix 25/5/01.) the solicitors were called in. This assent process is completely separate to the planning application, which saw permission granted for the £5 million plant on December 22 last, (and since appealed). As required by the Act, the Council called a three day hearing, but the locals objected to the fact that they had so little information, given that most of the facts relating to the scheme have been deemed top secret by the Department of Justice's Inspector of Explosives. As a result, there was no information available concerning the chemicals to be used, exact purpose of the buildings, etc.
With no access to records, the objectors succeeded in having the assent hearing adjourned until the High Court rules on the application for the release of various documents. Two separate High Court actions have been initiated, by a local residents group, Cairde Chill an Díseart Teo, and by the Salesian Sisters, a religious order in Kildysart. The hapless nuns have recently closed down a secondary level school adjacent to the proposed explosives factory, and are seeking to offload the site. Not surprisingly, the SEL project and associated exclusion zone has knocked the property value back significantly.
Despite these legal actions, which are set for hearing next month, SEL sued the County Council, which in turn agreed to proceed with the assent hearing this month. The hearing was advertised, much to the shock of objectors, who immediately returned to the Courts and obtained yet another injunction preventing the Council from holding the hearing until the High Court cases are themselves heard in October. It is unclear why Clare County Council adopted this strategy and in doing so landed itself with yet more legal bills. There could be plenty more to come, with Cairde Chill an Díseart Teo. Suing both the Minister for Justice and Clare Co. Council, while the Salesian Sisters are suing SEL and Clare Co. Council.

Source: The Phoenix, Sept 28Th. 2001.

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