Environment Minister pressed on Mobuoy dump plans

Derry councillors urged Edwin Poots to reconsider his stance on a public inquiry into the Mobuoy 'super dump' during private meeting

Mobuoy Road dump site

One of the areas in which the illegal waste was found at Mobuoy.

Local councillors pressed the Environment Minister on the need for a full fact-finding public inquiry into the Mobuoy ‘super dump’ at a private meeting yesterday.

A meeting between local councillors and DUP Minister Edwin Poots to discuss the huge illegal dump was not open to the press or public.

The proposed clean-up of the dump, said to contain two million tonnes of illegal waste, is one of major concern for people in the city.

Previously described as a ‘ticking time bomb’ it sits right next to the River Faughan which supplies the city with 60 per cent of its drinking water.

A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council explained that members of its Environment and Regeneration Committee requested a meeting with the Environment Minister.

The Minister agreed to facilitate the meeting, she said, and it was to be held at his office.

“However due to COVID restrictions the meeting could not be held physically and has been organised to take place virtually.

“As with any meeting of this nature it is not in the public domain, however, should elected members ask the Minister for a public meeting in relation to this issue, then we would be happy to take it forward.”

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has ruled out any possibility of a public inquiry.

People Before Profit councillor Eamonn McCann recently called on the minister to respect a decision made by MLAs in 2014 when they passed a motion to hold a public inquiry.

Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, Sinn Féin councillor Paul Fleming reiterated that point.

When the Derry News asked the Department for the Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEARA) whether it would honour that commitment, a spokesperson said: “The decision on whether to initiate a public inquiry into this complex case is one that lies wholly within the remit and responsibilities of the DAERA Minister.

“In situations such as this the Assembly operates as a consultative body and, as is the case with any Executive Minister, the final decision on matters within their remit lies with the relevant Minister.

“Minister Poots has previously advised the Assembly of his decision not to progress a public inquiry preferring instead to focus his resources on ensuring that improvements emanating from the Mills Report are built upon.”

Speaking after the appearance by Minister Poots at the council's Environment & Regeneration committee Cllr Fleming said he emphasised the need for proposed works to be in line with the recommendations arising from the Mills Review into the Mobuoy site.

“It's vital we deal with the site as quickly and safely as possible with a robust remediation strategy. “However, lessons must be learned from the litany of mistakes that led to the illegal dumping so that regulations and procedures are put in place to ensure it never happens again.

“To that end I will be reiterating my call to Minister Poots to hold a public inquiry into dumping at Mobuoy, not to assign blame but to better protect our countryside and waterways for future generations.”

Cllr McCann said it was an ‘interesting’ meeting during which Minister Poots said he had been speaking to Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy about money needed for remedial works at Mobuoy.

It is hoped that with the backing of the local council money will be forthcoming, he added.

The DUP Minister also raised the possibility of cross-border cooperation with Minister for the Environment in the Republic of Ireland, Eamon Ryan.

Cllr McCann remains adamant that an inquiry should still be held: “We need the truth about Mobuoy Road to be laid out for the public to inspect. 

“This is a huge scandal affecting the environment and the health of people in the city.

“We need to identify everyone who was responsible and we need a serious determined effort to recover as much of the money as possible that has been illegally extracted.”

And SDLP Cllr Mary Durkan echoed those views saying a ‘full fact-finding inquiry’ is necessary.

“If it was anywhere else it’s doubtful that it would so easily drop off the radar.

“We need to call on the wider Executive to address the need for a public inquiry.”

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