Belfast Telegraph

Dublin fury over border fuel bill

Minister warns Stormont after Republic pays £4m to clean toxic pollution

By Chris Kilpatrick

Stormont may have to pick up the multi-million pound clean-up bill if fuel laundering isn't tackled, the Irish government has warned.

In a hard-hitting letter to his Stormont counterpart, Irish Environment Minister Alan Kelly called for far greater co-operation to combat the illicit trade.

He told Stormont's Environment Minister, the SDLP's Mark H Durkan, that 600 sites in Louth and Monaghan had been identified where toxic sludge from illegal fuel plants had to be cleaned up at a cost of over €6m (£4.35m) to taxpayers in the Republic.

Mr Kelly wrote: "There is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that a large proportion of this toxic waste has its origins in Northern Ireland." The minister also hinted the Irish government would seek compensation from Stormont to pay for the clean-up.

"Given the scale of the problem which now faces us, I think it is appropriate that these discussions be escalated and that a mechanism which factors the significant cost of this environmental crime be finally factored into the overall agreement on waste repatriation," Mr Kelly said.

According to the Sunday Independent, water poisoned by illegal diesel laundering in the Republic is still being allowed to flow into south Armagh.

The toxic waste - which contains chemical compounds that cause cancers and birth defects - is being pumped into watercourses feeding the Lough Ross reservoir on the border between Monaghan and Armagh.

In response to Mr Kelly, Mr Durkan said he shared his concerns over the environment and financial impact of the toxic waste.

He said he was "happy to discuss" relevant issues with his counterpart in the Republic.

A spokesman for Mr Durkan's department said: "The overriding problem is that those involved in illegal fuel operations simply don't care whether their activities damage the environment or harm the public.

"The money spent on cleaning up after criminals could be much better spent in the north to secure a better environment for the whole community."

Last week, Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly that the proceeds of illegal diesel laundering "are making their way into the political system".

"I know where the money that funds the Fine Gael party comes from. Everybody knows where the funds for Fianna Fail and the Labour Party comes from but there are strong question marks over other political parties," he added.

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said Mr O'Donovan's comments were a "slur" on his party.

Quotes

Yesterday Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams hit back at claims republicans were involved in the lucrative fuel laundering industry. He said: "Let me nail the lies of our political opponents. Irish republicans are not involved in criminal actions along the border or anywhere else. No republican is involved in fuel laundering or the destruction of our environment through the dumping of toxic sludge."

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