Shane Ross


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Sellafield Affects Northern Ireland and Republic Alike

Posted on: May 25th, 2005 1 Comment

Today the Seanad debated a Government motion on Sellafield. I am delighted this motion has been proposed because I have been tabling motions on Sellafield for a very long time in a similar, but perhaps not quite so detailed, manner.

No matter how many times motions are tabled regarding Sellafield and the danger it poses to Ireland they have little effect, and this is one of the many failures of both Houses. The Government has great and good intentions in putting forward this motion, but the end result will be the same as the motions I previously proposed and the court cases and confrontations between the Irish and British Governments with regard to the issue.

The story of Sellafield is pretty pathetic and has involved discussion, protest and the taking of the issue to various courts and local and international levels. However, nothing has happened. Senator Ormonde is absolutely correct in her enormously passionate and eloquent speech. The Government has not been met with any great friendship or reciprocation by the British Government and it is a terrible blot on Anglo-Irish relations that an issue of this sort should persist.

It shows a certain paternalistic contempt for this country by our closest neighbour and potentially greatest friend. We share much in common with the UK Government and work in great co-operation on so many issues that it is an extraordinary reflection of their attitude to Ireland that it should allow such a deep and potentially wounding threat to persist and ignore the representations made by our Government.

Regardless of what the BNFL claims, the dangers posed by Sellafield are very real indeed. All of us have been subject to the propaganda which comes over the airwaves. The BFNL has a brass neck because it always puts out one of its spokespeople to reassure us that Sellafield is not dangerous.

However, Sellafield is extremely dangerous and some of the statistics quoted this evening illustrate this. The MOX plant produces waste and water which will remain radioactive for 250,000 years. Such a figure is unthinkable and I do not know how we might deal with such a situation. It will take at least 150 years to decommission Sellafield and the radioactive dangers contained therein. It is quite obvious from surveys relating to fish and the extraordinary leukaemia clusters around Cumbria that this is an evil in our midst which we must cleanse and do something about. One of the British Government’s defences is that it is being cavalier with the lives of its own people, although it does not use that language. However, that is cold comfort to us. It is up to the British Government if it wants to treat its people in this way and have a nuclear reprocessing plant on its land, although I think it is wrong. However, it is vital that we have a say when it threatens us.

The issue of a terrorist threat is of an extraordinarily uncontrollable dimension. It pops up from time to time and then disappears. After 11 September 2001 we all became very conscious of Sellafield and started to talk about what might happen if a suicide bomber crashed into the plant. If that happens and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, as Senator Brady suggested, then we are in serious trouble and could suffer a huge number of diseases and deaths as a result. The potential is huge. The British nation is a primary target for terrorists because of its political position on the Middle East and other world issues. That position taken by Britain is threatening our livelihood, our health and our future.

We must take this issue more seriously and use every platform where the British and Irish Governments meet to raise it. We must take it not just to prime ministerial level but to the level of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. We should include it in the Northern Ireland talks because as Senator Ormonde said, people in Northern Ireland are just as affected by this issue as ourselves. It is the one issue on which we can unite because of the threat to us. We must do what little we can to protect this country from the threat of Sellafield.