Shanbally initiative shows virtue of water investment


While that carry-on was unfolding a far more significant but under-reported event related to water was happening in Cork. The Shanbally water treatment plant was formally opened.

As one minister explained, the equivalent of 40,000 wheelie bins of human sewage was entering Cork Harbour every day before the plant extension opened.

I had to take a minute to fully absorb that statement of fact. You and I, because we form part of the democratic process in Ireland, chose to allow that amount of egregious pollution take place up until now.

It was councillors and their political masters representing us who oversaw a process that dumped massive amounts of human-generated waste into one of Ireland’s greatest natural resources.

We can only imagine the destruction that 40,000 wheelie bins of sewage every 24 hours did to fish and bird life alone. On top of that, what risks were we facilitating to the quality of water for any child or adult who opted to swim in this harbour?

If there had been a march last week to denounce those who presided over a system that wantonly pollutes our environment on such an industrial scale, I would have joined it.

If you took a group of those who utterly oppose the idea of using tax money to fund water treatment and surrounded them with 40,000 wheelie bins of sewage, I wonder would it change their attitude?

It is both you and I, as taxpayers, supported by the EU Commission, who funded the Shanbally capital expenditure plan. I can think of few better uses of taxpayer resources than largescale projects that have a dramatic impact of the standard of living for the community.

Cork Harbour is one of the most important natural resources Ireland has. It is full of history and has the potential to be a tourism destination in its own right.

I heard recently of a group is working on a harbour tour that incorporates train, bus, and sea transport to bring visitors around Fota, Cobh, Spike Island, and Camden Fort that combines local history and food in its offering.

Such an initiative should be just part of an overall plan to bring the harbour centre stage in amenity, sport, and history tourism projects that transform the harbour’s potential as an asset for the economy in the region.

If such a process unfolds, it must be accompanied by more water treatment work.

While Shanbally is a tremendous step forward there remain significant parts of the harbour that continue to have residential sewage poured directly into the sea.

More waste capacity is needed to fix this.

For inspiration, planners should visit Dublin Harbour this year.

After years of improving water treatment, the harbour is at one of its most pristine conditions in history.

A wide range of bird and fish species have returned to the harbour and it is being actively used for pleasure and tourism alongside a busy commercial port.

Having that standard as an objective for Cork would be good for the harbour itself and all those who live in its environs.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.