Edwin Poots' Inquiries
As Environment Minister, Edwin Poots has the power to call inquiries into matters of public importance, and today has illustrated how he is open for criticism no matter what he decides.
Back in March the minister announced a public inquiry into Belfast City Airport's application to extend its runway. After reports earlier this month that the inquiry would be delayed pending a report on noise pollution, today Ryanair's Michael O'Leary pulled his operation out of the City Airport. The development will alarm those depending on City Airport for work but has been welcomed by opponents of the runway extension who argue that long haul flights should operate out of the International Airport.
While Mr O'Leary is angry at Mr Poots for delaying matters by calling an inquiry, over in Glenavy some local residents will be even more furious at the minister for not ordering an inquiry into a proposed chicken litter incinerator. The project has been supported by many in the local poultry industry as a way to meet EU requirements for dealing with their waste. But it has caused consternation amongst campaigners who deny they are just NIMBYs, instead arguing that the technological and economic case for the plant is flawed.
Mr Poots' green light will delight the company behind the incinerator proposal Rose Energy. However it has caused concern for another local firm Randox which fears the impact an incinerator might have on the environment in which it makes diagnostic products.
Both the airport and the incinerator are difficult decisions for the minister to get right, and some brickbats are guaranteed no matter how he tries to keep the various interested parties satisfied.
UPDATE: Amongst the criticism coming in, the Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator has pointed out that there were almost 7,000 objections to the Rose Energy proposal, and less than 2,000 objections to the City Airport runway. The TUV leader Jim Allister, meanwhile, has taken Mr Poots to task for his delay in ordering the inquiry at the airport, pointing out that "the planning application was lodged in November 2008, yet it took Minister Poots till 16 March 2010 to decide to ask for a public inquiry."
However Mr Poots' party colleague Clive McFarland has been busy on his Twitter site drawing attention to Ryanair's track record in pulling out of other airports, citing a variety of different reasons.