Article from the Nov 2004 edition, the Socialist

A toxic time bomb!

BBC NORTHERN Ireland's Spotlight programme on 19 October exposed a multi-million pound cross border illegal dumping racket, run by a Fermanagh based criminal "Dublin Jimmy" McGuinness. Socialist Party member ANTON McCABE was one of the journalists who worked on the programme, and was the first journalist to name Dublin Jimmy at the end of last year. Anton here outlines the scale of the problem and the real reasons it has arisen.

THE PROBLEM of dumping is on a huge industrial scale. There are thousands of tonnes in some of these dumps, and the frightening thing is we don't know what some of it is.

At one dump outside Cookstown, there were piles of rubbish 200 feet high. In the programme I used the phrase "toxic time bomb" because that is what these dumps are. Official estimates are that there are a quarter of a million tonnes of waste in these dumps, but I think that is a big underestimate.

The programme discovered two additional illegal dumps on the edge of Belfast. That's how brazen these people are.

They have been easily able to get around the law, paying the paltry fines that are imposed. Last year a company called Waterford Utility Services was convicted of sending waste to an illegal dump outside Cookstown. It had to pay e15,500 in fines and expenses, but it kept its permits and, according to the latest accounts, made e780,000 in profits.

The governments, North and South, are well aware of the activities of Dublin Jimmy, who is the Mr. Big of this racket. Yet companies that he controls still hold waste permits on both sides of the border and in Scotland.

The root of this problem is the privatisation of refuse services in the South during the 1990s. Privatisation meant handing public services to organised crime, because they could make huge profits from dumping illegally. These gangsters could not function without so-called legitimate businesses supplying them with waste.

Seamus Kelly is one of the biggest waste contractors in Co. Wexford, and the programme proved he is illegally sending waste to Scotland with Dublin Jimmy. Kelly charges people e400 per year to collect their bins and then avoids local landfill charges by employing these gangsters to take it to Scotland.

The best way to solve this is to get to the root of the problem. Waste collection should be brought back into public ownership. We should also make sure that New Labour's plans for the extensive privatisation of our public services are halted.

Waste is probably more lucrative than drugs, because you get your money for taking the stuff away. If it's not in public ownership the business becomes a race to the bottom - and that's what it is now.

Other articles on socialists and the environment

More articles from this issue of the Socialist are listed here.

More articles from the SP archives of are available in our sitemap