Anti-GDF Outcry in Ireland, Wales & England

i Apr 14th 4 Comments by

With Britain in sensitive Brexit discussions about the Irish border ‘backstop’, the GDF may have inadvertently become a new diplomatic point of contention between the two countries.

This is one of several running stories in the UK media this week, that underline the complexities and sensitivities of finding a site for a geological disposal facility:

There is a common thread running through these stories, of people rushing to judgement and hyperbole before checking their facts. For example, the reaction in Northern Ireland was driven by an otherwise-innocuous RWM information video describing geological features of the County Armagh area. There are similar short videos for every region of England, Wales and N Ireland.

A local newspaper decided to fact-check the allegations that the British government was considering an area near Newry for nuclear waste disposal.  The newspaper concluded that while the claims have elements of truth, they also have elements of falsehood, saying: “Preliminary work has been carried out to see if the site in Northern Ireland could work, but we are far, far away from a GDF in the North being a reality given how much would have to happen before it could be built.”

This, more nuanced view, was also expressed by an Irish politician living just across the border.  Fine Gael councillor for Dundalk,  John McGahon, said the initial report was likely nothing more than a “fishing expedition”, that the probability of any plan being approved was “extremely remote”, that it was important politicians on both sides of the Border were not “asleep on the issue”, but equally that local representatives did not engage in “scaremongering”.

The reactions, particularly in Wales and in N Ireland, were predictable, and are wholly understandable, particularly in the context of nationalist politics. However, they also underline some other common themes underpinning media coverage and political reaction, eg:

  • providing technical information on its own is a necessary but is not a sufficient basis to enable mature public discussion
  • catching people ‘cold’ is not the best way to introduce the subject or build understanding – it is a recipe for immediate rejection
  • there is in-built underlying distrust of the UK Government and its agents, and of anything they say – it is going to take time to build trust and confidence

This week has seen the first salvos in what will become a prolonged period of media, public and political discussion. The initial media and political reaction was to be expected. It will now be interesting to see how RWM accommodates anticipatable reactions and moves forward to construct a more positive environment in which to nurture informed public debate.

A full list of UK media articles can be found in our international news pages.


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