The CEHG Chairman, Jonathan Larkin, opened the Workshop by welcoming all present. He explained that we would begin with 6 keynote speakers, break for tea / coffee, and then split into three smaller groups to discuss selected topics.


The first speaker was Sean Crudden. Given that this was the 20th Workshop, Sean provided an overview of the previous Workshops, paying particular attention to the 2010 Workshop (Back To Basics: A Plan For Survival). A copy of his report on the 2010 Workshop has been appended to the 2010 Workshop page. A full list of the previous workshops may be viewed here.

Liam Kieran then provided us with a very persuasive argument about what we should be attempting to achieve with regard to transportation over the next 20 years, drawing heavily on examples from other countries where seemingly radical ideas are already in operation. Amongst the objectives suggested were: footpaths should be slip-proof and well-lighted; bus shelters should be provided every 200 metres; buses and trains should be free and frequent with plenty of seats for everyone; there should be crossings at every bus stop; bicycles should be encouraged and should be completely segregated by barriers from vehicular traffic; electric bikes should be available for hire; cars should be fewer in numbers and smaller; they should be forced to drive slower to save fuel; there should be no right turns to impede traffic; there should be a radical reform of how insurance claims are processed; there should be a plentiful supply of charging points for electric cars; cars should only be allowed to park in car parks, not on-street; there should be better sign-posting; lorries should be smaller and safer; better facilities should be provided to allow drivers to rest; trains should be electric and much more frequent; hospitals, shops, schools and places of employment should be built near train stations; and people should be encouraged to travel by boat rather than by air. These were only some of the points covered in Laim's tour de force.

Next, Don Johnson gave a talk on the Encumbered Estates Court established by the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 to sell off the estates of landowners unable to meet their obligations following the loss of rental income during and after the Great Famine. The big estates were leased hierarchically to agents, middlemen etc and eventually to the actual tenants who farmed the land. However, before the Encumbered Estates Act the land was entailed meaning that it could not be sold to pay off the landlords debts.The Court cutailed entails, and absorbed the landlords debts, with the intention of heralding in a new class of entrepreneurs. However, the conditions of the tenants did not improve significantly until the Land League in the 1870s. Don drew parallels with NAMA established in 2009 to buy up the land held by indebted property developers.

Don was followed by Niall Hayden who discussed the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) in more detail. NAMA was established to buy up the bad loans of six financial institutions: Bank of Ireland, AIB, Anglo-Irish Bank, EBS, Permanent TSB and Irish Nationwide. The original book value of these loans was €77 billion (comprising €68bn for the original loans and €9bn rolled up interest), but the assets secured were worth a lot less. NAMA has since been trying to recover its investments by selling off its assets. Many of these sales have proved contentious. Niall in particular mentioned the controversy surrounding the sale of assets to Cerberus, a US Vulture Fund, which is currently the subject of two investigations, one by by a judge in the Republic and the other by an agency in Northern Ireland.

Dennis Pringle then spoke about health trends over the past 20 years, especially with regard to cancer. Dennis originally carried out a report on Cancer in Cooley in 2004 for the CEHG following concerns that there had been an upsurge in cancer due to nuclear contamination. At that time, he found that although cancer rates were above average in Louth the were close to the national average in Cooley. He could find no evidence of a link with Sellafield. (The original report may be read here). Although Dennis did not have the same access to local level information, there is good material available at national level on several websites. Cancer became the leading cause of death in the mid-2010s, but this was because of a marked decline in deaths from diseases of the circulatory system (the previous major cause). However morbidity rates (i.e. new cases) for cancer have increased slightly, although the age-standardised death rates for cancer have continued to decline due to improvements in the 5-year survival rates. Generally speaking things have improved over the past 20 years despite the continuing crises in the health services.

The final speaker was Eoin Daly (DCU) who explained the reasons for the new Omeath waste water treatment plant. Previously Omeath was too small to require regulation, but this has changed due to population growth. This is not the only development to affect Carlingford Lough. Under the EU's SWELL project (Shared Waters Enhancement and Loughs Legacy) there will be a new pumping station at Newry and water treatment works at Warrenpoint. The Foyle estuary will also benefit. Eoin felt the main concern in Carlingford Lough should be Carlingford itself due to weekend visitors. The treatment plant there may be at capacity. However, Carlingford Lough is a less serious problem than Dundalk Bay. There are serious problems because the sewerage infrastructure in Dundalk and Dublin is not being overhauled, in contrast to London and Belfast. Eoin noted that the EPA was a watchdog body with no real teeth.

Discussion Groups

After the talks there was a short break for tea and coffee before splitting up into three discussion groups. Each group was asked to keep notes. These are notes are reproduced below. Although they provide some indication of the points raised, they do not do justice to the more detailed verbal reports by the rapporteurs. (N.B. The rapporteur for each group is the last listed name):

Information and Disinformation About Health and The Environment
(Eoin Daly, Don Johnston, Kevin Hynes, Liam Kieran)

  • Fresh and clean air and polluted air undermines health.  Emissions from cars, heating industry; pollute air. 
  • People do not hear about what is known
  • Water quality is getting worse often due to industry or domestic effluent. 
  • Cleaning agents should not be the ones we normally use
  • Use toilets for the 3 p’s only
  • Baby wipes, condoms, etc., undermine sewerage system
  • Cost externalisation endanger environment
  • 87% of illness is water borne
  • 1,000 gallons of water to make 1 ton of wheat
  • Noise pollution
  • Light pollution
  • Disinformation is always served with a grain of truth
  • Oxidation is a natural process.  Can be linked to cancer
  • Vaccines may not be perfect, but their absence means death to many
  • Meat may not be all it is accused of
  • Intense farming is intensely dangerous
  • Cheap food dear at any price
  • Population reduction will reduce all other problems
  • The West should subsidise a welfare state for the rest to make them read more and breed less
  • The harm that dirt does is often less than getting rid of it
  • Environmental resilience allows ecology cope with abuse but not what it is currently given
  • The Great Stink

Where to Live?  What car to buy?
(Edith Cahill, Áine O’Reilly, Michael D. Hynes, Niall Hayden)


    1. Ports cause dirt, etc.
    2. Parking at schools
    3. Law and order and anti-social: need to be sorted out
    4. Pollution and air-quality
    5. Road safety
    1. Near facilities: hospitals, schools, shops, etc.
    2. Less need for cars
    3. Clubs for children, teenagers and adults
    4. Garda stations nearby and open
    5. Not isolated and community alert
    6. Availability of broadband


    1. Isolated/fear of burglars
    2. Access to services
    3. Lack of public transport
    4. Lack of broadband
    5. Lack of road building and maintenance
    6. Lack of Garda stations
    7. Lack of mobile shops
    8. No litter bins for dogs
    1. Sense of community
    2. Air quality
    3. No traffic congestion
    4. Slower pace of life
    5. Sports availability to get together

    • Reduce pollution
    • One suitable for the size of the family
    • Lower emissions for lower tax
    • Reliability and maintenance
    • Low car tax
    • Safety
    • Lower insurance
    • Style

Health and The Environment.  Better or Worse?
(Rhona O’Hagan, Geraldine Kieran, Eric Hynes, Dennis Pringle, Johnny Larkin)

  • We feel health is monitored better now.  More information available
  • Too many cars (pollution) gridlock. 
  • Roads have improved as has drivers due to better examination plus better vehicle

  • Population increased and yet hospitals didn’t increase bed volumes to accommodate
  • Good disability recognition and respectful towards the disabled
  • Mental health badly serviced.  Psychiatric services in schools cut
  • But charity walks increasing.  Health services not bad
  • Waiting lists long
  • Nursing staff are great.  Public hospitals have a registrar, private consultants unchallenged.  A&E long times to wait
  • Not enough consultants due to overworked & reduced wages
  • Unclear distinction between private and public.  Medical costs are similar.  However, it’s the hospital costs incurred are different and expensive.

Water Quality
  • Water quality has improved in urban centres due to water treatment plants over the last 20 years.  Also, water treatment septic tanks are now lawful in all new builds which helps water improvement
  • Fluoride in water has improved our dental hygiene but is not good for the environment

  • At present USA wash chickens in chloride which we hope they won’t come here
  • EU regulations which helps in the environment but after Brexit we fear things might deteriorate on regulations
  • Free-range/organic food have become more popular & plentiful.  Compared to industrialised food

  • A greater awareness of the damage smoking/drinking/drugs has on the population today.  We feel that education in relation to these topics is the only tool available to combat it and should be introduced at school level. 
  • Although phones are very handy phones have caused people to be more isolated and secluded which affects mental health also affects children & families

The Chairman formally closed the meeting around 5.30pm.
The Hon. Sec. anxiously waits for the hordes to arrive
Some photos from the 2020 Workshop may be viewed here.