• April 21, 2015


The great contaminated (or ‘toxic’ – depending on your point of view) ‘silt war’ in the West has seen the end of round one.

At present the Isle of Man government are ahead on points and whether this goes to further rounds or ends up being resolved depends on how things develop from here.

Critical to that development will be the guarantee or ‘Covenant’ that the local authority (German Commissioners) has won a commitment on (more of that later).

The Departments (DOI and DEFA) overseeing this operation have given some significant but crucial concessions which will see site operation, security and access and egress improved radically. Also germane to that is a commitment to improve hygiene (i.e. plant washing) during the operation.

Consolidation of the contaminated silt at the quayside should also mitigate haul route spillage.

An ‘independent’ body to oversee the monitoring of the plant is also mooted but this will not apparently include any lay membership (well not as currently proposed).

The Celtic League had proposed to the Department, just before they met that they should use an external monitor, (if only in the short term until public concern was reconciled). We suggested SEPA (The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency), who have a excellent track record in terms of public confidence, but apparently this, together with a suggestion that they instate a moratorium until the necessary planning etc process was completed all fell on ‘stony silt’.

One good thing about the debate (at St John’s) was that the intense level of personal aggravation that was starting to creep in I would like to think was ‘lanced’.

It was pointed out from floor that Ministers come and go and I believe there was an acceptance that the current Ministers were the inheritors of a problem not of their making. I hope on the government side there was an acceptance that the protesters some of whom had been vilified also were not a ‘lynch mob’ but motivated by sincere concern.

More so than the environmental fears (it would appear) some people were concerned that government was riding roughshod over rules that it made and which were applied with rigour to members of the public.

There seems also to be a general acceptance that to further pollute our fishing grounds by offshore dumping was completely unacceptable. However it was pointed out that if we retain our grounds in pristine order they should be used for the benefit of Manx fishermen and Manx based fish processing businesses. There’s a great opportunity for the fishing community to capitalise on this good will.

So where from here? Well a body of people still have concerns about onshore dumping and for the future (as sea disposal is ruled out) some method of separating or mitigating contaminants has to be achieved.

Opponents are still considering their options and the possibility of seeking an injunction may be looked at on Monday. However given that ‘the establishment’ in terms of government planning, the police, etc have all quietly acquiesced to what they see as (possibly) an inevitable process would the Manx judicial system be any different? We doubt it! This may simply be just a waste of time and money.

This brings us back to the guarantee, or as it’s described ‘Covenant’, to be agreed with the Commissioners.

It was proposed by German Commissioner John Kennaugh and given the manner in which the Commission felt they had been slighted up to that point it was a generous compromise.

A Covenant is a contract or guarantee that should not be broken. The word has biblical connotations and is generally used instead of guarantee or contract to indicate that it is a solemn agreement between the parties.

As always with any such undertaking however the devil is in the detail. I have no doubt whatsoever that Ministers Gawne and Ronan will want to honour the undertaking in letter and spirit. However it is unlikely they will draft it, this will fall to the governments lawyers (what did the great Manx poet T E Brown write ‘the divil of divils is a lawyers clerk’) and given its suggested life is five years who knows (see comment above) where the present politicians will be – moved on in politics or out of politics all together.

It is important that in substance this document is cast iron. It would be a disgraceful betrayal by the Government of the Commission (and John Kennaugh in particular) if in six years time we had Corrin’s Folly on one side of the Neb and Kennaugh’s Folly on the other!

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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