This is the original text of the pamphlet as published, excluding photos and illustrations, with some minor alterations (e.g. removal of typographical errors)
Some original copies of this pamphlet are available from INNATE; please enquire.
The Nuclear Option 4
Post-War Ideology 6
Local Opposition 6
The Nuclear Safety Association 7
Alternative Energy 8
The Intervening Years 9
The Controversy Rekindled... 10
...and Develops 11
Political Opposition 11
A Hot Summer 12
The Amorphous Network 13
The National ANM 14
O'Malley Gives Ground 14
The Controversy Continues 15
A New Year, a New Minister, a New Policy 16
The Radicals 18
Mass Movement or Lobby Group? 19
The Carnsore Rally 20
Motion Sickness 21
Spontaneity vs. Effectivity 22
In Wexford Again 22
To Belfast, Carnsore 23
Leadership and Control 23
A Delicate Structure? 25
A Public Inquiry? 29
ANM Legacy 31
The Anti–Uranium Campaign 31
The CND Revival 33
Irish Politics 35
Significant Events 37
This pamphlet is an edited extract from a thesis written by Simon Dalby entitled 'Political Ecology: a study of the Irish anti-nuclear movement' written for the University of Victoria (Canada) in 1982. [The original pamphlet listed the total contents of Simon Dalby’s thesis and what was included or excluded in the pamphlet; this is not included here – Web edition Editor]
We decided against including updated material (e.g. on the rise of Irish CND) in this pamphlet but rather to let Simon Dalby's material stand, with the story taken to 1981-2. Perhaps we will return to more recent disarmament history again...
Editorial Repeating mistakes is not something peculiar to Ireland, though we are certainly good at it. And while it is highly unlikely that the prospect of nuclear power will be as close for Ireland in the foreseeable future as it was in the 1970s, being informed and prepared is the starting point of opposition to the contemplation of any such plans in the future.
But it is not just because of the importance of the nuclear issue, and of the victory won against it (more by external circumstances than by actual Irish opposition) that we are publishing an edited version of Simon Dalby's thesis on the Irish anti-nuclear movement Within the movement there were important debates taking place about the shape and variety of opposition that was appropriate; what form of organisation should be adopted, what priorities should be dealt with, etc. These are the kind of organisational questions which occur in any mass political movement.
And since then there has been the rise of the anti-nuclear bomb movement, to which in many ways the anti-nuclear power movement was a precursor. These questions of organisation, strategy and tactics are vital. Simon Dalby's analysis of the way the Irish anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s dealt with these questions is an important one which will repay careful study and consideration. It is as much for the nitty-gritty politics of the movement, then, that we are publishing this pamphlet as for the importance of the issue concerned. A victory was won. And while that victory was more to do with economic questions and the international concern over nuclear power, the Irish anti-nuclear power movement had done an important job in conscientising people as to the dangers. It is good to be able to tell a success story, and we think if you stick with it you'll find it an exiting read. And if we are able to. learn some lessons about organising present and future campaigns then the read will indeed have been a worthwhile one... - Dawn group.
The Nuclear Option
In November 1968 the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) first announced that it was examining nuclear power as a possible method of diversifying electricity supply options. In the late 1960s, contemplating a projected 9% per annum growth rate in electricity demand in the 1970s, and the imminent completion of an interconnection with the Northern Ireland Electricity Service (NIES) grid, a 350 MW nuclear power station was thought to be possible by 1978 at the earliest. At least a 10 year lead time is involved in bringing a nuclear station on stream due to planning and construction and training. Four people went to the UK in 1968 for training in nuclear technology, in accordance with the traditional ESB policy of training their own personnel to operate new technologies.
Since the initial announcement of the possibility of developing nuclear energy, plans have been changed and postponed a number of times. The initial ideas of the late 1960s were postponed in 1972 when the then minister of Transport and Power, Brian Lenihan, argued that it should be postponed until the implications of the newly discovered Kinsale natural gas field were worked out. A new government was elected in 1973 and had to deal with the oil crisis and the subsequent oil price increases. The new administration established a Nuclear Energy Board (NEB) to deal with regulatory matters under the Nuclear Energy Act of 1971. The government encouraged the ESB to push ahead with its plans for a nuclear station at Carnsore Point in the extreme South East of the country. The ESB duly filed for outline planning permission to the Wexford County Council in September 1974. The planning permission was for four 650 MW units, only one of which was to be built immediately. Although at this time no technology was specified the preferred design was a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR).
A number of objections were received by the County Council and under the section 26 of the 1963 Planning Act the County Council requested more information, some of which was forthcoming. The recession in the mid-1970s caused a decline in electricity demand and in 1975 the ESB reduced its generation construction programme by 45%. This cutback included a postponement of the nuclear plans.
The economic upturn of 1976 led to a renewal of growth in electricity demand. Fianna Fail were re-elected in 1977 and Desmond O'Malley, an enthusiastic proponent of Nuclear technology became minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy, a new portfolio. In 1977 the plans for a station at Carnsore Point were once again put forward.
Nuclear Power has been claimed to be a surrogate form of nationalism. In the Irish case this interpretation is at least partly true too. In the growth mania of the early years of this Fianna Fail government, nuclear power seems to be seen as the consummation of the growing relationship with international capital and advanced technology which started in the late 1950s. It was seen as the symbol of national manhood. Ireland would have a shining nuclear plant too. Controversy soon arose how-ever, both in a Dail debate and at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis (annual party convention) and also in public forums over the winter of 1977-78. The national anti – nuclear movement dates from the spring of 1978 when the Friends of the Earth group was restarted in Dublin.
Subsequently the government published a discussion document on energy in July 1978 which outlined its case for nuclear power. The rationale outlined in this publication was quite simple and in keeping with the philosophy of government intervention to promote rapid economic growth. The Fianna Fail government elected in 1977 initially forecasted a 7%increase in Gross National Product (GNP) per annum for 1978, 1979 and 1980 with rapid industrial expansion hopefully providing the impetus within the economy to increase employment by 25,000 jobs per annum.
A number of themes came together in the analysis of energy possibilities in the Green Paper. First, although not much emphasised in this document, are concern with financial considerations, cheap energy is deemed essential to maintain the competitiveness of export orientated industry, the king pin of the government's growth strategy.
Our standard of living and continued well being are largely dependent upon the future availability of adequate supplies of energy at reasonable cost. In formulating energy policy we must be conscious of the fact that energy is an important cost factor in our industrial and agricultural production and that excessive energy costs will inevitably have adverse effects on our export business For this reason we can never afford to let our energy costs be significantly higher than the energy costs of our competitors. (Government of Ireland: Energy Ireland, Discussion Document on some Current Energy Problems and Options. Dublin: Government Stationery Office 1978.)
A second theme is the necessity to increase energy usage in the industrial sector, and the lions share of forecasted increased energy demands goes into this sector. Flying in the face of stated EEC policies of de-coupling economic growth from energy consumption increase the Green Paper boldly states:
In the past there has been a close relationship between economic growth and energy consumption and there is every expectation that this pattern will repeat itself in the future. To opt for economic growth in the future as we have done is to opt also for significantly increased energy consumption. Industrial development is energy intensive and increases in GNP are usually accompanied by higher proportional increases in energy consumption. (ibid., p. 23)
The resultant forecasts suggested that by 1990 the industrial sector would be using 57% of the total energy demand. As Friends of the Earth (FoE) were quick to point out this is completely at odds with the experience of other industrialised countries where the industrial sector rarely consumes more than 40% of total energy consumed.
The third theme in the Green Paper is a stated intention to move away from a dependence on imported oil which provided 75% of Ireland's total energy requirements in the late 1970s. This is in line with the EEC policy of reducing imported energy dependence to below 50% by 1985. In addition the effect of large energy imports on the balance of payments deficit is noted as an additional cause of concern. Having said this, however, the projections in fact advocate an increase in the use of imported oil.
The stated intention to reduce oil imports is carried over into the fourth theme; the rapid expansion of electrical power. Having forecasted a large increase in industrial activity and a big increase in energy demand in the future, and compared these projections with the current situation, the authors remark;
What is expected to develop over the coming decade is a large energy gap which must be filled in one way or another. (ibid., page 26)
The bulk of the Green Paper is spent outlining possibilities for filling this 'gap'. Suggesting that the electrical sector can more easily switch away from oil, the Green Paper forecasts an increasing swing towards electricity use. Few concrete suggestions emerge as to what to do with the non-electric sector but two chapters deal specifically with the nuclear option. They argue not only that:
The primary purpose of going ahead with the provision of a nuclear power station in Ireland would be to lessen our level of dependence on imported oil and to diversify our sources of energy supply. (ibid., page 67)
but also that nuclear power is safe and is a financially competitive electricity source. As partial justification of this claim they quote recent U.K. figures on competitive generation costs showing nuclear costs to be significantly cheaper than those for coal or oil fired stations. The fact that these were historic costs and not projected cost estimates for new generation facilities was quite ignored. A figure of £350m (1977 prices) is posited as a reasonable estimate for a 650MW station at Carnsore.
In summary it can be seen that the nuclear project was an integral part of the industrial development strategy being pursued by the government That the reasoning was flawed, the long term economic picture all but ignored, inaccurate figures used to support projected energy use figures and many controversial statements made with no attempt to provide sources of information did not seem to matter. The euphoria of growth mania was infectious and optimism for an economic miracle rampant.
The enthusiasm behind the nuclear power promotional effort in the U.S., and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the 1950s and l960s tapped into the twin features of post-war liberal ideology: the faith in science and technology, and the belief that economic growth, sustained by Keynsian management techniques, would provide the resources to tackle any remaining 'social problems'. Technological development premised on ideas of the domination, or mastery, of nature, found its ultimate expression in the harnessing of the fundamental processes of the universe in the form of atomic power. In turn the projections of economic growth required large inputs of energy, a purpose for which the apparently unlimited potential of atomic power seemed ideally suited.
But this document was in part to be the government's undoing as many critics demolished its arguments, exposed its errors and criticised its assumptions and projections.
The following month a large weekend rally was held at the site of the proposed nuclear plant attended by approximately 25,000 people. From this time until February 1979 when Mr. O’Malley finally announced that there would be a full scale public inquiry into the issue, a constant political campaign of opposition kept up. A government reshuffle in late 1979 following the resignation of Mr. Lynch as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) removed Mr. O'Malley from the energy department and his successor Mr. Colley, announced that there would yet again be a postponement. Ostensibly the reason was to await the results of the reports from the Three Mile Island accident but declining electricity demand growth rates had already weakened the case for the plant. It is worth noting that the pro-nuclear perspective was not the only one taken by government departments and agencies. The Department of Economic Planning and Development was more sympathetic to alternative energy strategies. The Irish National Science Council published a study on solar options. The National Physical Planning Institute (An Foras Forbatha) published a detailed study on insulation, Crutchfield criticised the nuclear option on safety and environmental grounds in a paper published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (1978) while the coalition government commissioned a study on conservation measures.
Demonstrations and protest actions against nuclear power have continued with other issues such as uranium mining, toxic industries, waste disposal and the dumping of nuclear waste off the Irish coast broadening the focus of the movement as the Carnsore proposal became less immediate.
In 1981 nuclear power had faded from the scene and the ESB announced that it no longer figured in its plans while the 1981 coalition government announced that it would not develop nuclear power as long as 'environmental' problems remain.
'The local opposition' provides a starting place for a number of studies of the opponents of nuclear power. The local opposition has a number of noticeable characteristics which appear to occur with minor variations in most cases. Close parallels can be found with opposition to other large technological projects.
The typical pattern of events is structured into a number of stages. Initial enthusiasm follows an announcement that the plant is going to be built. Local businesses (often with the notable exception of tourist and amenity-related concerns) respond favourably, seeing the influx of jobs and business as an opportunity. Local dignitaries are favourably impressed by the new employment and business prospects and the prestige that go with a major development. Concern is often limited to a few outspoken critics and those whose economic and leisure interests will be disrupted. A group labelled 'Parochial Opponents' may oppose the projected development because of fears of the impact on the social life of the community. (Nuclear plants are often sited in rural areas with small and conservative settlements.) The opposition coalesces gradually around a group of concerned citizens who are unsatisfied by the assurances given by the utilities and government spokespeople. These people hold meetings, organise a committee and do their own research. A common method of getting information is to organise public debates on the issue. Polarisation rather than consensus is often the result of public debates. Initially at least, the opponents are often the more experienced and educated people with a sense of political acumen who challenge the received wisdom of the conventional viewpoint.
Contact with other groups reveals others opposed to nuclear development and supplements the information gleaned from newspaper clippings and the local library. They also find a few scientists and experts who are critical of the development and this adds acrimony to the public debates and meetings. Participation in regulatory hearings in many cases occupies a lot of opposition groups' time and effort and they are often forced to use graduate students and less well known experts at hearings. They also run into problems getting legal representation. The limited opportunities for public input in the siting decisions and licensing hearings lead to a questioning of the political basis of the decision-making processes and reveals a duplicity of interests and a system heavily stacked in favour of the nuclear industry. These groups tend to cling to the view that enough information widely enough disseminated will vindicate their stand arid ensure that the industry is controlled. Public petitioning and demonstrations often accompany the local opposition's attempts to gain leverage on the process through court and legislative action.
In the late 1970s in the U.S. and earlier in Europe the larger movement against nuclear power became involved in local issues. These ideological opponents often used direct action tactics and site occupations in their campaigns, which are sometimes ambiguously supported by the local opposition who prefer non-confrontational and legal interventions to protest. In most cases, however, the local community contains considerable segments who are not opposed to the nuclear plans.
The local opposition in Wexford in Ireland has many of the above features although allowance must be made for the specific historical situation.
The Nuclear Safety Association
In early 1971 it was learned in Wexford that Carnsore Point was one of the possible sites for the ESBs planned nuclear power plant. A group of people from the South Eastern Science Council, the local branch of An Taisce, the Junior Chamber of Commerce and local development associations formed a study group in July 1971 to investigate the effects that the plant might have on the area. The group included a doctor and a number of scientifically qualified people. They studied the literature on Nuclear Power, visited the Wylfa nuclear power station in Wales, studied the Carnsore Point site and its main amenities, and had discussions with the ESBs nuclear project team. They published their findings in 1972 in a 55 page report (A.M. O'Sullivan, ed.: A Nuclear Power Station at Carnsore Point Co Wexford: The Socio-economic and Environmental Implications, Wexford 1972.) which concluded that a well planned nuclear power station should be supported by the community. They opined that stringent safeguards would ensure that there would be no danger to the public from radiation and that apart from a shortage of fresh water, the site is an excellent one. They argued that the provision of 800 construction jobs and 200 long term jobs in addition to the multiplier effect would provide a significant boost to the local economy. They went as far as to suggest that this new technology could provide a focal point for tourists! While the bibliography following the first chapter shows that the study group was aware that literature critical of nuclear power existed, they concluded that the inherent problems could be overcome by good design.
In April 1974 the ESB announced that Carnsore was their preferred site for the project, subject to: the successful completion of their studies on the site, to Government approval, licensing by the NEB and their receiving of planning permission from Wexford County Council. The then current County development plan had already reserved the area for a nuclear power station so it is clear that the County council favoured its development. In the subsequent months opposition began to be heard in the Wexford area. Doubts had existed before this time and a few informal meetings between people in the Rosslare area had occurred late in 1973.
The initial focus of concern was based in the Rosslare Development Association who held a meeting soon after the ESBs announcement of Carnsore as its preferred site. The Association contacted local organisations in the south of the County to organise a debate on the whole issue. The Association insisted that the action was not a protest against the station but merely an attempt to hear the negative side of the debate which they thought had been glossed over. The chairperson argued that the 200 full time jobs would be for highly skilled technicians and hence would probably not employ local people.
The planned meeting took place a few weeks later in the Gulf Hotel in Rosslare with an attendance of 100 people and was chaired by Harvey Boxwell. After this meeting Harvey Boxwell, a member of the Rosslare development association took the first steps to establish the Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC).
This committee started researching safety and environmental concerns which they considered the original study group had dealt with inadequately. An influential debate was held in June 1974 between Sean Coakley of the ESB project department and Dr. McAuley of the physics department in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in the Talbot Hotel. The speeches were followed by a series of questions from the floor which indicated a deep suspicion of the proposed plant The morality of nuclear power was questioned and the reply is indicative of why the clash of ideologies in the controversy is so heated.
Question: Is it fair to hand down the poisonous waste to our grandchildren and future generations for thousands of years? Mr. Coakley: That is a moral question and ethical question. Our job is to make electricity. In the summer of 1974 the NSC organised a number of other meetings in the south of the county and Harvey Boxwell, who was then the chairperson of the committee, contributed a stream of letters to the newspapers on the results of his research on technical aspects of nuclear reactors. Local organisations took stands on the issue in public.
During 1974 the NSC outlined its aims and the organisational format which converted the group into an association (The Nuclear Safety Association (NSA)) with regular meetings, an elected working committee, membership dues, etc. Despite this formal setup the committee continued to operate on an ad hoc basis and the newsletters were infrequent. The NSC made a strong statement against the nuclear plans at a major seminar organised by the ESB in July, but the audience which included four T.D.s and many community leaders were apparently unimpressed, favouring the project because of perceived employment opportunities. The two political parties in the coalition government, Labour and Fine Gael continued to support the Carnsore proposals. The NSA had by now developed many of the attributes of a small pressure group with a lobbying and information dissemination function. The radical criticism of the system which are part and parcel of the larger ANM had not yet emerged. The political dimensions were to emerge later.
At the end of August the ESB took the formal step of applying for planning permission. They published the required notice in The Irish Press on 23 August 1974 and the NSA called a special meeting a week later to discuss its response. At that meeting the secretary, Helen Scrine, argued that the 1963 Planning Act was inadequate to cover the moral and ethical objections to the nuclear technology. The NSA decided to object to the granting of outline planning permission on eight grounds.
A nuclear plant conflicted with the high amenity nature of the area.
Cancer and leukemia risks to the local population.
The bird sanctuary at Lady's Island Lake would be disrupted.
Radioactive waste continued a national security risk which the 1963 act was not capable of dealing with.
The added fresh water consumption would aggravate the already limited local supplies.
The build up of radiation in local ecosystems presented a long-term hazard.
Tourism would be severely disrupted.
No provision is made for the long term storage of radioactive waste if export proved impossible.
The debate continued through the winter of 1974-1975 with the highlight for the NSA coming in February 1975 when two local students collected over 2,200 signatures against the nuclear plant in two weeks and presented them to the County secretary.
In October of 1975 the ESB announced that it was postponing the development of the plant due to the economic situation which had reduced the increase in demand for electricity. This marks the end of the first distinct phase of the controversy. The possibility of renewed debate when the economy recovered from the economic slump of the mid 1970s remained and the NSA remained intact and continued its watching brief on nuclear developments.
While the NSA provided a focus for concern which gradually turned into opposition, two groups came together in Dublin voicing concerns about the hazards of nuclear power and advocating alternative energy strategies.
In Dublin a Friends of the Earth group was established in 1974 and produced a series of information leaflets on nuclear power late in that year (Friends of the Earth, Ireland, 1974). These dealt with the technical details, history and unreliability of nuclear technology, the effects of radioactivity, and questions of insurance and alternative energy strategies.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) policy at this stage was to oppose the introduction of a Light Water Reactor (LWR) in Ireland until the technology was further evaluated and the Emergency Core Cooling System (EGGS) and waste storage problem resolved. They advocated contacting local representatives and informing them of the issues as well as personal energy conserving lifestyles.
In an attempt to expand the NSA into a larger and more effective lobby organisation, a group calling itself the Council for Nuclear Safety and Energy Resources Conservation (CONSERVE) was formed in Dublin in January 1975. This was a group of mainly technically qualified individuals and people with a professional interest in alternative energy strategies who they set themselves a somewhat different agenda. Their four objectives emphasised conservation of energy and changing institutional structures to promote a national energy policy.
Dr. Roy Johnson of Trinity College Dublin acted as convenor for a provisional committee of six people from Dublin and Wexford. A series of meetings were held in 1975 to produce a memorandum for circulation to public representatives. This document was completed in July (R. Johnson: Legislation, Energy Conservation and the Balance of Payments. CONSERVE memorandum, mimeo., 1975.) and argued that nuclear power is dangerous and inefficient. It also outlined the institutional and legislative barriers that existed which limited the development and efficient use of primary energy sources. It suggested that practical measures must be taken rather than mere exhortation to conserve energy (at that time the Department of Transport and Power was running a series of television commercials on the theme of 'use energy wisely'). It argued for the decentralisation of electricity generation and the industrial co-generation of heat and power. Combined heat and power stations were advocated while it warned against high grade natural gas on electricity generation.
This document is noticeable because it introduces ideas of energy analysis and end-use consideration which underlie the ideas of alternative energy strategies. These ideas were to be used later by groups like FoE to criticise the case for nuclear power. It further advocates the creation of separate independent centres of energy expertise and major changes in electricity pricing policy. It also suggests that the NEB be made independent of the Department of Transport and Power. A number of people connected with this group were later to become involved in the formation of the Irish branch of the Solar Energy Society (SESI). The roots of alternative energy ideas were set in 1975 in Dublin. Another document foreshadowed future developments. The largest Irish trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union (ITGWU) published a document on energy in 1975 (ITGWU: Energy in Irish Society. Dublin 1975). This emphasised the problems with nuclear technology and advocated a consideration of social factors including manpower training. They argued that nuclear power might prove a useful source of power but that it would not help to develop the skills of the Irish workforce. As yet, the ITGWU was not committed to opposing nuclear power
The Intervening Years
The Irish economy recovered in 1976 and 1977 from the economic slump of 1974 and 1975 and concomitantly energy demand increased. Fianna Fail, out of government since 1973, won the June 1977 general election and gained a large majority in the Dail. Armed with a very optimistic programme for economic expansion, heavily dependent on foreign borrowing, they foresaw a golden age of economic progress ahead. The plans inevitably called for an increase in energy consumption and before long the new energy minister, Desmond O'Malley, was keenly promoting nuclear power. The nuclear option had not been mentioned in any detail during the election and a wave of concern swept through opponents in the Autumn of 1977.
Before the election the NEB had moved to spacious new offices in Hatch Street in Dublin and its first chairman, Professor C.T.C.Dillon had moved on to become the ESB's chairman. The NEB's first secretary had also moved to the ESB while Dr. T. Murray moved in the opposite direction. Personnel changes like this one have been recurring events in other nuclear establishments around the globe and have led critics to doubt seriously the impartiality of regulatory agencies. Irish Business commented acidly:
Certainly the appointment of Professor Dillon from chairmanship of the Nuclear Energy Commission to chairman of the ESB is an indication that the government views both bodies as synonymous when in fact one is supposed to be the watchdog of the other’s infant nuclear division. The nuclear debate did not entirely cease during 1976 and 1977 although with the postponement of the ESB plans the immediacy was removed. Articles continued to appear in the media on the topic both supporting and opposing nuclear power. Dr. Robert Blackith of TCD, who played a major role later, emerged on the scene in 1975 and published his critical book on the subject of nuclear power promotion in Ireland the following year (R.E. Blackith: The Power that Corrupts. Dublin: Dublin University Press 1976.). With academic interests in zoology and the mathematical modelling of biological systems and a concern for social issues and conservation, he became probably the most articulate and determined public speaker against nuclear power in Ireland. Alerted by what he considered a one-sided approach by the ESB and pro-nuclear spokespeople he was suspicious that 'all was not well'. Research into the question of nuclear technology and the inability of the ESB representatives to answer his questions adequately confirmed his fears. His first public statements on the subject came in a debate about the NIES proposal to build a Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) at Kilchief in Co. Antrim which was broadcast by BBC (Ulster) TV in December 1975. This debate was the culmination of a series of lectures organised by Professor Newbould of the New University of Ulster in Coleraine on the nuclear issue. The NIES proposals were scuttled by a British inquiry into the finances and demand projections of the NIES in 1976 before the plans were far advanced.
The Controversy Rekindled...
In November 1977 The Irish Times published a letter by David Byres and Andy O'Connell, who were subsequently to become involved in reforming the Friends of the Earth, which succinctly summarised the political implications of the debate which until then had scarcely been commented on amid the talk of melt downs, radiation damage and health effects.
The question of the Carnsore reactor is not merely a technical decision, to be left to the ESB’s engineers, but a truly political one, which will determine whether we head towards a resource-wasteful, hierarchical society much as today, or q diverse, small scale, truly democratic system based on ‘soft’ energy and a simpler life style. A feature article by Dick Grogan in The Irish Times in January 1978 quoted a Solar Energy Society of Ireland (SESI) statement calling for a full scale examination of the nuclear implications and emphasising the need to use each available energy source to maximum effectiveness. The profound social implications of energy decisions were also noted in this statement and Dick Grogan goes on to caution against the abrupt dismissal of opponents. In this context he quotes Dr. Guido Brunner's infamous outburst against the anti-nuclear movement
... those who rail against nuclear energy and at the same time plead for full employment should realise that there is a direct connection between the two... These jackbooted nuclear objectors carry on their revolutionary trade in the guise of peaceful ecologists ... Some are against that form of society because they dream of a return to the simple life and a no-growth, sandal wearing society – not a convincing model. With concern about the nuclear issue growing, people began discussing how to organise to resist the government's plans. Late in 1977 a group of concerned people attended a meeting in TCD organised by the campus group of the Student Christian Movement. Dr. Blackith addressed the group on the dangers and problems of nuclear power and it was agreed that they should establish a group to oppose it Subsequent meetings were held in TCD and later in a building owned by the Student Christian Movement which was run as a resource centre for minority groups and small political and pressure groups. The group adopted the name Friends of the Earth again and it was decided to focus the group on the campaign against nuclear power, although subsequent environmental campaigns on other topics were not ruled out.
To set the campaign in motion they organised a seminar in TCD in February 1978 at which speakers included John Carroll of the ITGWU, Sean MacBride, Dr. Blackith, Michael Flood of London FoE and Brian Hurley. These presentations were edited and printed as a booklet which included the standard FoE statement on the Carnsore proposal criticising government energy policy and demanding a public inquiry into the issue (FoE: Nuclear Power: The Case Against. Dublin 1978.). This group held regular weekly meetings in the spring of 1978 and drew increasing attendances at their meetings. They started printing a monthly newsletter and enrolling formal membership and became for. a few months the focus of opposition to nuclear power. The group appointed an ad hoc committee, which included two Ph.D. research students in biology who devoted much of their time to working on the issue, and favoured a classic pressure group/information/lobby campaign approach to the issue. Many activists with more overtly political backgrounds challenged this and left FoE to organise more militant political actions against the Carnsore project.
Mr. O’Malley came under attack from within his own party at the annual Fianna Fail Ard Fheis (annual party convention). A composite motion from a number of local branches opposed nuclear power. In reply he stated that he favoured open debate on the subject and had instructed the ESB to release information to 'responsible bodies'. He also intimated that if people in Wexford remained in opposition to the nuclear plant then he would authorise its siting in Co. Sligo, where the local population would welcome the construction jobs.
Barry Desmond, a Labour party Dail member, introduced a private members bill in the Dail on 21 February 1978 calling for the establishment of a select joint committee of the Dail and the Senate to review the nuclear plant proposals and hold public hearings on selected topics of energy policy. This bill, however, still operated within the framework of the 'energy gap' philosophy. This planning perspective remained the under-lying argument in favour of nuclear power.
The point that emerges clearly from the debate at this time is the widespread agreement within the major parties on the 'need' for large increases in energy used to fuel economic growth. At this stage Mr. O'Malley only really differed from the opposition in the degree of his enthusiasm for nuclear power and his optimism about economic growth rates. The conventional wisdom of industrial development and its consequences for energy planning and public policy were not challenged with the exception of a contribution by Mr. John Horgan. In addition, because this conventional wisdom was so widely accepted, the actual amount of understanding and knowledge shown by the members of the Dail was small; few members had apparently done much thinking or research on energy issues. Not until two years later after much public debate on the nuclear issue had occurred, did Fine Gael incorporate conservation and alternative energy ideas into their energy policies, and rethink some of the long taken for granted assumptions underlying the conventional wisdom as epitomised by the 'energy gap' philosophy.
In March and April 1978 the FoE weekly meetings drew increasing attendances and debates over the best way of opposing nuclear power developed. The positions polarised approximately into those who wanted to follow a route of militant protest action, with street theatre, agitational propaganda leaflets and demonstrations and those who preferred to maintain FoE as a lobby group with information and legal approaches through the planning process. The issue finally came to a vote on proposed constitutions and the lobby approach won this technicality. In the meantime some of the more radical activists, inspired by the massive demonstrations and attempted site occupations in Europe in previous years had made contact with NSA members and the emergent Wexford Town-based 'Nuclear Opposition Wexford' (NOW) and proposed the idea of a large rally at the site on Carnsore Point. Other groups were established in Cork, Limerick and Galway, among other places, in the spring. Public meetings increased in frequency and speakers were in great demand. The newspaper correspondence columns filled out with contributions on the energy question. A loose collective formed to organise the rally which was planned for August. Noticeable was the involvement of many folk musicians who offered their services to raise money at benefit concerts and who worked and played hard at the rally itself. This cultural aspect was an integral part of the ANM and added tremendously to its appeal among people who could identify with this medium and with anti-nuclear protest songs, if not with the arcane technicalities of reactor design and epidemiological statistics.
The Dublin FoE group launched a national appeal for people to lodge objections with the Wexford County council which had still not come to a planning decision on the ESB's application for planning permission. In June the Quaker Peace Committee lodged a formal objection with Wexford Co. council to the ESB's application. Concerned about nuclear waste, proliferation and decommissioning it says,
By the beginning of the next century we could find ourselves with a large dangerous, radioactive and heavily guarded complex which would be an eyesore, fill no useful purpose, threaten the lives of people in the area, and would require not only a permanent military guard, but the construction of adequate security measures and the necessary facilities for the people guarding such a ‘white elephant’.
The summer months brought the controversy to a head with the publication of the government Green Paper on Energy and the first large rally by the ANM at Carnsore Point.
A Hot Summer
In July the government found support for its position on nuclear power in a statement from the Institution of Engineers in Ireland which argued that,
... the economic future of Ireland depends upon commitment to the generation of electricity from nuclear fission to the extent of at least 30% of its requirements by the end of this century. Also in July, the long awaited government Green Paper on Energy made its appearance. This document outlined the government's rationale for nuclear power but excluded from detailed consideration many other possible avenues for energy policies.
The Green Paper contained many figures that had been presented earlier by Dr. Richard Kavanagh in a paper to a conference on energy options in a European context organised by the Irish Council of the European Movement held in Malahide in May. These figures had been harshly criticised by many people at that meeting but they were retained in the Green Paper. Unfortunately published in a light brown cover, one critic, writing in the music magazine Hot Press, dismissed the Green Paper as more 'the colour of diluted bullshit'. This article by the paper's Jack Lynch went on to comment,
Nuclear power is the most destructive expression of international technocratic capitalism. It also reveals perfectly the fatal contradiction of the same exploitative power which puts profits before people.
With criticism of the Green Paper mounting and FoE finding a major flaw in its calculations the ESB announced that it was commissioning a survey on the acceptability of nuclear power among the general public. As plans for the weekend rally at Carnsore Point were hecticly finalised, six local doctors issued a statement against the plant.
Thousands of people converged on the rally site by car, bus and specially hired trains for the weekend of 18-20 August. Estimates vary widely as to how many people made it to the site but a figure of 25,000 is often mentioned. The media gave the protest wide coverage including photographs on the front page of the national dailies and television coverage by both the BBC and RTE.
The free festival was organised in a completely ad hoc way with volunteers, of which there was no shortage, doing all the jobs that needed to be done, from patrolling the danger spots on the beach to manning the crèche and supervising the carparks. The rally drew people in far greater numbers than the organising collective had believed possible. Run as a free forum for the exchange of information it drew support from traditional musicians who provided sound equipment and entertainment. The local parish committee set up a successful food stall and raised money for parish activities. Many environmental and political groups set up stalls, sold badges, leaflets, magazines and books and exchanged information. Following a large open air meeting on Sunday (20 August) a procession of those attending the rally built a memorial cairn to all those who had suffered or been killed by nuclear technology. The rally created a festive but determined atmosphere among these present. A number of 'sign up' sheets were posted near the information caravan and people signed names and addresses on a county basis to start local groups and to put people in contact with others in their areas who were concerned. The organising collective disbanded, its job done, and a plethora of local groups started campaigning in the following months including groups as far away as Derry and Belfast. FoE's campaign of filing objections to Wexford Co. Council received a boost and after the rally one member claimed that 7,500 letters had by that time been lodged with the council.
At the Sunday afternoon meeting the idea of a mass movement with autonomous groups and no formal centralised structure, which had been strongly advocated by many groups, came to the fore in the open air meeting which had no formal chairperson but just a microphone at the stage which speakers used in turn to address the audience. Speakers included locals, people from various anti-nuclear groups, activists from abroad, and members of political groups. A large windmill was on site provided by Alternative Energy Limited of Galway.
The organisers maintained very cordial relations with the local police, some of whom were also opposed to the project, a very different situation from the continental experience and one that amazed European activists in subsequent years. On a number of occasions, in subsequent years, however, plainclothes 'special branch' and drug squad police were 'escorted' peacefully from the site, their presence not being appreciated by the more politically aware elements at the rallies.
The government reaction was noticeable by its absence until ten days later when Mr. O'Malley issued a small statement repeating that an inquiry was unnecessary and unjustified. John Kelly of Fine Gael was more concerned and the rally had obviously worried him. He warned that if the government did not concede to a public inquiry, the protest might escalate:
To continue to refuse it, and to treat those who seek it like children, is the course which may eventually leave us with something like the new Tokyo Airport shambles on our hands at Carnsore. The national daily papers were also concerned and called again for an inquiry. Although maintaining his support for the nuclear proposal John Kelly expressed his fears again a few months later when he questioned the wisdom of not holding an inquiry to 'allay the fears of the public',
This is a peculiarly explosive issue, and the Minister is going the wrong way about it. There should be an inquiry to set people‘s minds at test, and we should be careful not to allow subversive elements the excuse of joining the protest. Despite the massive opposition O'Malley remained apparently unmoved. In October he announced that he would be submitting his case in favour of nuclear power to the Cabinet within a few weeks. He added in typical style another dismissal of the need for an inquiry.
‘If there was anything to inquire into, I would have no objection. But I do not think there is.’ And later; I am open to be influenced by any real arguments. But I have not encountered any genuine rebuttal of the obvious advantages of getting 15% of our electricity needs from nuclear sources by the end of the 1980s.
Showing either a remarkable ignorance, or a deliberate avoidance of the sophisticated case against nuclear technology, and the glaring holes in the Green Paper, which FoE were busy documenting he continued,
I want to assure people as best I can that there can be no objective grounds for (that) fear. ‘Nuclear’ is associated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the atom bomb, but this is fundamentally wrong, for this is abuse of nuclear power. A nuclear station will in fact be safer even than a coal fired station and will be better in terms of cleanliness in human health and environment. In early November the Confederation of Irish Industry issued a statement in favour of using coal and nuclear power to provide the energy it claimed was essential for industrial development. While O'Malley continued to be intransigent the ANM took to the streets and the political meeting places.
The Amorphous Network
The ecologists use the word which probably best describes their organisation-network. The ANM is an amorphous collection of formal organisations, individuals, local groups, small research groups, lobbyists, newsletters, magazines, dissident scientists and counter-cultural collectives. Imbued in some places with formal lobby group ideas, standing committees, respected presidents, sponsors and all the other paraphernalia of pressure group politics; and in others with the 1960s ideas of non-structured participatory democracy and mass meetings with an overt political dimension. Still other parts include ideas of affinity groups, non-violent action and consensual decision-making.
The National ANM
Following the Carnsore anti-nuclear power show in August many local groups organised meetings, debates, self-education sessions, petitions and demonstrations in all parts of the country. A series of county meetings were held to bring activists from scattered groups together. Large meetings in Cork and Dublin included stormy exchanges on how to organise the movement. The meeting in the Mansion House in Dublin on 23 September produced a loud condemnation of the ESB who had bulldozed the memorial cairn on Carnsore Point a few days earlier on the grounds that it was dangerous to children! The NSA was also furious at this insensitive act. In November a group of actors and musicians including the Freddie White Band and Christy Moore organised a whistle stop 'Roadshow' tour of the country playing music, anti-nuclear songs and performing a play which included not a little character assassination of government ministers. This provided a lead up to the second major anti-nuclear meeting held in the State theatre in Dublin in November. Prior to this an anti-nuclear newsletter was organised. The newsletter idea was to provide all groups with a forum to communicate with each other. Each group sent a gestetnered sheet to an agreed place and the group organising its production collated the submissions and circulated them to all groups. Although the scheme worked for a few issues to coincide with the three monthly national meetings it never functioned perfectly smoothly, and the content and production of the newsletter was less than originally intended.
The national 'Monster Meeting' held in Dublin on 25 November 1978 was an all day affair with a loosely structured agenda for discussion, to be followed in the evening by the last performance of the anti-nuclear roadshow. Many motions on questions of organisation were discussed and attempts to put issues to votes were not very successful. To some participants the open unstructured nature of this meeting seemed like chaos, to others the very lack of formal rules was exciting and encouraging them to become involved. The local groups remained operating autonomously, organising meetings, preparing leaflets, doing street theatre, etc. In Dublin in particular the autumn of 1978 was a time of intense activity between meetings, benefit concerts and discos, leaf letting campaigns, demonstrations and street theatre.
A third national anti-nuclear power mass meeting was held on a cold snowy Saturday in February 1979 in Wexford town. The Wexford organisers had arranged a formal format with an agenda and a chairperson. They had requested that each group around the country send three voting delegates to make decisions. This arrangement was quickly dispensed with when the meeting started and a series of small discussion groups formed to discuss nuclear power and issues arising out of the previous few months experience. The debate over structures and organisation remained an issue throughout the ANM in Ireland in subsequent months.
O'Malley Gives Ground
Apart from the numerous local actions staged by the ANM, nationally opposition continued to mount FoE published their critique of the government Green Paper in October 1978, cheekily entitling it 'Energy Ireland: A Commonsense View', FoE, Dublin 1978.In twenty-four tightly packed pages they demolished many of the Green Paper's arguments and introduced well documented material to argue that a soft path approach was feasible and desirable. The SESI published their 'Towards Energy Independence’ in December (Dublin 1978) outlining the possibilities for an ambitious programme of renewable energy source development which would make nuclear power irrelevant.
This document set out in detail a phased plan to develop native renewable energy resources. By using Ireland's traditional agricultural infrastructure and technology developed to process turf to build a large bio-mass programme, and by developing a large grid of wind powered electricity generation systems, they presented a plausible technical case for energy self-sufficiency early in the twenty-first century, even if energy demand continued to rise. Also in the Autumn of 1978 Mathew Hussey and Carol Craig published a short book criticising the Green Paper. Illustrated with pointed cartoons by Martyn Turner, this book attempted to explain simply the anti-nuclear position (M. Hussey and C. Craig: Nuclear Ireland? Dublin: Co-op 1978.). The Labour Party produced a statement on nuclear power prepared by Barry Desmond, the Party's spokesperson on Energy, in which he deplored the failure of the government to concede to a public inquiry. This statement also said that the reduction of energy policy debates to a choice of either coal or nuclear powered plants was unacceptable. In November and December 1978 RTE radio ran a number of programmes on nuclear power. This was followed in January 1979 by a special edition of the popular TV show 'The Late Late Show' devoted entirely to the issue. A stormy, controversial show resulted with a heavily anti-nuclear audience protesting strongly against the statements made by Dr. McAuley and Mr. Burke, the Minister of State for Energy, who were on the panel. Dr. Blackith, Dr. Petra Kelly and John Carroll amongst others opposed the nuclear plans and musical interludes included Christy Moore singing anti-nuclear songs. The proceedings were interrupted frequently by comments, heckling and booing from the placard waving audience.
In January 1979 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission withdrew its endorsement of the Executive Summary of the Rasmussen Report and FoE were quick to demand the withdrawal of the ESB status report then being widely circulated, and the Government Green Paper both of which drew heavily on the Reactor Safety Study (The Rasmussen Report). Pressure for a public inquiry continued to grow as the opposition in the Dail repeatedly demanded one and other sectors of society including the Medical Union joined the chorus. Pressure within the rank and file of Fianna Fail grew too and at the Ard Fheis in February 1979 Mr. O'Malley grudgingly bowed to the pressure and announced that there would be a public inquiry into nuclear power and energy policy. As one journalist later put it,
Energy Minister O’Malley hated every moment of announcing the establishment of a special tribunal to consider the ESB’s nuclear plans. The official statement patronisingly allowed that there would be ‘freedom for all points of view – even the most irrational – to be expressed’. Anti-nuclear groups were quick to respond favourably but hoped for wide terms of reference which included social and economic questions. The FoE statement, issued hurriedly from their annual conference which was being held in TCD that weekend, said
We hope that the public inquiry will cover the full implications of energy policy in the areas of jobs, balance of payments and security of resource supply among other. The programme announced by Mr. O'Malley involved a number of stages. First, the ESB was to complete its planning to the draft specification stage. Second, an interdepartmental committee would study energy policy financing, environmental factors, etc., and issue a report to lay the groundwork for the tribunal. Finally the inquiry tribunal would publish its report following which, presumably, the government would make a decision on the matter.
In late March the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania happened, adding support to the anti-nuclear cause. In April Gerald Foley, the Sligo-born author of The Energy Question (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1976) wrote a feature article in The Irish Times arguing that the Harrisburg incident suggested that a major rethink was needed on the issue of nuclear safety and suggesting that Ireland should delay its decision on nuclear power.
The Controversy Continues
During the summer of 1979 the ANM put its energies into organising another major festival at the Carnsore site. The second rally was a smaller affair than the previous year but there was greater political content and more organised workshops in which the connections between nuclear power, uranium mining, toxic waste and noxious industries were explored. The media reporting was less extensive this time but one Irish Times correspondent trivialised the whole affair with comments on sunbathers and balloons while a tabloid went looking for nude swimmers. The Irish Times received a barrage of objections from outraged activists. This problem recurred; in 1980 The Cork Examiner printed two thirds of a page of photographs of painted faces and small children without any explanation, implying that only clowns and kids were present.
Meanwhile the government had further annoyed nuclear opponents and further damaged its legitimacy with an announcement by the Taoiseach that two reactors would be needed if economic growth continued. He subsequently denied that such comments pre-empted the findings of the Inquiry. The NSA was furious and the secretary, Helen Scrine, said that the announcement reduced the proposed inquiry to 'an expensive and futile irrelevance' and argued that the EEC now ran Irish energy policy. The NSA reiterated its call for a referendum on the issue. Mr. O'Malley continued to show his contempt for the opposition and the inquiry that he had conceded:
People talk of nuclear power as if it existed... But in fact we just do not have a choice it economic growth is to continue. The EEC stated publicly that the European Investment Bank would give loans covering half of the costs of a nuclear power plant in Ireland on the same day in June as An Taisce (The National Heritage Trust) published its major policy paper suggesting that any nuclear decision should be postponed.
In July 1979, Mr. Lynch, in answer to questions in the Dail, said that effectively Wexford Co. Council would be relieved of its planning obligations with regard to the Carnsore project and that new legislation would be drafted to deal with the situation.
The EEC heads of state summit meeting took place in Dublin in November 1979 and a small group of activists in Dublin occupied the EEC commission offices to mark the occasion and to make a dramatic protest against nuclear power and the EEC's role in its promotion. This incident resulted in nine arrests as the Gardai forcefully removed the seven occupiers and two supporters outside who failed to 'get out of the way quickly enough', The EEC heads of government meeting also produced an anti-EEC and anti-nuclear march that evening in Dublin. The government in another small but significant step announced that the special legislation on the inquiry was now being delayed until the findings on the Three Mile Ireland accident became available.
A New Year, a New Minister, a New Policy
With increasing economic gloom appearing ahead and a down-ward revision of energy forecasts, Mr. Colley announced that he was postponing plans for a nuclear plant at Carnsore. He further announced that his energy policy would emphasise conservation and speeded up development of alternative forms of energy supply. The ESB also seemed less enthusiastic and at last the ESB chairman Caries Dillon had come to realise more fully the political dimensions of the issue.
... nuclear power brings with it enormous problems ... the intrinsic safety of a whole series of nuclear related problems, Nuclear power has a much wider dimension than mere technical problems It raises fundamental political, social, economic and environmental questions. Mr. Colley was much less sanguine about nuclear energy than his predecessor who continued to promote it. Mr. Colley's tone was completely different:
As far as I am concerned the evidence available in regard to the safety of nuclear stations is not thoroughly convincing. In the spring of 1980 the Department of Energy pushed ahead with four pilot windpower projects and showed more interest in biomass fuel production. The result of the Swedish referendum in March 1980 offered little reprieve to the battered nuclear industry in that country and placed it under closer public scrutiny. The resistance to French government plans to build a nuclear complex at Plogoff in Brittany was also in the news that spring.
Despite the decision to postpone the plans for Carnsore Point, Fine Gael were still not happy and John Kelly demanded that the inquiry go ahead to investigate aspects other than safety issues so as to leave everyone better informed on the issue. In April 1980 Mr. Colley again stated that he wanted more information on nuclear safety and in June he initiated a major energy conservation campaign. In May it was hinted that the government was prepared to drop the nuclear plans altogether. In May also those arrested for occupying the EEC offices came to trial and received a two year suspended sentence.
In May 1980 Fine Gael published a major policy paper on energy which argued that nuclear power was unnecessary and undesirable. They argued in favour of using biomass, conservation and efficiency improvements presenting many arguments that the FoE and SESI, not to mention the earlier CONSERVE group had presented years before.
Despite Mr. Colley's reversal of the nuclear policy, two system analysts in the National Board for Science and Technology had different ideas, and their 1980 report Energy Supply and Demand: The Next 30 Years still operated in the framework of rapidly increasing future demand requiring large projects to meet these forecasts (R. Kavanagh and J. Brady, Dublin 1980). FoE in Dublin, who were slowly rebuilding a nucleus of people to pick up environmental causes again following a dispersal of key personnel early in 1979, did not let this pass and publishes a critical article in The Irish Times arguing that the basic reasoning of the model was faulty. They pointed out its lack of consideration of government policies on controls, prices and incentives and the avoidance of the socio-economic dimensions of energy policy. John Brady and Richard Kavanagh replied a week later-arguing that low or soft technologies couldn't meet forecasted demands and that their report was only a discussion document, not a policy paper.
John Carroll and other trade unionists, including representatives of the ESB's officers' association tried once more to pass an anti-nuclear resolution in the annual conference of the Trade Union Congress in July but the congress still insisted on keeping the option open. The revival of the peace movement in Europe in 1980 was marked by a number of ceremonies around the country on Hiroshima Day in August 1980, organised by the reformed Irish CND, the NSA and other groups.
The third annual rally at Carnsore Point in August was a smaller affair than those in previous years and the workshops reflected the influence of new issues with uranium mining, nuclear weapons, and noxious industry being important themes of discussion. The music content was played down this time following requests by a number of groups concerned about its perceived 'pop festival' image. Non-violence seminars and workshops on trade union matters organised by the recently formed Trade Union Anti-Nuclear Campaign (TUANC) were well attended.
The most noticeable silence in the whole nuclear controversy in Ireland was from the Roman Catholic church. Despite expressed concern by many about the moral issues raised by the nuclear fuel cycle, the church did not make a major statement on this issue in 1978 or 1979 when the public debate was most active. This reflects in part the changing role of the church in Ireland, its partial withdrawal from direct social intervention in addition to its traditional reluctance to become involved in issues identified as obviously 'political'. The ‘moral’ concerns that the church deals with centre on issues of personal and sexual morality and education related to family structure and behaviour, the family unit being seen as the basic and most important unit in society. Apart from calls to take action against poverty and unemployment and statements on housing issues, especially in the Dublin area, the church has recently refrained from commenting at length on many detailed aspects of public policy. In September the churches finally emerged with a statement on the nuclear topic. Arguing that nuclear waste is a major problem they suggested that no nuclear project be undertaken until a safe way of disposing of nuclear waste was developed.
Late in 1980 the issue of rebuilding the electricity grid inter-connector with the NIES system was raised again. Also on the agenda of new proposals were schemes to develop a pipeline gas grid connecting North and South. Running against the tide of current opinion in 1981 in Ireland, the European Centre for Public Enterprise, which includes representatives of a number of large Irish semi-state bodies, issued a report in April advocating nuclear power in Ireland. George Colley went to Denmark early in 1981 and was given a tour of their alternative energy systems including several huge windmills. In April Ray Burke, Minister of Environment, in the new cabinet, announced that the 1976 draft building regulations, which included insulation guidelines, would be operationalised from early 1982, and the ESB announced that it was seriously thinking of district heating schemes in Dublin and conversion of some plants to combined heat and power stations. In the previous month the ESB had announced that R ISO, the Danish national research agency, had presented them with a report on health, safety and environmental factors concerning the proposed Carnsore plant. They also admitted that the demand for electricity in Ireland had declined 1.8% in the previous year because of the economic recession which was by now once again gripping the Irish economy and also because of increased consumer opposition to rate increases on electricity bills. Despite the on-going research work on the site and the continuing debate about energy policy, for the foreseeable future there will be no nuclear plant in Co. Wexford.
The ANM continued to function into 1981, but a 'mass' meeting held in Cork in March could muster barely 50 people. Nevertheless a smaller Carnsore festival was held in August 1981 as much to maintain tradition as to oppose a plant on the site.