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About the Author


Liam Leonard is a lecturer, freelance journalist and political activist and has published articles in academic journals and the Galway news media.

His main interests include social and environmental campaigns, access and social inclusion, community development and local politics. Originally from Philadelphia in the United States, he has lived in London and Dublin but has resided in Galway for the last twelve years.


A lecturer in environmental politics and social movements in NUI Galway, he has also participated in the university's Access and Disabilities programmes. He was the first student diagnosed with dyslexia to be conferred with a Phd degree at NUI Galway, where he completed hid doctoral thesis on anti-incineration campaigns in Ireland. He has worked as a researcher for the Environmental Change Institute at NUIG, through the HEA's Social and Economic Research Group.


Dr Leonard is a founding editor of the Community and Environmental Journal, which aims to highlight interdisciplinary studies which focus on environment and community in the following fields: environmental and rural studies, social geography and social capital, social movements and civil society. He is also editor of Greenhouse Press, the Galway based social and environmental outlet for academic publications.



About the Book


Over the last decade, the crisis in waste management in Ireland has led to a number of disputes about incinerators, landfills and recycling centres. In recent years, the state’s regional waste plans have been contested by local communities concerned about health risks on one hand, and the democratic process on the other.


Politics Inflamed: GSE and the Campaign Against Incineration in Ireland looks at one such regional dispute, that of the campaign of Galway for a Safe Environment, which challenged the inclusion of incineration as an option in the Connacht Waste Plan. This study places GSE’s campaign within a wider context, identifying that dispute as part of a larger conflict between communities and the state which has its origins in the anti-multinational campaigns of the 1970’s and 1980’s. This book traces the emergence of a second strand of anti-infrastructural protests which have emerged in the post ‘Celtic Tiger’ era of boom and mass consumption, following GSE’s campaign from its inception through to its major points of political leverage such as influencing the rejection of the CWP, and their attempts to extend that influence during the 2002 general election.


Politics Inflamed makes a significant contribution towards the development of an understanding of the mobilisation of an environmental protest in modern Ireland, tracing the key moments of that campaign, while identifying the opportunities and constraints faced by protest groups and political figures due to the nature of the Irish political system. In so doing, it opens up a debate about the relationship between local populist discourse and the formal political sector.



Sample Excerpts


Chapter Five: Framing Perspectives on Waste Management: Political Opportunities and Resource Mobilisation in GSE’s Case


5.1 Introduction


The first phase of Irish environmental campaigns had exploited the NIMBYist concerns of local communities in a manner that superseded the economic rewards of toxic multinationals promoted by the state. GSE’s campaign extended that NIMBY frame by networking with other community groups concerned about the state’s approach to waste management in the second phase of Irish environmental campaigning, which was concerned with the post-boom waste crisis and infrastructural sitings.


In this chapter I will explore the emergence of GSE’s campaign against incineration, which was included as an option in the state’s regional waste plans. In particular, the focus will be on the manner in which GSE mobilised their campaign by framing the issue of grievance such as the potential health risks posed by incineration. The chapter will, in particular, highlight GSE’s own concern about framing their campaigns in a way that would allow them to avoid being labelled as NIMBYist, while forging links with anti-landfill groups. This can be seen as a type of ‘ideological development’ (Szasz 1994) that is also underscored by GSE’s attempts to forge wider links with local politicians, through their public debates and meetings. The wider development of GSE’s campaign can also be detected through their utilisation of communication technology to create networks. This chapter will detail these significant events in the emergence of GSE’s campaign that saw their campaign emerge from their NIMBY and health risks frame to challenge the state’s technocratic approach to waste management.


The campaigns against multinational incineration in Cork and Derry had established a mistrust of the technocratic science employed by the multinationals and the state. GSE were able to utilise this mistrust of technocratic science as part of their frames of health risks and NIMBYism. GSE were aware of the state’s responsibility to address the waste crisis through the EU’s eco-modern waste hierarchy.


Examining the mobilisation of a campaign’s resources, Tarrow makes the distinction between the internal mobilisation of resources such as ‘money, power or organisation, and the ‘incentives’ that occur within the political environment. This creates the ‘dimensions of opportunity’ (Tarrow 1994 p.83) that the GSE case centred around, such as political and professional expertise. The chapter will focus on this mobilisation of internal resources and also explore the exploitation of the external resources of the political opportunity structure that surround the waste management dispute.


5.1.1 Resource Mobilisation in GSE’s Case: Utilising Internal Resources


Studies of collective behaviour have indicated that movement activity occurs after periods of accelerated societal change. Existing political hierarchies, which fail to maintain social cohesion in times of transformation can face challenges by groups that shared concerns and grievances about ensuring crisis. These shared beliefs, when acted upon, are developed into episodes of collective behaviour. In GSE’s case, the issue of including incineration as a waste management option created the shared grievance that became the motivation for the collective behaviour of the relevant contenders, comprised of GSE’s committee members. The creation of waste policy and the response to GSE’s campaign and local authority decisions shaped the governmental approach to the issue. Therefore, we can establish a framework for understanding the POS in this case, with the EU’s application of an environmental directive on waste creating pressure from above for the state in regard to its waste policy, while GSE’s grassroots campaigns created pressure from below.


The shared interests of its initial committee stemmed from prior environmental and political activism and the creation of public concern about the health risks posed by incineration. GSE’s leadership and politically experienced supporters will be explored in detail in the next section. In GSE’s case, framing opportunities provided by the experience of this leadership in the utilisation of expertise to underline the potential health risks, and the highlighting of concerns about democratic deficit were all factors in increasing the mobilisation of consensus.


An understanding of the mobilisation of resources and political opportunity structures can be drawn from the GSE case. Here, power was derived from the opportunities afforded through the mobilisation of GSE’s campaign. Political opportunities emerged, but then diminished as a result of GSE’s involvement in the 2002 electoral campaign. The initial political opportunity arose from the introduction of the CWP, while the mobilisation of internal resources was facilitated by the activities of personnel with prior experience and expertise, as interpersonal contacts were activated between GSE’s committee and US anti-toxics and Irish anti-incinerator and ‘superdump’ groups. Further political opportunities were created through the state’s ignoring the results of GSE’s petition, and the councils’ rejection of incineration.




Politics Inflamed: 

GSE and the Campaign Against

Incineration in Ireland



Liam Leonard



ISBN:  1-905451-02-4


Price:  €19.99