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Wicklow pol piqued by Blair’s response to letter on Sellafield

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Wicklow TD Mildred Fox is "livid" about the treatment of a letter she sent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressing concern about the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.

She was seeking urgent clarification from Blair about what she claims is collusion between British Nuclear Fuels and the British government.

The 29-year-old Independent TD has also complained to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern about what she describes as the offensive and almost racist tone of the correspondence about her complaint.

Fox, who became the youngest TD when she won a by-election on the death of her father in 1995, is an important figure in the current Dail. Votes of Independents keep the Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrats minority coalition in power.

The Wicklow-based minister for energy, Joe Jacob, has been asked to raise the treatment of his constituency colleague with the British government

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Fox found out about the treatment of her 1997 letter to Blair when she was shown documents obtained by the Channel Four program "Dispatches." It aired a program on the plant last week that also claimed the company saw Westminster parliamentary questions in advance and wrote responses.

The reply to Fox from Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry had been cleared by BNFL, according to the "Dispatches" documents.

"It was the nature of the advice that BNFL gave to the DTI on how to answer my letter that I found offensive. I believe they hold Irish people in contempt."

She said BNFL had advised, "In reply to an Irish TD, we believe it is important to be assertive and not to appear to justify or apologize for the UK nuclear industry."

Fox said the correspondence also showed they also suggested alternative words to the reply, that it be sent from a more junior minister and that it was an pre-election stunt.

"I am livid when I see these documents," Fox said. "BNFL is stepping over the line. It goes beyond their remit as a public body to advise any government on how they should respond to any race of people.

"It shows the influence that BNFL have over the government. I don’t expect to write to the prime minister and have a reply drafted by the very people I have asked him to investigate. It is clearly a case of the tale wagging the dog."

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