David Ford said: “The fight goes on for the creation of an Independent Environmental Protection Agency. In May, Arlene Foster turned down the findings of the Review of Environmental Governance and refused to create an independent Environmental Protection Agency. At the start of June, I submitted a petition signed by 30 MLAs from every party but the DUP and Sinn Fein, compelling the Executive to examine her assessment and take a collective decision on the matter. They lacked the vision to overturn the decision and her successor, Sammy Wilson, proceeded accordingly.
“Sammy Wilson then re-branded the Environment and Heritage Service in a vain bid to make it look like he was doing something on the issue. This was the political equivalent of the emperors’ new clothes and I was not the only one to boycott the re-branding.
“Just because Sammy Wilson indulged in this exercise, the need to create an independent EPA hasn’t disappeared. In the past few weeks we heard of a number of fish kills, at the River Quoile near Downpatrick and Ballybay River at Corcrain. I also believe that if the Executive does not act to create an independent Agency it may hit them hard in relation to EU fines for pollution. Our
current enforcement arrangements have proven to be wholly inadequate.
“The recent floods showed how ordinary citizens suffer when several agencies have interacting duties and no one person has overall responsibility. If the REGNI Review had been implemented, the Environment Agency would have taken over functions from bodies like the Rivers Agency and would have been in a much better position to co-ordinate the response to flood victims.
“Sammy Wilson should not think that the matter has been dealt with, as Alliance and like-minded campaigners will keep up the pressure for him to do the right thing for Northern Ireland. I believe that a majority want to see the creation of an Environmental Protection Agency. Our environment must not be denied the protection it needs.”