Submitting the Alliance Party’s response to a consultation on environmental protection, Alliance Party Leader, David Ford MLA, said that the time is
right for Northern Ireland to have an independent Environmental Protection Agency.
David Ford, who was a member of the Assembly’s Environment Committee, highlighted the poor record of the protection of Northern Ireland’s environment:
— Northern Ireland’s poor sewerage system, with tons of untreated effluent discharged into rivers, loughs and the sea. Northern Ireland has been cited in nearly all infractions against the UK, in non compliance with EU
— The wholly inadequate legislation and punishment of the destruction of our historic buildings, trees and landscapes.
— The systematic and organised creation of illegal landfills, receiving tons of rubbish.
David Ford said:
“This privately-led consultation on protecting Northern Ireland’s environment could not be more timely. For too long, Northern Ireland has lagged behind the rest of the UK and Ireland in the way it manages and enforces the rules and laws protecting our environment.
“The people of Northern Ireland are very familiar with the depressing news of our poor sewerage system, with the falling cleanliness standards of our beaches, the wanton destruction of trees and historic buildings, and the scandalous impotency of official departments in halting the large-scale illegal landfills, especially in our border areas with the Republic of Ireland.
“The time is right to create a new, independent Environmental Protection Agency for Northern Ireland, which would have the powers to ensure that we are in compliance with existing laws, and to effectively punish those who breach them. Our current enforcement arrangements have proven to be wholly inadequate.”
In the Alliance Party response to the consultation, Alliance has also called for the strengthening of links with the (UK) Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, as well as the establishment of a Commission on the Environment in Ireland. This would allow Northern Ireland to benefit from two sources of independent policy advice, and is consistent with an
all-islands approach of the Good Friday Agreement.
Alliance has also pledged its support for the creation of a new cross-Departmental Sustainable Development committee in the Assembly, as well as the creation of a new independent Environment Audit Commissioner.
The Alliance Party full response to the consultation is on the party’s website: http://www.allianceparty.org/showconsultation.asp?id=24
The consultation has been organised by a group of environmental organisations. This coalition commissioned a report to investigate the range of structures possible for managing and protecting the environment in Northern Ireland. The report, “Transparency and Trust: Reshaping Environmental Governance in Northern Ireland” (the “Macrory Report”) formed the basis of the consultation.
The coalition next plans to publish a report on the results of the consultation, in autumn 2004.
The coalition’s website is: www.epconsultni.org.uk