This weeks’ meeting in Brussels was a very frank and open exchange between ourselves and officials who were involved with environmental issues, the habitats directive, the floods directive and water framework directive. We set out our stall from the start and everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet and all politicians fought for Ireland and Irish interests and there was no party politics involved. People’s lives and properties are at risk in this emergency and remedial work has to be carried out immediately. It also emerged that Ireland has not completed all the required paperwork needed for the floods directive which is disappointing. It also emerged that there was a document circulated to the planning departments of all local authorities in the country from the Department of the Environment that gives a totally different view to what we have heard in Europe at this meeting. If sites are protected there are ways of dealing with those sites
It also emerged that if Ireland put into their management plan the fact that certain areas need cleaning or dredging, as long as they are not priority areas then there is never a problem with that work being carried out. It was a totally different view from what we were told by officials here in Ireland. What we are doing now is that we are urgently requesting that all interested parties, officials from Europe, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the OPW come into the Environment Committee in the Dail and that these matters are thrashed out once and for all in the open so that the public can see exactly what is going on.
There is a process that under the IROPI system only one project has ever been turned down in over 20 years in the whole of Europe. Only one project under IROPI has ever been lodged by Ireland and that was for the Dublin Port Tunnel. It is baffling why the document that I referred to earlier was sent around to all planning authorities. An example would be that if, as I highlighted before, that someone was fencing or doing something else on their lands and if it was included in the management plan then you would not have to go through the planning process. We need to ask the hard questions from our civil servants and get them in to the Dail Committee as quickly as possible.