Press Release
Friends of the Irish Environment
23 October 2018

Northern Ireland authorities admit cross-border environmental impacts of agricultural intensification
Ground-breaking decision has far reaching implications: Dail demo Wednesday 24 October 12.30

Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast & Glens Council has informed the Department of the Environment, Communities and Local Government and Donegal County Council that there is ‘likely to be a significant effect on the environment in the Republic of Ireland as a result of [a] proposed intensive pig farm development".

The decision comes after a complaint by an Irish environmental NGO to the Department of the Environment in April 2018 under the United Nations Espoo Convention which requires countries to alert and consult with neighbouring countries on developments which may have cross border impacts. Both Ireland and the United Kingdom are parties to the 1992 convention.

FIE had pointed out that the impact of ammonia emissions from agricultural intensification on the environment and public health in the Republic of Ireland had not been properly factored into planning decisions by the Northern Ireland planning authority. Ireland exceeded of its ammonia emissions limits for the first time last year.

Critical levels of ammonia, at which ecological damage occurs, have been recorded at 98% of Northern Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation. 91% of Northern Ireland’s ammonia emissions are from agriculture, a figure that reaches 99% in the Republic.

The local authority letter to the Irish authorities cites "Potential for ammonia to become airborne to travel over long distances in the atmosphere in addition to the transboundary hydrological links through Lough Foyle”.

The 2017 Agriculture Census for Northern Ireland shows that since 2010 breeding sows have increased by 24%, broiler chickens by 41% and laying hens by 89% under Northern Ireland’s ‘Going for Growth’ policy. There are currently 15 intensive pig farms being considered for approval and 64 poultry applications, as well as 6 anaerobic digestors for processing animal waste.

Friends of the Irish Environment point out that the Convention ‘an opportunity to the public in the areas likely to be affected to participate in relevant environmental impact assessment procedures regarding proposed activities’. The opportunity provided to the public of the affected Party is ‘equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin.’
FIE previously brought the United Kingdom to the Espoo Committee which subsequently required the UK to consult with members of the public in the Republic of Ireland in relation to the construction of the Hinckley Nuclear power plant in Somerset, England. It recently filed a complaint over the failure of the Northern Ireland authorities to consult with the Republic over the planned dumping of dredged materials from, Warrenpoint Harbour in Carlingford Lough.
The development, which FIE Director Tony Lowes says ‘will have far reaching consequences for public participation in agricultural development on both side of the border’, comes as a number of environmental activists from Northern Ireland will be at the Dail on Wednesday, invited by Green Party TD Eamon Ryan TD and Senator Grace O'Sullivan.

"From Civil Rights to Land Rights: Stories from a Dirty Border and a Dirty Brexit" will protest outside the Dáil at 12:30 on the 24th of October, with the artists dressed as the Children of Lir on stilts to highlight how a new A6 motorway between Belfast and Derry is carving its way through Lough Beg – home to 22 protected species including the iconic Whooper Swan of the Children of Lir.
The Limavady Residents association, one of the groups represented, are calling for a moratorium on further permissions for intensive pig and poultry factories, pointing out that pig manure has ten times the phosphates of cow manure. ‘Phosphate availability for plant growth is 60% for poultry manure and 50% for cattle and pig manure. That means that remainder is released to the environment – a total of more than 1,200,000 kg of Phosphates per year if current applications are approved.’
Environmental activist Asling Cownam of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, their country is ‘now facing an onslaught of planning applications for precious metal mining, industrial farming, illegal quarrying, and anaerobic digesters. The threats from international mining companies and a huge rise in new factory farms are increasing at a time when everyone is worried that we will lose many environmental protections after Brexit.’
Director of Friends of the Earth James Orr said that ‘We don’t want to see a dirty Brexit and a dirty border in Ireland. What we want to see the free movement of people and goods across the Irish border. But we also need the free movement of clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems across the island of Ireland.’

You are most welcome to attend an information briefing ‘From Civil Rights to Land Rights: Stories from a Dirty Border and a Dirty Brexit’ with environmental rights activists from Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of Brexit on Northern Irish and Border communities. When: Wednesday, 24 October @11am. Where: AV Room at 11am. Outside Dail Demo: @12.30pm

Further Information
Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland: James Orr 0044 7912 406501
Green Party Press Office: 353 (0)1 636 9282
Friends of the Irish Environment: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852

Cross border impact decsion:
Carlingford Lough submission


19 OCTOBER 2018

OPW: "no obligation to comply with the Fisheries Act"
FIE Statement in response to media reports regarding ongoing Bandon Flood Relief Scheme Works

Media reports that the Office of Public Works (OPW) will not cease work in the Bandon River Drainage Scheme [1] as they have "no obligation to comply with the Fisheries Act" ignore the fact that the work has breached its legally binding environmental commitments. [2]

The controversial Flood Relief Scheme on the Bandon River faces legal action in the High Court unless works stop, according to a letter issued by solicitors O’Connell and Clarke on behalf of Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] this week.

The relevant binding parts of its permission for this work are the "mitigation measures" in the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS]. These subsequently found their way into the Schedule of Environmental Commitments required as a condition of the OPW's permission and signed off by them and notified to their contractors in March 2016.

The EIS requires the works to be confined to ‘during the period May – September inclusive, to minimise the impact on Salmon, as outlined in IFI Guidelines.’ The reason for this is given as to ‘avoids the main periods of migration and spawning for the species’.[3] This is the commitment reiterated in the ‘Schedule of Environmental Commitments’.

Given this commitment, under the EU’s EIA Directive the proposal to continue works into October must first be subject in advance to Environmental Impact Assessment and to an "Appropriate Assessment" under the EU Habitats Directive. This did not happen. According to media reports, the OPW ‘informed’ Inland Fisheries Ireland [IFI] at the end of September that it intended to continue working beyond the authorised date but IFI does not appear to have given its agreement, which in law it could not do without the assessments required. Indeed, it is cited as being "gravely concerned".[4]

If our wildlife only had the ancient provision of Irish law to reply on, there would be no fish left in our rivers. However, the OPW cannot exempt itself from EU law, which has resulted in standalone wildlife legislation and amendments to the Arterial Drainage Act. The OPW’s "overcome and conquer" attitude to the environment is as out of date as their legislative understanding.

Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852



[2] The derogation from the Fisheries Acts contained in section 10 of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945 has been cited by the OPW as a reason for continuing with in-stream works in October. However, the OPW still has to comply with the other provisions of the 1945 Act and EU and Irish law more generally.

[3] EIS at Note that media references to in-stream work being "generally not permitted" in October are misleading. The OPW's Environmental Impact Statement does contain that language when exploring "key constraints". However, the binding parts of its permission are the "mitigation measures" in the EIS, which subsequently found their way into the Schedule of Environmental Commitments required as a condition of the OPW's permission . The word ‘generally’ is absent from these conditions.


Press Release announcing legal action

ECOFACT photographs of ongoing work

17 OCTOBER, 2018

OPW faces High Court over Bandon River drainage scheme unless work stops
‘Serious and fundamental breach of Environmental Commitments’ alleged

The controversial Flood Relief Scheme on the Bandon River faces legal action in the High Court unless works stop, according to a letter issued by solicitors O’Connell and Clarke on behalf of Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE].

The environmental charity alleges that commitments in the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] and in a subsequent Schedule of Environmental Commitments signed by the Office of Public Works as a condition of the permission restricts in-stream work to between May and September, while work has been continuing this month, including today.

According to the EIS, ‘In-stream works will only be undertaken during the period May – September inclusive, to minimise the impact on Salmon, as outlined in IFI [Inland Fisheries Ireland] Guidelines regarding permission for instream works. This avoids the main periods of migration and spawning for the species.’

The warning letter issued to the OPW and the contractors, Wills Brothers Ltd, of Foxford County Mayo, notes that the EIS itself points out that “Negative impacts on fish stocks have the potential to impact on the cSAC [Special Area of Conservation] as Salmon (Salmo Salar) are a species protected under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive and salmonid fish play a vital part in the lifecycle of Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), which is one of the qualifying interests of the River Bandon cSAC.”

Citing ‘the very serious and fundamental breach of the “Environmental Commitments”’, the solicitor’s letter states that ‘unless you and/or your contractors immediately cease all works and undertake to forthwith remediate the environmental damage already caused, we are to bring proceedings before the High Court seeking Injunctive and Remedial Relief.’

FIE, whose head offices are in West Cork, previously wrote to then Minister Heather Humphries in 2016 citing a Report prepared for the OPW which confirmed the ‘removal of riparian trees and vegetation and disturbance of the ground resulting in the presence of large amounts of loose soil that may be easily eroded and transported into the adjacent mussel habitat’ with the ‘complete overwhelming’ of the silt fences erected to control pollution. More than 340 metres of riverbank was ‘significantly damaged’ according to the expert Report.

Director Tony Lowes said that their office had received regular complaints over the environmental damage the flood control works were causing but that this ‘blatant disregard for their own environmental commitments was unprecedented and inexcusable.’ FIE has shared photographs published by ECOFACT, Environmental Consultants Ltd., who have been highlighting the ongoing damage caused by the works.

‘The Bandon flood scheme is an environmental catastrophe and should never have been allowed to proceed in this form,’ said Dr O’Connor of ECOFACT. ‘The river will never recover from the profound impacts of dredging and installation of extreme rock armouring.’

Mr. Lowes said ‘the works highlighted the dangers to the environment of the OPW’s highly interventionist approach to urban “flood alleviation” which emphasises hard landscape measures over catchment management and soft measures. The overbearing and unnecessary scale of their engineering interventions is highlighted by the OPW's creation of a fish pass dubbed locally the “whale pass” because of its absurd scale, when simply removing the weir in question would have provided for fish migration.’

‘Soft engineering offers a natural form of flood mitigation that builds along shorelines, establishing local vegetation along water banks to create shore stabilization through complex root structures. Applied to water systems, soft engineering is proven to reduce flooding and erosion while at the same time protecting local habitats along river, lake and ocean shorelines.’

Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852

ECOFACT photographs

2016 Report on Damages


Kevin O'Sulivan on the climate policies we don't have and the ones we should have 

Without a co-ordinated global response, unprecedented in history, in as little as 12 years “several hundred million” lives will be immediately threatened by a warming world. The science behind this week’s report from the world’s leading climatologists, working under the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is clear: small temperature changes can have far-reaching effects on our ability to survive on Earth.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes; the type of transformation governments have shown little inclination for so far.

The 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change is the established mechanism for that kind of global response, but no country is achieving the decarbonisation rate to limit warming to 2 degrees, according to the latest PwC low carbon index.

Today’s toddlers deserve an apology from those in charge now – arguably the last generation to be able to intervene and prevent catastrophic climate change

If the world continues to warm at its current rate, today’s toddlers are likely to experience the consequences by the time they get to secondary school. They deserve an apology from those in charge now – arguably the last generation to be able to intervene and prevent catastrophic climate change.

Climatologist Prof John Sweeney outlined the consequences of failing to contain global temperature increases: “While this landmark report confirms that avoiding a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees represents an enormous challenge, the failure to face up to the challenge will mean the loss of many low-lying island cultures and the displacement of many millions of people in places where they have not contributed significantly to climate change.”

Major extinctions of plants and animals will accelerate and weather-related hazards will increase in frequency almost everywhere. “For Ireland, overshooting 1.5 degrees would accentuate our emerging problems of climate extremes and damage the economic prospects of our current young people. The report confirms that, only by undertaking radical steps today to decarbonise our societies, can we leave a legacy of a sustainable world for the next generation.”


For those campaigning for greater ambition by governments on climate change, a court decision in the Netherlands this week eased profound upset at the IPCC findings and genuine shock at the Government’s failure to increase carbon tax.

The Hague Court of Appeal upheld the historic victory of the Urgenda Foundation and 886 Dutch citizens in their climate case against their government. It agreed with a 2015 decision, which found that the government’s failure to sufficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions breached its duty of care to Dutch citizens. A raft of similar cases are in train around the world.

Sadhbh O’Neill, spokeswoman for Climate Case Ireland, which has brought a case against the Government over its “inadequate national climate mitigation plan”, welcomes the decision.

“This finding of a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights sets a direct precedent for cases like ours to succeed. We know how urgent the issue is, and the danger we all face. The IPCC made this very clear in its 1.5 degree report, and the Dutch appeal court recognised ‘the serious risk that the current generation of citizens will be confronted with loss of life and/or a disruption of family life’.”

She adds: “Unfortunately, our own Government continues to ignore this imminent, life-threatening problem, unable even to agree a modest increase in carbon tax. The political process has failed us all, so we have turned to the courts.

“The Dutch case has proven that governments have a legal duty to protect their citizens against climate change by doing their part to lower emissions. We intend to establish the same in the Four Courts in January.”

With the Government fragile, a fear may have taken hold  that carbon taxes might fall into water-tax category and bring political mayhem

There was a belief that the landmark IPCC report would prompt the Government to impose a modest increase on carbon tax in Tuesday’s budget. For those seeking a scaling-up of efforts – in response to rising Irish emissions in transport, agriculture and heating buildings and failure to meet renewable energy targets – the absence of an announcement suggested shocking indifference.

It seemed previous pronouncements by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and (now former) minister for climate action Denis Naughten acknowledging Ireland’s poor climate record and the need for greater urgency were subverted by short-term politics.

With the Government fragile, Joseph Curtin, senior fellow at the Institute of International and European Affairs, believes a fear has taken hold that carbon taxes might fall into “water tax” category and bring political mayhem.

After the budget, he tweeted: “There was no more research to be done, no regulatory, economic, scientific financial or legal uncertainty. Yes, a modest increase would have made almost no difference, but at least it would have shown symbolic political commitment.”

Dr Diarmuid Torney of DCU called it “a really shameful episode in Irish politics”.

CCAC chairman Prof John FitzGerald delivered a damning verdict: the failure to apply a widely flagged move to increase carbon tax “signals that the government is not ready to take the obligations of tackling climate change seriously”.

How we get to a decarbonised world has yet to be fully determined but we know what’s needed to get on the right trajectory. Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, a lead author with the IPCC, believes a huge and immediate transformation is required through actions across all of society and throughout the economy.

Nationally, it means implementing the far-reaching Citizens Assembly recommendations and “putting in place a mechanism that consistently puts climate at heart of policy making”.

It should entail putting substantial grants in place to support widespread adoption of renewable energy. “Then ramp up a consumption-based tax to encourage transition,” he says.


A carbon tax can shift the burden of personal taxes away from work and on to pollution

A carbon tax not only encourages a shift in human behaviour; it provides reassurance to those investing in green technologies that their efforts will be supported. It can shift the burden of personal taxes away from work and on to pollution.

In tandem, Thorne says, there is a need to exploit a diverse energy mix: solar; onshore and offshore wind; wave and tidal; battery and possible other storage solutions, many of which Ireland is well-placed to exploit.

Regional plans are needed for the adoption of renewable energy in the way Tipperary Energy Agency deploys “indigenous innovation” to drive changes towards retro-fitting of homes by removing fossil fuel boilers and creating “zero energy” buildings.

Joined up planning is required “to avoid lock-in to carbon intensive choices”.

Locally, there should be many opportunities for communities to come together to embrace renewable energy, whether it’s the local school or sports club, to foster behavioural change.

Individually, there is a need to “eat local and seasonal, and less meat”; to reduce car journeys, and for those with cash in hand to retro-fit their homes and embrace electric vehicles.

Research and development should be concentrated on developing “solutions we can then export to the world”, he adds.

Curtin suggests we should concentrate efforts on ramping up carbon tax; get the retro-fitting programme into place with interest-free loans, enable major investment in electric vehicles and address the future of Irish farming from a land-use perspective – not just with a view to making “what we are doing” more efficient.

“The idea is to change short-run and long-run behaviour. In the short, many people can substitute coal for wood-based heating fuels, and many commuters could take public transport, walk or cycle instead of driving. A carbon tax rewards these choices.

Others are locked into commuting or heating choices in the short run, but in the medium term can retro-fit their home or buy a highly efficient vehicle the next time they are making a purchasing choice. Others may decide not to change, and they will pay more for fuel.”

Even with a dramatic increase in the carbon tax, there would probably only be a relatively modest decrease in emissions, so it needs to be combined with other measures, Curtin says.

We need to end our use of fossil fuels in a single generation. Taking that leap is going to be good for our society and economy

But his real concern is not around the economics, it’s about the politics. “Is climate a genuine priority for the current administration? Are they willing to expend political capital to address the issue? Can other political parties be brought on board through consultation before the next budget? The answers to the above questions are obviously ‘no’.”

There was one fateful twist during a dramatic week on climate change fronts.

Minister for communications, climate action and environment Denis Naughten resigned in the face much acrimony over meetings he had with the key bidder in the national broadband procurement process.

The timing could not be worse from a climate perspective. Ireland must, in the space of few short months, recast its entire climate-change policy and indicate to the EU how it will meet demanding targets for 2030 on the route to decarbonisation by 2050 by way of a national energy and climate plan.

Naughten assumed responsibility for a new department with a remarkably wide range of responsibilities; one that took time to bed in and arguably was not given sufficient expertise to deal with emerging complexities of energy and climate change.

Over the past 18 months, however, national plans on mitigation and adaptation to climate change were published. An overhaul of support schemes for renewable energy and heat was completed. The National Development Plan included €22 billion under climate action.

The hard evidence, however, will show that his term coincided with a rising emissions curve, out of line with most EU countries, and that there was little policy coherence or sense of urgency across Government. As a consequence, Curtin believes “ultimately his legacy is one of monumental failure and complacency on the climate front”.

The Irish political system must act now, informed by the IPCC report which shows “the scale of the challenge we face in avoiding the most dangerous levels of global warming”, says Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

“We need to end our use of fossil fuels in a single generation, transitioning our workforce to a low-carbon economy in a fair and just manner. Taking that leap is going to be good for our society and economy. We will have to reduce our national herd but can do so in a way which pays farmers properly for managing our land.”

Renewable energy in abundance can power the country into the future, he says. “Our over-reliance on the private car is not working for anyone. Switching to public transport, walking and cycling will allow us build healthier and stronger communities for everyone.”

Historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs

The IPCC report says we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. “This would limit the impacts of extreme weather, including heatwaves, storms and floods, with their devastating impacts, especially on the poorest communities.”

“I have no doubt that historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs,” lead climate negotiator for small island states Amjad Abdulla said this week. “I urge all civilised nations to take responsibility for it by dramatically increasing our efforts to cut the emissions responsible for the crisis.”

The scientists have offered a clear prescription. Ireland’s politicians and citizens have a lot of work to do – and very little time.

Eight tasks for the new minister for climate action

  • Complete the draft national energy and climate plan with a high degree of specificity by end of the year, having consulted as widely as possible.
  • Commission a “road map” for the future of agriculture, to be completed shortly after the IPCC releases its “future of land use” report next year.
  • A detailed plan for the rapid electrification of Irish transport is needed, starting with ensuring easy availability of a “fast re-charging network”.
  • Make it mandatory that all Government departments “climate proof” every major action and investment project, and indicate how much carbon it will save.
  • If there is a Brexit deal that is not economically harsh on Ireland, secure agreement on a supplementary budget to introduce a significant carbon tax increase.
  • Use the new Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to forge cross-party political consensus, including on the setting of five-yearly carbon budgets that run beyond the term of a particular government (as done in the UK).
  • Enable microgeneration in households, farms and businesses, so it’s to widely available with the ability to feed into the national grid.
  • Agree and set out the role natural gas, biogas and methane will play in helping to decarbonise Ireland.


Kevin O'Sullivan Environment & Science Editor

Irish Times,13 October, 2018

Netherlands ordered to increase emissions cuts in historic ruling that puts ‘all world governments on notice’

 Campaigners celebrate at the Hague after the court of appeal upheld the historic climate ruling on the Dutch Government. Photograph: Chantal Bekker Chantal Bekker/GraphicAlert/Urgenda Foundation

A court in The Hague has upheld a historic legal order on the Dutch government to accelerate carbon emissions cuts, a day after the world’s climate scientists warned that time was running out to avoid dangerous warming.

Appeal court judges ruled that the severity and scope of the climate crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020 – measured against 1990 levels – higher than the 17% drop planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration.

The ruling – which was greeted with whoops and cheers in the courtroom – will put wind in the sails of a raft of similar cases being planned around the world, from Norway to New Zealand and from the UK to Uganda.

Marjan Minnesma, the director of the Urgenda campaign which brought the case, called on political leaders to start fighting climate change rather than court actions.

She said: “The special report of the IPCC emphasises that we need to reduce emissions with much greater urgency. The Dutch government knows that as a low-lying country, we are on the frontline of climate change. Our own government agencies recently concluded that in the worst case scenario sea levels might rise by 2.5 to 3 metres by the end of the century. The court of appeal’s decision puts all governments on notice. They must act now, or they will be held to account.”

Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Dutch Greens welcomed the decision as “historic news”. He told the Guardian: “Governments can no longer make promises they don’t fulfil. Countries have an obligation to protect their citizens against climate change. That makes this trial relevant for all other countries.”

The Dutch government must now decide whether to appeal to the Netherlands’ supreme court, or explain how it will nearly double the entire amount of greenhouse gas emission cuts it has made since 1990 within one year.

One of two newly opened coal plants would have to be shut down to comply with the original court ruling, according to a report by CE Delft in 2016.

Government sources did not immediately respond to requests for comment but an appeal is thought likely. However, legal sources cautioned that its success was far from assured, given the conservative nature of two courts in The Hague which had now ruled for the Urgenda campaign, and its 886 citizen co-litigants.

State lawyers had argued that the judges were “sidelining democracy” by trying to force a policy change but the court found government proposals “unacceptable” in a stinging and wide-ranging judgement that leaned heavily on the European Convention of Human Rights.

“Climate change is a grave danger,” ruled Judge Tan de Sonnaville. “Any postponement of emissions reductions exacerbates the risks of climate change. The Dutch government cannot hide behind other countries’ emissions. It has an independent duty to reduce emissions from its own territory.”

 How climate change could be a spark to create a better world

Zoe Williams

Rutte’s administration has pledged to reduce emissions by 49% by 2030, but in nearly three decades, the country has so far only cut its emissions by 13%. Since 2012, that figure has barely changed, despite a court ruling for the 25% cut three years ago.

Paul van der Zanden, a spokesman for the Netherlands’ economic affairs and climate ministry said: “A possible appeal by the Dutch government will not interfere with the execution of the the Hague court of appeal’s verdict made today. The Dutch government is fully committed to execute this verdict.”

Van der Zanden added that a 25% emissions cut by 2020 was “feasible” and said that the Dutch environmental assessment agency would deliver an update on the outlook for doing so next spring.

Dennis van Berkel, the legal counsel for Urgenda, which brought the case, told the Guardian that the ruling “has consequences for all governments. They should look at this closely and realise that they are not acting in the interests of their own people. By delaying [climate] actions and not increasing them to the highest possible level – they are violating the rights of their people.”

Arthur Neslen

The Guardian