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Northern Ireland Environment Link Logo
 

News

 

Events

 

Aug 2015 right left

     

Go Wild in the Woods

Saturday 1st August
Meet at Lagan Valley Regional Park Visitor Centre
£5

Go Fishing

Saturday 1st August
Meet at Altnahinch Dam car park
Free

Rare Breeds Poultry Fair at Florence Court

Saturday 1st August
Florence Court
Normal Admission, Members Free

Sculpture Trail at Castle Ward

Saturday 1st August
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

Woodland Trust – Picnic in the Park

Saturday 1st August
Castle Park, Bangor
Free

Meadows to Mountains Walk

Saturday 1st August
St. Gall’s Car Park
£3

Kite Festival at Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House

Sunday 2nd August
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House
Normal Admission, Members Free

Summer Family Fun at Florence Court

Sunday 2nd August
Florence Court
Normal Admission, Members Free

August Jazz in the Yard

Sunday 2nd August
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

03
04

Woodland Warriors in Mount Stewart

Wednesday 5th August
Mount Stewart
Participant £20

06

Summer Discovery Morning

Friday 7th August
Meet at McIlroy Park, Lisburn
Free

Go Batty

Friday 7th August
Ardress House, Portadown
Normal Admission, Members Free

Go Wild with the Rangers at Whitepark Bay

Friday 7th August
White Park Bay
No Charge, Donations Welcome

08

Downhill Trail Race

Sunday 9th August
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House
Normal Admission, Members Free

50 Things – Week on the Wildside

Monday 10th August
Murlough NNR
Normal Admission, Members Free

11
12
13

CraftFest 2015

Friday 14th August
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

Go Wild in the Woods

Saturday 15th August
Meet at Lagan Valley Regional Park Visitor Centre
£5

Jazz in the Garden

Sunday 16th August
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

17
18

Wildlife Trackers at Mount Stewart

Wednesday 19th August
Mount Stewart
Child £6

Bat Detectives

Thursday 20th August
Crom, Co Fermanagh
Adult £8, Child £4, Family £20

An Evening at Yellow Jack’s Cairn

Thursday 20th August
Divis and the Black Mountain
Adult £3, Member Adult £3

Batty Bonanza in Springhill

Friday 21st August
Springhill, Moneymore
Normal Admission, Members Free

Return of the GIs

Saturday 22nd August
Springhill, Moneymore
Adult £7 Child £3.50 Member Adult £7 Child £3.50

Music Sundays

Sunday 23rd August
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House
Normal Admission, Members Free

Book4Tea Week

Monday 24th August
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

Go Batty on the Bush

Tuesday 25th August
Meet at River Bush Salmon Station, 21 Church St, Bushmills
£2 per person

26
27

Lagan Valley by Bus

Friday 28th August
Meet at Lockview car park
£8

Whale Watch

Saturday 29th August
Portmuck, Islandmagee
No Charge, Donations Welcome

Get Stuck in at Murlough

Sunday 30th August
Murlough NNR
No Cost

Honey Show

Monday 31st August
Florence Court
Normal Admission, Members Free

     
 

£8m fine from Europe Closer 16 March 2012

Northern Ireland taxpayers have moved closer to footing a £8m fine from Europe.

It is over the failure to protect a key habitat in Strangford Lough – beds or reefs of horse mussels.

Two government departments had promised Europe we would protect the mussels back in 2006 and narrowly escaped a fine.

But since then, little has been done and on Thursday the EU started down the road of legal proceedings.

In a few month’s time, unless they can persuade the European Commission otherwise, the Departments of Environment and Agriculture will find themselves in the European courts, charged with breaching European directives.

Strangford Lough is an area of special scientific interest (ASSI), a special area of conservation (SAC) and a marine nature reserve.

It is one of the most protected areas of Europe, in theory. But in reality there has been little protection put in place.

It was discovered around 2000 that a number of the mussel beds were damaged and dead. With over 100 other species relying on the reefs formed by the mussels deep on the seabed as their habitat, the situation became critical.

Following a formal complaint to Europe, fines were only avoided because Europe was promised that the mussels would be protected and restored. That was in 2006, but it never happened.

Formal warning

Using Freedom of Information legislation, the BBC obtained emails sent between the Department of Environment and the Department of Agriculture. In one email a department official revealed “… if the commission asked what progress has been made, the departments will be exposed…”

In another email it was admitted that if Europe discovered what they had not done, “the commission would hang us out to dry”. But still little was done.

When it was apparent that little had been achieved, the Ulster Wildlife Trust made a second complaint to Europe last November. The European Commission has now written formally to the two government departments.

It has raised concerns over the protection of the remaining mussels, the management of activities on the lough and the restoration of the reefs.

Unless the departments can persuade the European Commission otherwise, they could face a fine of at least £8m plus a fine of tens of thousands of euros for every day the problem persists. And they have only weeks to make their case following the formal warning they have just received from the commission.

“Our response must be decisive,” said environment minister Alex Attwood.

“We need to demonstrate that the horse mussel reef issue is being conclusively addressed. We have until May this year to convince the EU that any deterioration is being addressed, beyond which infraction awaits.”

The BBC understands that Mr Attwood has meet with senior EU officials in Northern Ireland and Brussels to try and reassure the commission.

Clock ticking

But it will be the Department of Agriculture who will have to do the lion’s share of the reassuring. Only they can introduce the necessary protection required by Europe and it needs to be done immediately.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said that she is disappointed with the commission’s interpretation of the situation.

“I am determined to develop a response which fully matches our responsibility under the Habitats Directive,” she said.

“I have undertaken to meet fishermen in the near future to discuss options with them and officials from both departments will be working hard together to develop a satisfactory management regime for the future.”

But that may not satisfy Europe. They have made it clear that at this late stage they are looking specific action, not options. With just a few weeks until the May deadline there is little time for more discussions.

Heather Thompson, chief executive of the Ulster Wildlife Trust, who made the latest complaint, told the BBC: “We hope that the action taken by the European Commission will force our government to take its environmental governance role seriously and ensure the appropriate management of Strangford Lough.

“The Ulster Wildlife Trust now urges our politicians to do what is needed to fulfil our European legal obligations and stave off potentially costly infraction fines.”

The departments have just 10 weeks to salvage the situation and the clock is ticking.