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Northern Ireland Environment Link Logo
 

News

 

Events

 

Mar 2015 right left

      
01
02

Farm Nutrient Computer Session

Tuesday 3rd March
North West Regional College – Limavady Campus
Free

Peregrines, Pesticides and Politics

Wednesday 4th March
Ulster Museum, Stranmillis Road
£1 for NIOC members, £3 for non–members

Eco–Schools 20th Anniversary Celebration Event

Thursday 5th March
Meadowbank Sports Arena, Magherafelt
Free

Lost Industrial Archaeology of the Mournes

Friday 6th March
Pat Collins reading room at Waterman House, 5–33 Hill Street, Belfast
Free

Northern Ireland Bat Conference

Friday 6th March
Drummond Hotel, Ballykelly
Free

Free Open Day

Saturday 7th March
Various
No charge, donations welcome

Fermanagh Places

Saturday 7th March
Florence Court, Castle Coole and Crom
No charge, donations welcome

In the Valley of Giants

Saturday 7th March
Meet at Shaw’s Bridge Car Park
Free

Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) Annual Conference

Saturday 7th March
Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, Craigavon, Co. Armagh, BT66 6NJ
£20

Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group Conference

Saturday 7th March
Lough Neagh Discovery Centre
£20 which includes tea/coffee and lunch

08
09

Feeling the Heat: How climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world

Tuesday 10th March
Room 115, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast
Free

11
12
13

Traditional Irish Music at Mussenden Temple

Saturday 14th March
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House
Adult £18, Child £18

St Patrick’s Day Festival

Saturday 14th March
Giant’s Causeway
Normal Admission, Members Free

Daffodil Danders

Saturday 14th March
Springhill, Moneymore
Normal Admission, Members Free

Mother’s Day – Historical Cream Tea

Sunday 15th March
Castle Ward
Adult £16, Child £10

Mother’s Day Tea Party

Sunday 15th March
The Argory, Moy
Adult £15 Child £7.50 (includes estate admission)

Shamrock Shenanigans

Sunday 15th March
Springhill, Moneymore
Normal Admission, Members Free

16

Saint Patrick’s Day Walk

Tuesday 17th March
Castle Ward
Free

St Patrick’s Day at Castle Ward

Tuesday 17th March
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

Leprechaun Hunt

Tuesday 17th March
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House
Normal Admission, Members Free

Informing Local Development Plans – Delivering certainty for communities and investors

Wednesday 18th March
Riddel Hall, Queens University Belfast, Stranmillis
£115, NIEL Members can avail of the discounted rate.

MAMBO 2 Conference

Thursday 19th March
Marine Court Hotel, Bangor
£80 + VAT

Innovation – Development, Design, Delivery

Thursday 19th March
NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB
N/A

The Irish Heritage Trust, the story so far

Friday 20th March
Pat Collins reading room at Waterman House, 5–33 Hill Street, Belfast
Free

Spring Book Fair

Saturday 21st March
The Argory, Moy
Normal Admission, Members Free

Rhododendron Ramble and Roast

Sunday 22nd March
Mount Stewart
Adult £15 Child £8

Space & Place Information Seminars

Monday 23rd March
Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown
Free

24
25

Biodiversity Training – Introduction to ground dwelling insects and other invertebrates

Thursday 26th March
Belvoir Forest Education Room

Outdoor Recreation Networking Event

Friday 27th March
Greenmount Agricultural College
£15

Spring Guided Walk

Saturday 28th March
Mount Stewart
Normal Admission, Members Free

29

Easter Egg Trail at Springhill

Monday 30th March
Springhill, Moneymore
Normal Admission, Members Free

Easter Egg Trail at The Argory, Moy

Monday 30th March
The Argory, Moy
Normal Admission, Members Free

31
    
 

£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.