Cookie Policy

We use cookies to make our website effective and useful for you. To continue, please accept the use of cookies.

I accept

How we use cookies

Northern Ireland Environment Link Logo
 

News

 

Events

 

Nov 2014 right left

     

Halloween Hedgerow

Saturday 1st November
Eden Allotments Gardens, Carrickfergus
Free

Book Fair

Saturday 1st November
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

Autumn Garden Walk

Sunday 2nd November
Mount Stewart
Adult £10, Child £5

03

Tackling Rural Crime in Northern Ireland – Working Together

Tuesday 4th November
Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast
Free

An introduction to private sector funding and support (Belfast)

Wednesday 5th November
The Board Room, BT Riverside Tower, 5 Lanyon Place, Belfast
£10.00

Belfast Festival of Social Science

Thursday 6th November
The Open University, 110 Victoria Street, Belfast, BT1 3GN
Free

Digging up Medieval Derry: Excavations at Bishop Street Within

Friday 7th November
Waterman House, 5–33 Hill Street, Belfast, BT1 2LA
Free

BTO NI Birdwatchers Conference

Saturday 8th November
Oxford Island
TBC

Free Community Open Day

Saturday 8th November
Giant’s Causeway
Free

Christmas Design Workshop

Saturday 8th November
Rowallane Gardens
Adult £45

Crafted – Castle Ward

Saturday 8th November
Castle Ward
Normal Admission, Members Free

09
10

Gordon Buchanan: Lost Adventures

Tuesday 11th November
The Lyric Theatre, Belfast
See website for details

12

Notice of Annual General Meeting

Thursday 13th November
Parkanaur Manor House, Dungannon
Free

Reuniting Planning and Health: Tackling Disadvantage Conference

Friday 14th November
The Hilton Hotel, Belfast
See website for details

Hedgelaying Workshop Day One

Saturday 15th November
Diamond Jubilee Wood in Whitehead
Free

16
17

Land of the Lemurs – Travels in Madagascar

Tuesday 18th November
The Ulster Museum, Belfast
Free

19

An introduction to private sector funding and support (Derry/Londonderry)

Thursday 20th November
Social Enterprise Hub, First Floor, 12–14 The Diamond (above the HSBC bank), Derry/Londonderry, BT48 6HW
£10.00

21

National Tree Week

Saturday 22nd November
Carnfunncok Country Park
Free

23
24
25

Private Sector Charitable Funding

Wednesday 26th November
The Belfast Room, Ulster Museum, Belfast
£10.00

27
28

Hedgelaying Workshop Day Two

Saturday 29th November
Diamond Jubilee Wood in Whitehead.
Free

Santa’s House at Castle Ward

Sunday 30th November
Castle Ward
Adult £7, Child £15

      
 

£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.