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Northern Ireland Environment Link Logo





Mar 2018 right left


Hedge Planting

Sunday 4th March
Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co–Armagh

Belfast Festival of Learning

Monday 5th March
Various, see programme for details


Woodland Management – Saintfield Estate

Sunday 18th March
Saintfield Estate, Saintfield


The Rivers Trust Spring Conference 2018

Wednesday 21st March
Iveagh House, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin


NI Allotment and Community Garden Forum

Saturday 24th March
MACCA Centre, Omagh

Easter Fun At Monkstown Wood

Saturday 24th March
Monkstown Wood, Newtownabbey
See website for details


EU Funding for Sustainable Development – Project Ideas Lab

Wednesday 28th March
Sustainable NI, Bradford Court, Upper Galwally, Belfast BT8 6RB


The future of farming? 13 March 2018

Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Policy Proposed in England – but what about Northern Ireland? (via Nature Matters NI)



Photo by R Maxwell

The Nature Matters NI campaign make the case for a functioning NI Assembly to ensure the development of agriculture policy to benefit nature, farmers and people across the UK and argue that without this in place, farming risks being left behind in the devolved countries.

By John Martin

The UK Government has published its vision for agriculture policy post Brexit in a consultation document entitled ‘Health and Harmony – The future of farming, food and the environment in a green Brexit’. The point of the consultation is to gather stakeholder opinions ahead of the Agriculture Bill announced in the Queens Speech. The Defra Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has pledged to incentivise methods of farming that create new habitats for wildlife, increase biodiversity, reduce flood risk, help with climate change mitigation/adaptation and improve air quality.

There is much to support in the proposals for England including the promise to enshrine the principle of ‘public money for public goods’ within future subsidies.  However there is one glaring issue, the proposals won’t apply to Northern Ireland or other devolved administrations because agriculture is a devolved power. With no functioning Assembly since January 2017, the agriculture sector in Northern Ireland risks being left behind as policy and legislation is developed elsewhere. Without the Assembly, new policy or legislation can’t be developed, meaning there’s no clarity on the future of agriculture policy direction for Northern Ireland.

Working towards a common approach across the UK

The Nature Matters NI campaign, which is a coalition of eNGO’s in Northern Ireland, has been calling for a common framework for agriculture policy across the UK.

Our aim of wanting farming to be good for people and nature applies everywhere across the UK. We had previously laid out our vision for a Common Framework in our agriculture policy position paper which you can find here. We are pleased to see some elements of those asks within the Defra consultation such as the ‘management of our shared resources’ and proposals to ‘ensure compliance with international obligations’ which we support.  

This section also makes reference to the economic and social linkages with Northern Ireland and Ireland, as NI is the only place that shares a land border with the EU. It also notes the importance of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement and its establishing treaty of North–South Cooperation, of which the UK committed to protecting in the Joint UK–EU Report in December 2017. Reading between the lines, this is essentially saying each devolved government is free to produce their own policy, with some elements of cooperation decided by the Joint Ministerial Council (UK Agriculture Ministers) that are still to be revealed.

As stated previously, agriculture is a devolved competency, therefore local policy and legislation will required to ensure the NI Assembly and associated departments have the appropriate legal powers to implement something meaningful in NI. However, with the current political impasse in the NI Executive, options need to be considered for developing legislation both with and without a functioning NI Assembly.

Follow @NatureMattersNI on Twitter to keep up to date with our campaign and help us secure the best future for our environment in Northern Ireland.